September 22, 2022

On April 26, 2016, the residents of the Lowry Grove manufactured home park in St. Anthony Village were informed by park owner Phil Johnson that he had sold the property, and as a result, the park was going to be closed and demolished to make way for new development. In the Lowry Grove manufactured home park, as in most such parks, most of the residents own their homes but not the land on which the homes sit. If the park is sold and converted to other uses, the homeowners must move their homes or see them demolished.

Johnson had owned the property for 20 years, and in his letter he wrote that “those have been very good years.” He did not specify, however, for whom those years had been good. Maintenance at the park, in fact, had been dismal for many years. Residents generally felt the park had been in decline for more than ten years, and their repeated complaints about the quality of the roads, water pipes, and public areas had been largely ignored by Johnson. The roads were buckled in places and contained large potholes that had on one occasion stranded a bus for handicapped persons. Water service was spotty, and pipes were so faulty they produced mini-floods that left low-lying areas swampy in the summer and icy in the winter. Finally, according to residents, Johnson’s management teams seemed to do little about the drugs and prostitution that most residents knew were occurring in the park.

In his letter to the residents, Johnson wrote that the decision to sell “was a very difficult [one] to make because I know it will lead to the closure of the Park in the near future.” The letter said that he had received “many inquiries from developers about the availability of Lowry Grove and turned them all aside.” Then he received an offer from Continental Property Group (CPG), based in Wayzata, MN, and decided that offer was different. This was because:

The president of the company is Traci Tomas, who actually worked for me here at Lowry Grove for over five years. Some of you may remember her as a very caring and compassionate person. She grew up in Columbia Heights and knows the area. She absolutely promises to do whatever is necessary to make sure all residents will be treated fairly. It’s now time to sell the Park and Continental Property Group, with Traci Tomas as President, is the right buyer.

Johnson concluded his letter by telling the residents: “I have a real place in my heart for all of you,” and he recognized that the news of the park closing would be difficult to hear. News that one’s community and possibly one’s actual home will be demolished is, indeed, difficult for most people to hear.

When announcing the purchase in April 2016, Johnson and Tomas made it clear that the park was headed for closure. They both spoke of the buyers’ intention to compensate the residents according to the State law that governed such park closures. Both Johnson and Tomas made reference to the difficulties that many of the families would face in being forced to move from their home and their community. “‘That’s the way life is sometimes,’” Johnson said to reporters.[1]

For the largely very low-income families living in Lowry Grove, the news meant not only the dissolution of their community, their forced relocation, the probable transfer of their children to new schools, and significant disruption to their lives, but it also meant having to negotiate a local housing market that was experiencing rapid cost increases and low vacancy rates.

The park dwellers were a mixture of older residents well past their peak earning years, some retired and on fixed incomes, and younger immigrant families whose earners were largely in the low-wage sector of the local economy. Most of the families in the park feared they would have significant trouble finding alternative housing they would be able to afford. Most of the families owned their manufactured homes. Those with newer and sturdier homes could move them to other parks, hoping for minimal damage to the structure in the process. They would be uprooted, and they might pay higher ground rents in their new location, but if they found an open spot, they would have a place to live. Finding an open spot in another manufactured home park, however, was more and more difficult because the number of such parks had been declining in the Twin Cities region over the previous two decades.

Others, who had homes too old to move or which had been modified in ways that made moving them impossible, were faced with leaving their homes behind and finding different accommodations somewhere else. Those in Lowry Grove who did not own the manufactured homes they lived in were in the same position. The most likely move for these families would be to rental housing. The tightness of the local rental market, and the fact that rents were rising throughout the metropolitan area, promised to make any search for affordable apartments very difficult.

Although it is unknown how many residents were gratified to learn that they occupied a real place in Phil Johnson’s heart, it is likely that fears about how they would find adequate and affordable alternative housing were what concerned them most as they read the closure letter in April 2016.

Some of the residents reacted to the letter immediately. One of the residents of Lowry Grove, who was home at the time the letter was delivered, made a telephone call to Antonia Alvarez, who was also a resident of Lowry Grove and worked for an organization called Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, an immigrant and tenants’ rights organization with headquarters in Minneapolis. Alvarez had been an organizer for some time; she was a co-founder of Asamblea, which operated throughout the State of Minnesota. Alvarez contacted her colleague and fellow organizer, Ned Moore, to relay the information. The potential loss of 96 units of affordable housing at Lowry Grove was just more bad news for housing advocates in 2016. A year earlier, the sale of the Crossroads Apartment complex in south suburban Richfield led to the displacement of 700 households when the new owners converted the building to market rate.[2] The rental housing vacancy rate in the region had been well below 5% for five years, and rents in the metro area had increased 16% over that time period.[3] In the two years before Lowry Grove sold, close to 20,000 units of rental housing had been sold by their owners. The per-unit price for rental housing had increased 54% between 2010 and 2015.[4] Lowry Grove promised to be another casualty of a hot housing market that was shedding affordable housing as one property after another upscaled.

