SAN ANTONIO – When Joe Valdez and his neighbors at Riverside Terrace first met with the ROC USA in May, they were shocked and frightened to learn that their South Side mobile home park was up for sale.
“First thing everybody thought was like, ‘How much time?’” Valdez said. “And this is everybody, the entire — ‘How much time do I have before I have to leave? Do I have to move out?’”
But residents quickly learned they may not have to move out, far from it.
Instead, with the help of ROC USA, the park’s residents formed a co-op, the Mission Trails Community Association, which is set to become the official owner of the 46-unit park next week.
Board members of the co-op are set to sign the sales documents on Nov. 8, with funding coming through on Nov. 9.
As with many mobile home parks, residents of Riverside Terrace currently own the mobile homes they live in, but they rent the lots upon which those homes sit.
However, under the new model as a resident-owned community, the co-op will own and maintain the park. Instead of a landlord deciding how much to charge for lot rent or what improvements to make, it will be up to the co-op.
It also means more stability.
“It can never be sold again,” Valdez said. “That means that there’s going to be families here and future generations of their family who can live here.”
According to ROC USA, this will be only the third resident-owned community in Texas. The other two are in Pasadena and Austin.
There is space for another eight lots at the park, and some improvements are already planned, including new water and sewer work. Valdez said they also want to bury their power lines, which are currently strung overhead, and prevent vehicles like school buses from entering the park.
“It’s really going to turn into something grand, you know what I mean? And I want to help pioneer that,” said Valdez, president of the new association.
The costs of buying and fixing up the property are expected to run more than $6.1 million. The sales price alone is $3.1 million, said ROC USA V.P. of Acquisitions Angela Romeo.
The City of San Antonio has kicked in nearly $3.9 million between bond funding, fee waivers, and a forgivable loan. The San Antonio Housing Trust Foundation provided another $750,000.
The association will still have to borrow more than $1.5 million from ROC to cover the total costs.
As part of the changeover, lot rents are set to rise from an average of about $475 up to $525 for co-op members. Residents won’t have to join the co-op to stay at the park, but they’ll have to pay an additional $50.
The city’s funding of the project ties into its plans to support affordable housing. As part of its support, though, only people making less than 80% of the area median income (AMI) will be allowed to move in. Most of the lots will be restricted even further to 60% AMI.
A city executive said most people at the park currently earn about 30% to 40% of the AMI. She said residents won’t be penalized if they start making more money while living at the park, though.
Manufactured housing is “naturally affordable” and important to preserve, says Romeo from ROC. She believes Riverside Terrace’s location on Mission Road, near a golf course and the Mission Trail, put it at risk for redevelopment.
“I was afraid that this might not be a manufactured housing park long term,” she said. “And it’s really important that these folks have an opportunity to live in San Antonio and to live close to the downtown area for access to transportation and employment and everything else.”
When she saw the park was up for sale, Romeo said she approached the owner’s broker.
The park’s current owner, Travis Cummings, said he had decided to sell so he could focus more of his time on family. Though he says he received interest from other mobile home park operators and developers, ROC’s plan for the park struck him as “the best of both worlds.”
Another buyer may have come with a quicker turnaround on the sale and “a few less hoops to jump through,” he said. “But being that the tenants are actually going to end up having ownership, and it’s going to stay a mobile home park, and they’re going to continue to have affordable housing, was one of the biggest factors for me.”
Though not all of the residents have joined the co-op just yet, Valdez thinks there will be more buy-in once they realize it will mean cheaper rent and more of a say in what happens with the park’s development going forward.
“Because a lot of what goes on around here, you can change by just saying, you know, ‘yay’ or ‘nay,’” he said.