By Susan Van Cleaf
Maple Hill Estates mobile home park in Corcoran has landed a first-of-its-kind $234,832 matching grant from the Metropolitan Council.
The money will assist Maple Hill with costs of hooking up to metropolitan sanitary sewers. The mobile home park currently has its own sanitary sewer system and faces an uncertain future involving federal water quality regulations. However, the Met Council has a bigger picture in mind.
In its Wednesday, Aug. 24 announcement, the council said the grant “is aimed at preserving affordable housing in the metro region. Specifically, the grant is aimed at preserving manufactured home parks (MHP), which are sometimes referred to as ‘mobile home parks.’”
“In exchange for the funding, the MHP commits to continue to operate as an MHP and agrees to ‘no unreasonable lot rent increases to residents,’” the Met Council said.
Barry Hay, owner/ manager of Maple Hill Estates, said getting the grant means he has to pass on to park residents less of the cost of sewer hookups and this makes their stay more affordable. “That’s great,” he said. “This is wonderful.”
He explained why he is hooking up Maple Hill to sanitary sewers. Back in 1971 the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (PCA) granted him a permit for discharging wastewater from the park’s wastewater treatment system.
The permit stipulated that he must hookup Maple Hill to metro sanitary sewers, as soon as they become available.
They soon will be. Corcoran City Administrator Brad Martens said the city’s sanitary sewer pipe is located next to Maple Hill Estates and ready for hooking up. The Met Council is collecting bids from contractors for installing the necessary sanitary sewer lift station.
Hay said he does not like running a wastewater treatment system. He is in the mobile home park business. He is looking forward to avoiding the risk of future more stringent septic system regulations from the PCA. “Taking away the risks is very valuable,” he said.
MOBILE HOMES ARE AFFORDABLE HOUSING, TOO
According to the Met Council, Maple Hill Estates is the second largest MHP in Hennepin County and makes up 78 percent of all of Corcoran’s affordable housing stock.
“Just this week, we read in the news again how our region has the largest gap in the country between white people and people of color when it comes to home ownership. And overall, our region is facing a crisis when it comes to meeting our affordable housing needs,” said Metropolitan Council Chair Alene Tchourumoff.
“Manufactured housing is an overlooked source of affordable housing, and it enables homeownership for many people who would otherwise not be able to own a home,” she said. “Residents of manufactured home parks are often much more diverse than the nearby population. While the focus is often on creating affordable housing, preserving existing affordable housing is the most cost-effective approach to maintaining housing affordability. The further loss of affordable housing poses serious threats to regional equity and prosperity.”
Corcoran City Administrator Martens explained how the Met Council got the idea for the new grant program. Last year Katie Rodriguez, Corcoran’s representative on the Met Council, toured Maple Hill with Martens. She sought ideas for preserving affordable housing stock and encouraging new affordable housing projects. After doing a study, the Met Council announced a pilot grant program under which the council would match up to $250,000 in funds for Sewer Availability Charges for mobile home parks. In exchange, the park owner must commit to continue operation and to limit or spread out rent increases so that tenants do not bear full connection costs. Corcoran came out on top of a list of three eligible applicants.
“Manufactured homes are often located in areas with access to high quality schools, job opportunities and transportation networks,” the Met Council said. “They are an important source of affordable housing to some of the region’s most economically vulnerable residents, including low-income residents, residents with disabilities, and households of color.
Preserving this affordable housing allows residents to remain connected to the opportunities in their communities.”
Maple Hill met all grant requirements, including “local infrastructure need and readiness, good standing with the Better Business Bureau, local city support, and access to opportunities like education, outdoor amenities, and community resources,” the Met Council said.
WHO LIVES IN MAPLE HILL?
“Racially, ethnically and linguistically, the population of Maple Hill Estates is far more diverse than the overall population of Corcoran,” the Met Council said. “Residents of color make up 40 percent of the park, compared to 12 percent in Corcoran. Latino residents make up 23 percent of the park, compared to six percent in Corcoran. Of the park’s residents, 69 percent speak English, 21 percent speak Spanish and eight percent speak Lao.”
Martens said Maple Hill has 180 to 190 housing units containing 10 percent of Corcoran’s population. Preserving the mobile home units is important because it is extremely expensive to build new affordable housing.
Maple Hill is home to 117 school-aged kids with access to high-quality schools, the Met Council said. “If the park were to close and families were forced to relocate, these children would have to change schools and may not be able to access comparable schools.”
A couple of years ago, Mobile Hope built Hope Community Center at Maple Hill. The center houses numerous programs to assist Maple Hill residents, including Homework Help in partnership with Rockford Schools. Volunteers assist students in grades K-8 four days each week.
Also, Hope Center partners with Rockford Early Childhood and Family Education to host pre-K children and parents/guardians taking part in activities designed to prepare children for Kindergarten.
Area churches are involved. Wayzata Free Church offers Maple Hill youth Bible studies, a vacation Bible school and youth groups. Our Fathers Lutheran Church offers summer lunch programs.
Hope Center partners with C.R.O.S.S. food shelf to offer food to Maple Hill residents during summer with a focus on fresh fruits, vegetables, and breads.
These are a few examples of community support for Maple Hill Estates residents.
Corcoran City Administrator Martens said the Met Council grant is “very helpful and very welcome” for dealing with the sanitary sewer situation at Maple Hill Estates. The wastewater problem “still will have a significant financial impact” on the mobile home park and the community.