Both Alvarez and Moore were aware that the State of Minnesota had a law on the books that was designed to help residents preserve parks that had been sold with the intent to close, as Lowry Grove had been in this case. The state law allowed for residents to exercise a right of first refusal (RFR) if they could match the purchase agreement that the owner had signed with the buyer. The law gave the residents 45 days to match the offer. Residents would have to move fast to find the capital to match the offer that CPG had made for Lowry Grove. Within a few hours, Moore was in contact with Jack Cann, attorney at the Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit, public interest legal assistance and advocacy organization in St. Paul. Cann’s legal assistance would be helpful in ensuring the residents were able to use the law to save their homes. Before the day was out, Alvarez and Moore had visited with Mark Casey, the City Manager for the City of St. Anthony Village.[5]

According to Moore, Casey told them the city had not been informed of the deal between Johnson and CPG ahead of time. Casey said the notice of the sale and closure of Lowry Grove was news to him and to the city. It would become clear months later that the City of St. Anthony Village had, in fact, been meeting with the developer for several months ahead of the sale, knew of the potential sale, and had taken steps to facilitate it. But, at the time, Casey gave the impression that the transaction was a purely private arrangement between the seller and buyer and the city had played no role. This attempt to distance itself from what it considered a ‘private matter’ was a tactic the City would come to rely upon repeatedly in the coming months and years to rationalize doing nothing to assist the residents of Lowry Grove or to preserve the park.

The purchase price for Lowry Grove set out in the agreement between Johnson and CPG was $6 million. The agreement also called for $1 million in ‘earnest money’ and a $75,000 down payment. The amount of the earnest money in this transaction is abnormally large, and it seemed to the residents and their representatives that it was meant to discourage interested parties from attempting to match the offer.

The residents were faced with three potential options. First, if the residents could raise the money they could form a cooperative and purchase and run the park themselves. The second option was to find a partner who could raise the $6 million and agree to purchase the park in partnership with the residents to keep it open. For both of these options, the residents would have to act through a formal residents’ association. Although such an association had existed previously at Lowry Grove it had lapsed many years before. So tenant leaders quickly moved to reform the association.

The third option was to convince CPG to keep the park open. Residents felt that perhaps because Traci Tomas had previously worked at the park and presumably knew the limited incomes and resources of most of the residents, she might be persuaded to keep the park open and operating. However, residents also considered this an outside chance given what CPG had paid for the park and that bigger profits were possible under a redevelopment scenario. There was hope, however, that an appeal to Tomas might succeed.

LS

LS lived by himself in Lowry Grove. Prior to moving in he lived with his brother and sister-in-law in his brother’s two-bedroom apartment on the south side of Minneapolis.

He purchased his manufactured home from the previous owner for $5,000 and initially paid $450 per month rent. Each year he was at Lowry Grove the rent increased. LS said when he first moved in, the home was in bad shape. “I fixed it. It was my house so I wanted it to look beautiful. I tried to fix everything… I changed its roof, I painted the internal walls, I changed carpets. The woman who had lived there before me smoked so I cleaned up everything.”

He lived in Lowry Grove for three years before moving out. For him, Lowry Grove was a place to sleep. He worked long hours and didn’t spend too much time at Lowry Grove. He didn’t really know very many people because of his work hours. He would see and talk with people when he did his laundry, but he had few close friends in the park.

Yet even with his schedule he noted the lack of maintenance in the park. “It wasn’t good. Nobody looked after it. Sometimes the water pipes would break and no one fixed them.”

Even with a tenuous social attachment to Lowry Grove, LS was affected by the closure notice and the realization that he would have to move. Some of his concern was for himself. He felt the time “was very stressful because one gets used to living in his house and it is awful when they want to evict you; it is sad.”

But part of his reaction was his concern for others in the park. “People were desperate. We didn’t know where to go. It was sad because there were a lot of kids. A friend of mine had four, five kids. It was very sad because he had to think about paying a new rent, and he didn’t have enough money for that. It was disheartening and uncomfortable for most people.”

LS did not want to leave, and he attended the tenant meetings that were held to explore what they might do to save the park. “We held a lot of meetings to find out ways to stay, but as the saying goes, ‘money will always rule.’ So we didn’t have any other option but to leave.”

LS stayed until May of 2017 and then left. He went back to ----------- for a short time. When he returned he received his relocation assistance money and cleaned out his home. He moved back in with his brother. Since he was moving into a smaller space in his brother’s apartment he took only his clothes and small items that would fit into his room. He pays his brother $450 per month to help with the rent.

He did not attempt to move his manufactured home because “it would cost more money than what I paid for the trailer. It was better to receive the money they offered and look for a new home. Because they didn’t give any guarantee it would be ok during the moving process. It could break down.”

