Jorge Quito is just 17, but his dream is to live in his family’s home for the rest of his life. That dream is in danger, though, as his family and neighbors now fight to keep the land their home sits on from being taken out from under them.
“We love where we live. It’s a beautiful neighborhood. I don’t want people to buy it and take it over. I want to stay there,” Quito said of the Lowry Grove manufactured home community where he has lived with his parents, brother, and sister for the past two years.
Recently Quito and the 100 other families of the Lowry Grove were informed that the property under their homes would be sold on June 11th to Continental Property Group (CPG), however many of the homes at Lowry Grove cannot be moved and would be demolished following the sale of the property. Rather than accept the sale and the destruction of their community, they have chosen to organize and are trying to raise the $6 million needed to counter CPG’s offer.
At Lowry Grove, many of the residents own their homes. What they don’t own is the land underneath their homes. That is currently owned by Phil Johnson who has been trying to sell the land for the last ten years much to the surprise of the residents.
Development forcing out low-income residents in many places
Many of Lowry Grove’s residents are low-income people of color. According to Owen Duckworth, an organizer with Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, many low-income communities and communities of color in the Twin Cities are struggling as city governments, housing authorities, and corporate developers attempt to build on their homes.
“I’m here because what is happening at Lowry Grove is happening all over the place, not only at mobile home parks, but also apartments. They are displacing poor people, people of color, people like me,” said Pablo Tapia, a community organizer who has organized an owner’s cooperative in the manufactured home community where he lives.
On May 20th, residents and allies visited the offices of CPG President Traci Tomas as well as the Office of the St. Anthony Village City Manager Mark Casey. During their actions, they delivered letters, cards, and drawings drawn by the children of Lowry Grove, urging Tomas and others to stop the sale of Lowry Grove and protect them from displacement.
“I have to believe that somewhere underneath all that money, white privilege, decision-making power is a human being motivated by a concern for families. It’s hard for us to see that in her, because of the terrible, terrible decisions that she is making, but I hope that if we keep doing actions like this, if we continue to speak beyond her wallet and her checkbook, and speak to her heart, in a way that can move her to make a better decision for the families that live in Lowry Grove,” Ned Moore, organizer with La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, said following their visit to Tomas’s office.
Residents have 45 days from when the closure notice was received to raise the money; the sale of the property is set for June 11th. While Tomas has the capacity to extend that 45-day rule, she informed residents during their visit she would not do that.
According to Tomas, a third party administrator will provide the necessary information and updates to residents and work with them to make sure they are lawfully compensated (somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000 depending on the age and state of their home) and to help them find new housing. According to Alvarez, many of the residents paid not only for their home, but for upkeep and renovations, which means even the highest legal compensation would not cover the actual value of the homes.
According to Tomas, CPG plans to build a residential apartment complex after demolishing the homes and re-building on the land.
“Somebody is going to step in and develop the land. That is going to be me in this circumstance and I do feel like I am doing the right thing because I don’t want to give any false hope that it’s not going to be closed,” Tomas said.
However Alvarez, who is also a co-founder of immigration justice-group La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, Moore, and others argue that 45 days is not enough time and that CPG is destroying the homes and families of Lowry Grove.
“Tomas might have the legal right, but she does not have the moral right and the spiritual right to simply displace 100 families from their homes. With $6 million there is a lot of land [Tomas] can buy to put up housing. It doesn’t have to come at the expense of 100 families. The cost of that land is too high when you factor in the future of these families who are going to be devastated,” Moore said.
Lowry Grove residents and their supporters plan to continue organizing to save the park. Resident Bill McConnell has launched a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise the $6 million needed to counter CPG’s offer. Residents are also working to take out a loan through a local credit union.