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Manufactured home parks provide more low cost homes to Minnesotans than all the government subsidized units put together, and they do so without a dime of public funds. Many parks are at risk of closure, however. In Greater Minnesota, it may be due to physical deterioration and under-investment. In the metro area, the cause is often rising land values leading to park owner decisions to close the park and redevelop the site. HPP and its partner organization, All Parks Alliance for Change (APAC), have been actively working the last few years both to develop strategies to keep parks open, and to raise awareness of the importance of preserving this valuable resource.
Lately a new threat to parks has emerged—highway expansions. In Arden Hills, the City of Arden Hills and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) are planning to widen Highway 10 near the TCAAP site (Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant), one of the largest redevelopment opportunities in the metro area. Widening the highway, however, cuts into the Arden Manor MH Park, threatening to displace approximately 20 homes. This creates a hardship for the residents, all of whom own their homes, most of whom live on limited incomes, and who generally reside in older manufactured homes which may be too old to move. This is the only MH Park in the City of Arden Hills. Many of these residents have lived in their homes for 20+ years. The residents of Arden Manor have been particularly active in fighting to save their homes, showing up in force before the city council to stop them from passing a preferred route that would have removed 50 homes. HPP, APAC, the Alliance for Metro Stability, ISAIAH and other allies provide community support, and legal and technical assistance for this battle. Their efforts have resulted so far in a reduction of affected MH homes from 50 homes to 20. As of this writing, the future of Arden Manor is still unresolved but appears to be moving in a better direction. The City has shifted its focus to preserving as many homes in the park as is feasible, and has welcomed a discussion with the residents and allies about placing more affordable housing options on the future TCAAP development.
At the same time, four MH communities in the Chaska / Shakopee area are similarly threatened. MnDOT and the local governments are seeking to build another river crossing on TH 41 near Chaska. MnDOT is considering a variety of routes for the bridge across the river, but every route impacts anywhere from 1 to all 4 nearby MH Parks. These communities in the southwest metro are among the fastest growing, and are also far short of the affordable housing they currently need, without losing more. The MH communities in this area are one of the few affordable housing resources available, and are home to many Latinos. The siting decision is complicated by the fact that some of the routes also run through the Seminary Fen, an environmentally sensitive area. This has resulted in the environmentalists and the housing advocates agreeing on opposing some route alternatives and parting company on others.
Preliminary indications are that MnDOT is leaning toward a route that would cause the closing of one of the parks, Jackson Heights. This park of 40 units consists of 95% Latino residents, so a park closure would likely reduce the already limited racial diversity present in this sector of the metro area. The residents are continuing to advocate for a route redesign that preserves their homes, and failing that, the City of Shakopee has indicated an interest in building a new MH Park as a last resort.