He believes that in future situations he would like to know if there are any projects or plans to sell the park when he buys a new trailer. He believes that this project had been planned for a while and feels that it was wrong that the residents weren’t informed about the situation at the moment of buying their houses.

LS wants to find a place where he can live by himself with some privacy. He also wants a place where it is easier for his ten-year-old daughter to visit him. She had a room of her own when she visited him at Lowry Grove, a place to keep some toys. It is much more difficult for him to see her while living in his brother’s apartment, and this bothers him.

When asked about his emotions thinking back about the move he talks again about “the harm” that was done to him and to others. “One fixes his house to live but is never ready to be forced to move out. They took what I had so much love for.” He acknowledges feeling anger and impotence at not being able to do anything about it but not depression because, as he said, “one should know how to win and lose.”

The residents’ first move was to approach Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF), a Minneapolis nonprofit organization that works in five Upper Midwest states. NCF provides assistance to residents of manufactured home parks to form a coop to purchase and operate their own parks. For NCF the goal is both resident ownership and the maintenance of affordability. NCF was aware of Lowry Grove and had, in fact, already looked into the feasibility of purchasing the park.

Representatives of the organization said they felt they could get $4.5 million in financing; they then reduced that estimate to $3 million. Both of these amounts are significantly less than the actual purchase price that CPG paid for the park, leaving a sizable gap. One of the factors that created the gap is that their source of financing would not allow them to count revenue coming from the recreational vehicles (RVs) that were in the park. RVs were a significant portion of the residents in Lowry Grove at the time. Of course, another major reason for the gap in financing is that operating Lowry Grove as an affordable housing manufactured home park would produce much less revenue than tearing it down and building the type of high-density, market rate housing that CPG was planning.

In any case, Northcountry did not give the Lowry Grove Residents Association (LGRA) an outright “no” for an answer. Seeing the critical need to preserve the affordability of Lowry Grove, Northcountry continued to look for financing to fill the gap and make a deal possible.

Northcountry’s response to the residents would ultimately produce conflict between the nonprofit and the residents. As one resident organizer said, “They never gave us a straight answer, a straight no. We asked about the $6 million and really, a quick ‘no’ would have been unwelcome to hear, but we would have moved on to another strategy.” Northcountry did not say no right away. They looked at the numbers for the project and tried to find ways to make it work. But when they couldn’t, and in fact, when their estimates of the financing gap grew over time, the resident organizers felt they had been strung along and had lost valuable time. The 45 days were running out.

The residents were getting desperate at this point. They had been to the State Housing Finance Agency looking for funds, to the City of St. Anthony Village, to Hennepin County, the state legislature, to then-Senator Al Franken’s office and then-Congressman Keith Ellison’s office to inquire about federal funds, all unsuccessfully. They even sent “Hail Mary” letters to wealthy individuals and to casinos. All to no avail.

Meanwhile, their effort to convince CPG to preserve the park was faring no better. On May 20, residents organized a bus trip to Wayzata to the headquarters of CPG to talk directly with Traci Tomas. A van full of Lowry Grove residents arrived at CPG headquarters and asked to meet with Tomas. As one organizer recalled, “She came out and heard stories; we had brought women from the park to talk as mothers about the prospect of losing their homes and what it would mean for their families and especially for their children… We thought we could appeal to her humanity and perhaps save the park.” They left without receiving any promises from Tomas, but some of the residents present at the meeting thought they saw some sympathy in her manner and in her eyes. Whatever inclination Tomas might have felt at this first meeting did not last. “When we saw her next she was all business, stone faced,” said the organizer.[6]

One of the residents remembers the visit to CPG’s offices: “I remember their carpet—it had markings on it like little stick people.” He smiled and added, “They must have had that specially made so they could walk on people all day long.”[7] For her part, Tomas said to reporters at the time, “I’m certainly not interested in creating false hope for them that we are considering keeping it a manufactured housing community because we’re not.”[8]

Under state law, the move-out deadline would be nine months after the sale of the park. The sale of the park could happen only after the 45-day waiting period also called for in state law. Thus, the chronology looked like this: Notice of sale and park closure, April 26, 2016; sale date of June 13, 2016; and deadline for move-out, March 2017.

As the days passed, the residents attempted to build solidarity with other tenant struggles taking place in the region. Alvarez attended a meeting of the group, Defend Glendale, public housing residents in Minneapolis who were attempting to save their development from demolition and redevelopment. A woman at the meeting had recently worked with a nonprofit housing development corporation in Minneapolis called Aeon, and she thought that Aeon might be interested in stepping in to help save the units. The very next day Alvarez and Moore met with the CEO of Aeon, Alan Arthur. They convinced Arthur to visit Lowry Grove.

