Meeting to discuss relocation grants for Oasis Mobile Home Park residents

(CNS) — A community meeting is being held Wednesday night to keep updated on the ailing Oasis Mobile Home Park, with Riverside County housing staff providing an overview of a program that provides about 150 relocation grants of up to $100,000 for eligible households would provide.

The meeting, which will be hosted by the Riverside County Housing Department for the fifth since September 2022, will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Oasis Elementary School, 88-175 74th Ave., according to Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez.

According to Perez’s office, the resettlement program is designed to help about 150 families have more flexible options and move earlier.

The Board of Supervisors last month unanimously approved the $15 million grant program to fund the relocation of residents of East Riverside County’s derelict RV park into affordable housing units or lots on which to relocate their existing RVs.

The Oasis Mobile Home Park Housing Opportunities Program — or “OHOP” — is administered by the county’s Housing & Workforce Solutions Division.

The agency, using funds provided by the California Department of Housing and Community Development as part of the state budget for fiscal year 2021-22, will provide up to $100,000 in grants per household to accommodate Oasis residents in alternative housing or Deploy on a trailer park lots away from Oasis Mobile Home Park in Thermal.

The district would assume responsibility for securing the new boundaries, provided applicants are qualified and building, health and safety standards are met. Grant recipients do not have to pay back the money.

“Eligible uses of the (government) grants include … pre-development, development, acquisition (and) refurbishment of rental housing affordable for ultra-low, very low, low or middle-income households, including necessary operating subsidies”, says the resolution establishing OHOP.

The goal is “to secure improved housing (for park residents) either by moving their current home to an eligible location, purchasing a home in an eligible location, purchasing vacant land to move their existing or new RV, or the Use of funds for a descent payment of a single-family home,” according to the Housing & Workforce Solutions department.

Only residents who occupied mobile homes in Oasis prior to October 26, 2021, when the county received the grant, are eligible for the money. County officials, in coordination with nonprofit groups, conduct awareness campaigns in the park.

More than 350 people from 72 households have been relocated in the past three years, according to district officials. More than 200 mobile homes remain occupied on the 60-acre property located at Block 88-700 of Avenue 70 on the Cahuilla Indian Tribe Reservation of the Torres Martinez Desert.

The board signed a pact with the tribe in January to work to prevent repopulation of the park through enforcement action, including the demolition of some unoccupied trailer homes.

The park has been an ongoing source of problems for years, most recently due to high levels of arsenic in drinking water, which led to three emergency executive orders from the US Environmental Protection Agency between 2019 and 2021 prohibiting use of the underground reservoir there.

This led to ongoing relief efforts to provide residents with drinking water via bottles and other imported means.

Under the agreement with the tribe, county agencies are empowered to take regulatory action on so-called “fee land” within the reservation. In 2021, the board approved a policy that would allow royalty properties — typically parcels that tribes have sold to private interests but remain under the jurisdiction of the tribes — to be maintained and regulated by county agencies.

In addition to arsenic, the park struggles with garbage overflows and infrastructure deficiencies.

In addition to the $30 million in state grants, an additional $6.25 million in federal grants and nearly $8 million in state Project Homekey funding were provided.

In the past, park owners have charged $600 to rent individual mobile homes plus utilities, officials said. It was revealed during a district board meeting that park-wide rents had recently increased by $100 a month.

The facility has no state or federal business permits, although the US Bureau of Indian Affairs has reportedly tried unsuccessfully to assert some authority over its operations for the past decade.

The park bears similarities to Desert Mobile Home Park, better known as “Duroville”, which was also located on Torres-Martinez land.

This facility, which was riddled with power and water shortages at the time, was the subject of a federal civil lawsuit that ended in 2009 and resulted in the park going into receivership, outside of tribal control. Four years later it was finally shut down.

Copyright 2023, City News Service, Inc.