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Phoenix leaders willing to fight developers to save mobile home parks

Some Phoenix leaders are ready to take on developers in an effort to prevent mobile home park residents from being displaced.

Grand Canyon University was the biggest target during public comment at a Monday night meeting of the community investment subcommittee.

“Shame on you, GCU,” a young child said.

“I’m mad as hell,” said Gerald Sutter, a resident of Periwinkle Mobile Home Park.

He and others are being forced to move so GCU can build more student housing. While residents own their homes, GCU owns the land and collects rent. Land owners for two  other parks — Las Casitas and Weldon Court — are also making residents move.

“These displacements by GCU and other developers have a direct impact on the affordable housing and homeless crisis that’s already rampant in our city,” said GCU student Alyssa Clift.

For months, residents have attended city council meetings pleading for help. Some cities in other states have rezoned mobile home parks to make it harder for developers to close them and build more expensive housing or commercial projects. If Phoenix required current mobile home parks to stay as is, Arizona law says the city must pay for diminished property value.

“There should be no hesitation for us to protect you all and to protect these homes,” said Councilmember Carlos Garcia. 

He made a motion to designate the three parks for mobile home use only. Councilwoman Betty Guardado made a motion to stop development at the three parks for 18 months.

"Mobile home park residents are being caught in the impossible crisis of rising property values, raising rents and rising homeless in our city," she said. "They cannot afford to have their elected representative kick the can down the road. Their time is running out."

Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari made a motion to use the remaining $2.5 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act that had been earmarked for landlord incentives to create a new emergency fund for people affected by mobile home closures and displacements. 

The subcommittee recommendations will go before the full city council for a vote. No date has been set.

Grand Canyon University said it has offered $5,000 per tenant, household furnishings, early departure compensation and extended the move by/eviction date. In an email, a representative said:

"The assistance outlined above met every one of the Periwinkle tenants’ requests after our initial meetings with them. Tenants and other outside influencers have since escalated those requests. While we would like to be able to address each tenant’s individual circumstances, nearly half have not engaged with the third-party housing expert (Trellis) that they requested."

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As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.