Alan Arthur had been doing affordable housing in the Twin Cities since the mid-1980s. Aeon had been called the Central Community Housing Trust (CCHT) when it was first formed in the mid-1980s. Arthur had been the group’s first and only CEO over the three decades of CCHT/Aeon’s existence. The group was formed in response to the loss of 350 affordable housing units when the city of Minneapolis built its convention center on the southern edge of downtown. The organization’s original charge was to build replacement housing for the units lost in the convention center development. Having fulfilled that mission within five years, CCHT continued to develop affordable housing in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown Minneapolis. CCHT quickly grew into one of the largest nonprofit housing developers in the region, changed its name to Aeon and adopted a more regional approach. Spreading itself beyond the central neighborhood of Minneapolis, Aeon became involved in affordable housing projects in suburban Chaska, the north side of Minneapolis, and Columbia Heights. By 2016, Aeon and Alan Arthur were among the leaders in the affordable housing movement in the Twin Cities, owning and managing more than 3,000 units of affordable housing.

Just days after his first meeting with Alvarez and Moore, Arthur spoke with a number of residents at the park with some of his board members present. The residents talked to him about the community, their desire to stay at Lowry Grove, and the hardships they felt the closure of the park would force upon them. Across the street from the park, at Catrina’s Restaurant, Arthur did ‘back of the napkin’ calculations and told the resident leaders that more units would have to be built on the site to make it work financially, but that under those circumstances he was willing to pursue financing for the project. There were less than 20 days left in the 45-day period given to them by the state law to make a matching counter-offer. Residents had no other options at that point and, in any case, were not worried by the prospect of more and newer units on site. They agreed to the plan and asked Arthur to go ahead. In the days that remained Aeon had to prepare a development proposal that was detailed enough to attract financial commitments, find $1 million in earnest money, and identify financing for the full $6 million purchase price. These were the minimum steps necessary to match the price terms of the agreement between Phil Johnson and CPG.

After it was clear that a counter-offer was in the works, Jack Cann, attorney at the Housing Justice Center, became actively involved in the process. Resident leaders suspected that the owner, Phil Johnson, and certainly the buyer, CPG, would try to fight any counter-offer that was made. For the residents’ association to exercise its Right of First Refusal, as outlined in the state law, they needed the approval of more than half of the homeowners in the park. While Arthur worked to secure financing, resident leaders worked to get signatures from 51% of the homeowners in the park agreeing to enter into a partnership with Aeon for the purpose of preserving the park.

A small group of residents canvassed their neighbors to collect signatures from homeowners. The task was not as straightforward as it might seem. Not all of the residents owned their homes outright. In fact, the park owner, Phil Johnson, owned a number of the occupied homes in the park. Johnson had acquired these homes from previous residents who had fallen behind on rent and taxes. Johnson made a deal in which those people would leave the park and leave the home (and title) with him, and he would not pursue them for the debt they owed. Johnson would then sell these units to the next residents on a Contract for Deed basis. Once the home was paid in full, the new owner would sign the back of the title as the new owner. Recording the deed with the county was not always done because this would have triggered a bill for the back taxes owed by the previous, delinquent owner. Thus, there were many cases where the occupant of the home was not in fact the legal owner. As the volunteers collected signatures, they were sometimes unaware of the fact that the person signing, though the occupant, may not have the title to the property.

Though Arthur’s task of attracting millions of dollars in financing in a matter of days seemed extremely difficult and success quite unlikely, he did have some resources he could draw on. Aeon is one of the largest nonprofit housing development corporations in the Twin Cities. Arthur knew everyone in the field locally, and everyone knew him. According to one affordable housing professional, Alan Arthur may have been the only person in the region able to pull something like this off.

IM

IM was 67 years old and a widower when she was forced to move from Lowry Grove. She moved into Lowry Grove in 1999. She and her husband had moved to Lowry Grove because of the location and the affordability. She paid $250/month on rent at the beginning and $440 plus utilities when she moved out.

She was an active resident almost from the beginning. She joined APAC, the All Parks Alliance for Change, in 2001. She worked with APAC on the state law in 2005 and worked to help improve conditions at Lowry Grove during that time.

She found the management to be hostile from the beginning, shouting at her husband because they had not bought a lawnmower quickly enough and not dealing with a maintenance issue at the beginning that was a fire hazard. She felt the management was never adequate under Phil Johnson’s ownership; “it went from less than mediocre to abysmal and downright scary.” They invited Johnson to a meeting in December 2006, according to IM, and presented him with pictures of the maintenance issues. Though he said he would “get to” one or more of them, in the end, nothing ever happened, according to IM.

IM did not consider herself part of a large social group when at Lowry Grove. She kept to herself a lot until the last five years, when she says she could count four pretty good friends among her neighbors at Lowry Grove.

“The last two managers…had very, very bad reputations. There were, I mean, you know, it’s like—pick a hazard. It was there. And I didn’t even know about the pollution that this community has known about for many years. The pollution that came from a dry-cleaning plant that actually had been seeping across the park all those years. Our water was very, very bad. Even years and years ago, it was bad enough that people knew not to drink it. I could go on and on and on. Literally, trees were falling down because they weren’t maintained…”

“I would say, even up to a year before we left, and toward the end it was just a free for all. So many people were gone and so many things were empty, we were all just barely hanging on.”

