Image: Aïda Amer/Axios
Three mobile home parks in Phoenix are expected to close over the next two months to be converted into more expensive housing projects, affecting more than 120 families.
State of affairs: Some members of the Phoenix City Council are trying to force park owners to keep them open, but they will likely encounter several political and legal hurdles.
Why It Matters: Mobile homes are among the few affordable housing options in Metro Phoenix. Despite their name, they are very difficult to relocate, meaning residents are often left without shelter when the parks close.
What’s happening: Earlier this month, at a meeting to discuss how to help residents at risk of eviction, a council subcommittee recommended zoning the parks that would prevent landowners from redeveloping without special council approval to do.
Reality check: Arizona law would require the city to compensate park owners if the council enacted a new zoning rule that reduced the value of the land, which such an override would certainly do, city officials warned the subcommittee.
Phoenix has recently encountered legal troubles for similar issues, including zoning changes intended to preserve a golf course and historic home, The Arizona Republic reported.
Zoom out: ASU real estate development professor Mark Stapp tells Axios that many landowners hold RV parks on an interim use basis — a way to generate easy cash flow while they wait for the properties to become more desirable. Then they sell or convert them into something more viable like apartments or condos.
The valley’s hot housing market has prompted many new trailer park developments over the past five years, he said. Yes, but: Metro Phoenix has failed to develop other affordable housing options, leaving park residents with no alternatives.
Heat deaths in mobile homes
What they say: “It’s unfortunate for those whose lives have been severely impacted by this. They’re typically the ones least able to handle the change,” says Stapp.
He recommended the council explore ways to mitigate the impact on residents rather than pursue the likely illegal zoning move.
The Intrigue: ASU law professor Troy Rule tells us there are issues beyond the legal risk the council should assess before passing policies that would keep RV parks in place.
A magazine article written by his students last year found that about a third of all heat deaths in Maricopa County in 2019 occurred in mobile homes. These dwelling units, particularly older models, are energy inefficient and typically let in more heat than a traditional home. Rule said converting people into safer, affordable housing is probably a better public policy than continuing RV use.
Threat Level: That would take time that local residents don’t have. The first of the three parks is scheduled to close on April 1st.
What we are observing: The discussion about the mobile home parking space will take place on Wednesday before the entire council.
In addition to the zoning changes, the council will consider establishing a fund to help people find new housing options with federal pandemic relief funds.