IM was not surprised when she received the park closing notice in 2016. She had worked on the anti-park closing legislation campaign in 2006. To her, the continuing decline in maintenance that the park was an indication that it was going to change hands at some point.

“I wasn’t in love with the place the way some people really, really were. I wasn’t one of the old neighbors with the deep roots that had roots like the trees—there was a 90-year-old man living there in a 50s–60s home that was utterly pristine. There were people like that who really thought that life was gonna go on like that forever… I wasn’t part of the old guard and I wasn’t part of the Hispanic community.”

IM stayed to the very end. She moved into a different manufactured home park in July 2017. She regards herself as fortunate to have found a new place and to be in a cooperative where the tenants own the land. Her new park is in another northern suburb of Minneapolis near another old park that is not a coop. “Boy, I mean the comparison between how we’re living and how they have to live, it’s a night and day situation. They’re still on well water, if you can believe that. Their rent goes up 25 bucks every six months and there are all the social problems that people have come to expect from—yeah, it’s all going on.”

The move did not go smoothly, however. She had one date set with the mover to move her home, but she missed that because she was unable to get the home cleaned out and prepared in time. She set up another date, but a strong rain interfered and she was put off again. The house was moved out on the last day of June but was not moved in immediately because of the 4th of July holiday. So for the time the home was empty until the time it was fully installed in the new park, she had to spend three weeks living in a hotel and stayed with a co-worker for a week. She found herself out of a home for a month and absorbed those costs herself.

Like many Lowry Grove residents, IM abandoned many of her possessions in the move. She put many of her things in a storage unit which she was still paying for when we conducted our interview seven months later. IM is on the board at her new park just as she was with the residents’ association at Lowry Grove.

When asked what she missed about Lowry Grove, she answers, “not a whole lot… Part of it is what I really came to learn about St. Anthony Village, because of the Castile shooting, because of how the City Council treated us in the end, and for years. I really—speaking of having scales fall from your eyes and losing the rose-colored glasses, I really came to understand from inside-out what this community is really all about and how it works. And, I also noticed that the people who came forward to help us were young professionals, none of whom were from Minnesota. Not one. They were all from other places.”

When asked whether she thought the City Council wanted the park gone, “Oh, there’s no question in my mind. No question whatsoever. There were probably people who wanted to see it go away the day the first house was put up….”

Aeon’s purchase proposal rested on a strategy of physically consolidating the manufactured homes on a portion of the park land and building a new affordable housing apartment building on the rest of the land.

The 45-day period expired on Friday, June 10, 2016. On that day, Arthur drove to Phil Johnson’s office. Johnson, ironically, had been a donor to Aeon in the past. He and Arthur knew each other. Arthur entered Johnson’s office and handed him a purchase offer for the Lowry Grove Park for $6 million, with a letter of commitment for the $1 million as earnest money and $75,000 in down payment. The offer did not contain financing commitments for the full $6 million yet, but neither did CPG’s offer. Neither group had site control and both would use a ‘due diligence’ period (usually 45 days) after acceptance of the offer proposal to secure the complete financial package. Earnest money is required in such developments to protect the seller if the buyer is ultimately unable to get financing to complete the purchase. Thus, this was an offer that matched CPG’s dollar for dollar and contained the same terms as related to price and process. Furthermore, and crucially, the Aeon offer would result in the preservation of the park and affordable housing for all of the families living in Lowry Grove. In his letter to residents delivered 45 days earlier, Johnson had written of how difficult a decision it had been to sell the park. “It was a very difficult decision to make because I know it will lead to the closure of the park in the near future.” In front of him on June 10, 2016, was a purchase offer for the same $6 million he would have received from CPG, except that this purchase offer would not lead to the closure of the park. Johnson looked at Arthur, pulled his hands back and said, “I don’t want that!” Arthur dropped the offer package on his desk and left.[9]

The residents of Lowry Grove had taken to meeting each Friday night outside the home of one resident organizer. They started doing this the week after receiving the closure letter from Johnson. It was a time when they could get updates on how the effort to save the park was moving ahead, and they would strategize about what to do in the coming week. On Friday, June 10, none of the residents knew for certain whether Aeon was going to meet the deadline, whether the residents would, in fact, have a legitimate counter-offer on the table by close-of-business. As one organizer recounted:

“People were coming to the meeting at 6:00 pm not knowing whether the counter-offer had been made in time; it was that close to the deadline. There was pure joy and euphoria that night. We knew it wasn’t over, that CPG would probably fight it and that there might be litigation in the future, but at the same time we felt like we had pulled off an organizing miracle. It was a super joyful day, and there was some shock that we had actually done it! We thought, ‘this is nuts! It can take affordable housing developers months to find this kind of funding!”

The law

The Minnesota statute related to the preservation of manufactured home parks was enacted in two stages. A 1991 law established requirements for notification in cases of park closures and provided protections including resident notification requirements and a Right of First Refusal allowing residents the option to match any purchase offer in order to buy the park themselves. In 2007 a relocation fund was created by the state to support residents forced to move as a result of park closures.

The loss of manufactured home parks had been a concern to affordable housing advocates in Minnesota in the 1980s. One of the first advocacy groups active on the issue of manufactured housing, the All Parks Alliance for Change (APAC), was organizing mobile home park residents state-wide over that entire period. APAC was first formed in 1980 as “Anoka People’s Alliance for Change” and worked with lower-income residents generally, including those in manufactured housing. In 1983 the organization formally adopted manufactured home parks as the focus of its work and five years later changed its name to reflect that focus. In that year it also expanded beyond Anoka County to work throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

In 1987 the organization successfully lobbied for a state law that authorized local governments to require relocation assistance for residents forced to move as a result of a park closing. In 1991 APAC and other groups were successful in getting the Minnesota Legislature to enact a “Park Closings Statute” that laid out some minimal protections for residents of manufactured home parks.[10] The statute attempts to protect residents in a number of ways. Park owners wishing to close a park or sell it had to provide residents nine months’ notice. The law also required a public hearing on the park closure. Residents of a park slated for sale and closure were given 45 days to match the purchase offer or to work with a nonprofit developer to match the offer on their behalf.[11] The statute states that before the execution of an agreement to purchase a manufactured home park, the purchaser must notify the park owner as well as each of the residents, in writing, if the purchaser intends to close the park or convert it to another use within one year of the execution of the agreement. The notice must include detailed information about cash price and the terms and conditions of the purchaser’s offer to the residents. Finally, the law gave each city in the state the opportunity to require relocation funds in case of a park closing, though the law did not mandate that such support be made available to residents.

After passage of the 1991 law, APAC went to work getting city ordinances adopted in places that had manufactured home parks. The early municipal laws related to manufactured home park closings had been adopted in the context of an actual park closing. APAC wanted laws in place, however, in cities that were not currently facing a closing but might in the future.

Between 1992 and 2007, 19 ordinances were enacted in communities across the state. Each of the ordinances is a bit different with the critical difference being in the amount of compensation allowed to residents in the case of a park closing. The amount needed to be significant enough to provide residents with real relief but could not be so large as to constitute what the courts might regard as a ‘taking.’[12] Table 1.1 lists the park closing ordinances that were enacted between 1990 and 2007.

The state’s first park closing ordinance was adopted in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington in 1990. It was subject to a lawsuit shortly thereafter when the owner of the Collins Park manufactured home park closed in 1993 and was required by the city to provide relocation compensation to the residents. The Bloomington law was upheld.

While the ruling in the Collins Park case was a boost to efforts statewide to compensate residents of parks facing closure, and while several other communities across the state added ordinances of their own to help protect residents financially, it was nevertheless the case that no statewide standard existed and a resident’s right to compensation did not exist in all communities. In some cities, manufactured home parks were not seen as an asset and local officials were happy to see them go. Only 22 communities in the state had enacted park closing ordinances, “leaving over 100,000 residents in 400 cities unprotected.”[13] Furthermore, because of the different terms from one ordinance to the next, there was the potential for vastly different and unequal treatment of mobile home residents depending on where they resided. APAC decided to work for a state law that would standardize treatment and make it comprehensive throughout the state. At the same time, the park owners themselves were lobbying the legislature to create a trust fund for relocation compensation. Thus, both ‘sides’ of the issue, residents and owners were looking for the state to intervene.

In 2007 the lobbying efforts were successful. The legislature created the Manufactured Home Relocation Trust Fund to provide participating manufactured homeowners compensation in the event that all or part of their manufactured home park closes. The trust fund is essentially funded by residents. An annual fee (originally $12, $15 at the time of the Lowry Grove closing) is collected by park owners for every occupied mobile home in the park. The fee is transferred to the state to fund the trust fund. The statute establishes an upper limit to the fund. When the fund reaches $1 million no additional collections are made.

The statute provides for payment from the trust fund to residents to cover actual relocation costs for moving the manufactured home to a new location within a 25-mile radius of the park that is being closed; up to a maximum of $7,000 for a single-wide home and $12,500 for a multi-section home. The relocation costs include the cost of taking down, moving, and setting up the manufactured home in its new location. If the home cannot be moved, the residents will be compensated an amount equal to the value up of the home; up to a maximum of $8,000 for a single-wide and $14,500 for a multi-section home.

With the addition of the Relocation Trust Fund, the state law contained two important elements for park residents. The first is the Right of First Refusal (RFR) that lays out the process for residents to match a purchase offer in order to buy the park themselves and keep it open, and the second is the relocation assistance should the park close and residents be forced to move. At the time of the Lowry Grove park closure, important parts of the law had never been applied. While relocation costs had been disbursed from the fund on a number of previous occasions, the RFR provision of the law had been exercised only once before. More importantly, the courts had not ruled on the provisions of the law.[14]

AW

AW lived in Lowry Grove with her four children who, in 2016 ranged in age from two to 13 years old. They moved into Lowry Grove in 2012. At the time, AW did not know anyone in the park. AW had moved to Minnesota from Las Vegas and although she spent some time in an apartment on the south side of Minneapolis, she looked for a manufactured home “because it was good for the kids. It was like living in a regular house, a normal house. It was our own place, privacy. Nobody would tell us to do this or don’t do this…. It was also very cheap to keep up. It was a very nice place to go out for a walk and it was close to other places.” AW purchased the home from the owner of the park, Phil Johnson.

She felt conflicted about Lowry Grove as a place to live. She said the park’s “environment was very bad, but it was economically convenient.” Maintenance of the park, she says, declined over time until she felt that it wasn’t a very safe place to live. At the same time, however, she felt that it was “very close to everything and public transportation was accessible.”

When notified of the park closure, AW said she “got depressed. I got very depressed because it happened at the same time as the time my kids lost their father, and the same time I was alone with my four children, they were telling me my house was going to be demolished, destroyed. They were saying that the new owner, Traci, was going to build buildings and that we were not welcome anymore.”

AW indicates that the process of fighting the park closure brought a lot of residents closer together.

“At the end of everything I got to know everybody. When we got notified about the closure of the park, because there was a new owner who wanted to do new things with the park, all the neighbors became closer. We introduced ourselves and stated that we would struggle, fight for our houses…. At the end, we even took care of each other.”

As one of the families that stayed longer, she felt that the gradual emptying of the park was very difficult to watch. “It was terrible, horrible! We couldn’t live there anymore; they were starting to break down the houses one by one. They destroyed them in front of us. It was very sad to know that we wouldn’t see any of the other families who lived there anymore. The park was a destruction site since the moment we were told it would close. Those organizations turned the park into ‘destruction’—something that the organizations destroyed.” She thought the environment was particularly hard for the children; “All the kids in Lowry Grove cried when they saw the houses being destroyed in front of them.”

AW and her children remained in the park until the very end. She could not find alternative housing. She looked for five months for an apartment she could afford. “I didn’t get [any] because they asked for credit. Others didn’t let me get a place because I had four children and my working hours were not enough to pay everything. I looked for an apartment for three, four, five months, so [I was] terribly desperate.”

They moved out on the day the park was closed. At the end AW and her children were assisted by members of a group of St. Anthony residents, many of whom were active in an organization called St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action (SAVCA). AW credits members of this group for helping her find a place to live. “I couldn’t find a place. I didn’t find a place. I couldn’t on my own. They helped me find a new place where I could take my children. If it hadn’t been because of this community I would have to sleep on the street, with my children, we would sleep on the streets because there was not anywhere else to go.”

She met the SAVCA volunteers in May of 2016, after months of looking for an apartment. “I started meeting these people and they still help me to pay for my necessities, like food, pickups for my kids, because now it is a lot harder. They helped me because they saw me so desperate. I didn’t find a place to take children and they even offered to open their houses to me so I could stay with them rather than on the streets.”

AW couldn’t estimate how much it cost her to move:

“I couldn’t tell you an exact price because it’s the price of all the people who helped me. All of them who supported me, the children, the old people. They carried our things. In my case they helped me. I couldn’t tell you the price because I cannot price the love of all those people…. They were people who saved us from the street. I don’t even know all of them, but they all helped me. It is very hard to price the love and willingness that God put into those people.”

The move did cost AW in the sense that her manufactured home was too old to move and thus had to be left and destroyed. She had to leave behind a new refrigerator and all of the work she had done on the home, including a new roof.

AW stayed in the home of one of the SAVCA volunteers for the summer of 2016 before moving into another manufactured home in New Brighton, a northern suburb of St. Paul. She likes the management of the new park. “It is different, very quiet. The managers are always aware of what is happening, they watch out for our children, they play movies for them on Fridays. To me, they have been great. I have never had any trouble. “

But her new community is not as well located as Lowry Grove was.

“Getting around is very difficult. In Lowry Grove I felt more freedom, it was more like an open place. I felt like we were at the top, but here I feel like we are at the bottom. It was like being in a mountain there, but here it is harder. I don’t have a car to move around. When I get out here, the bus runs every certain time and I get it and it goes through Lowry Grove, and I feel that I am back home. I feel free. I am very grateful to God to have this beautiful house and my children in a more safe environment, but Lowry Grove was like our ‘wings.’ The park made us feel free, here you can’t escape like that. That’s how I and my kids feel here. We are not that free. Before I could just walk, but now I’ve got to wait.”

Her oldest daughter decided to remain in her school in St. Anthony Village but now must take two buses to get there. “If she misses one, she has to walk a lot. When she loses the bus pass and has no more money I have to go get her. It is a very complicated situation.”

AW mentions how hard the move was on the children. Her oldest daughter “suffers every day” the long commute to her school, but she wants to keep going there to maintain her friendships. “We are separated from the world we knew. We are in a different world, the streets we knew.”

The need

Lowry Grove was located at 2500 Lowry Avenue NE in the first ring suburb of St. Anthony Village across the street from the City of Minneapolis and the northeast neighborhood of Windom Park. The park opened in 1946 and was located on 15 acres of land. Most of the homes in the park were over 40 years old at the time of the sale and thus were not ‘mobile’ enough to move to another location. Rent at the park was about $450 per month, and a typical new single-wide manufactured home cost less than $50,000. The older, used homes were often sold for less than $10,000. The total cost made Lowry Grove an inexpensive place to live, especially in a neighborhood so close to downtown Minneapolis and with good schools.

At the time of the sale, close to 100 families lived in the park, about one-half of them Latinx. According to one activist, the displacement of families out of the park and out of St. Anthony Village would have the effect of reducing the St. Anthony Village Latinx population by one-third.[15]

Because manufactured homes represent a fairly widespread form of affordable housing for lower-income families, the sale or conversion of manufactured home parks is a significant means by which low-cost housing is lost. With low rental vacancy rates and rising rents throughout the metropolitan area, the loss of close to 100 affordable units at Lowry Grove put even more pressure on the market. As Alan Arthur told reporters in 2017, “we are starting to panic a little bit about the loss of affordable housing at the hands of social and market changes. We think it’s bad now, but soon the rest of the iceberg will be revealed, and we are going to be in big trouble.”[16]

Manufactured home parks are a main source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the State of Minnesota. These spaces provide low-income individuals and families with the opportunity for home ownership. However, the risk and probability of park closures have been increasing in the last years due to rising land values, deferred maintenance, and the motivation to increase the local tax base. The increase in this risk is concerning because Minnesota has approximately 900 manufactured home parks distributed among nearly 87 counties in the state and, according to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines, there are around 180,000 individuals residing in these parks who are 80 percent low- to very low-income families.[17]

APAC compiled statistics on manufactured home residents in Minnesota in 2011 and found that the average monthly rent in manufactured home parks in Minnesota was $367, much lower than the average of stick-built homes and apartments. This is one of the reasons why low-income families take manufactured home ownership as their first option.

The median home value of manufactured housing in Minnesota in 2007 was $29,000 and a typical lot rent was $200 to $350 per month, an affordable form of homeownership for low-income families. Per square foot, manufactured housing is less than half the cost of constructing site-building housing. Manufactured housing is an extremely affordable way to access home ownership and statistics showed that in the early part of the 2000s there were more privately owned affordable housing units in Minnesota (50,000) than all project-based HUD subsidized units and Rural Development units combined (48,7000).[18]

But these affordable units were being lost at an alarming rate, and the ones remaining were threatened. Since 1991, no new parks have been built in the Twin Cities region, but 13 have closed since 1987, mostly in urban and suburban communities (see table 1.2). The loss of manufactured home parks was not confined to the metropolitan area, however. Between 2000 and 2007, there were at least 17 park closures, affecting a total of over 425 units in the State of Minnesota.[19] The main reasons why manufactured home parks close are redevelopment pressures, aging infrastructure, and new transportation investments.

In 2017 the Twin Cities region had 14,117 manufactured homes in 81 manufactured home parks.[20] Thirty (30) of the region’s 87 parks were located in suburban edge communities, such as Rosemount, Blaine, and Lakeville. Nineteen (19) were located in other suburban locations, such as Burnsville and Mounds View. This is in keeping with regional trends that show that roughly three-quarters of the owner-occupied manufactured housing in the Midwest is located in a non-metropolitan area. Most of the manufactured housing in metro areas is located in suburban communities.

Demographics

According to the 2006 American Community Survey, there were about 906 parks that provided space for 68,300 units of manufactured housing in Minnesota, of which 86% were owned and 14% were rented.[21] These units housed about 180,000 individuals.

Manufactured home residents’ incomes are substantially lower compared to the residents of site-built housing. This is true for both owners and renters. Results from the 2005 American Housing Survey show that the national median household income for manufactured home residents was $27,452 compared to $40,304 for all households.[22]

The vast majority of manufactured homeowners, both in the Midwest and nationally, are white. In the 2005 AHS sample, 96.6% of owner-occupied manufactured housing in the Midwest had a head of household who was white compared to 88% nationally. [23]

APAC also reports that the percentage of non-white residents of manufactured housing in Minnesota is about 9%, a figure that is higher than for the entire Midwest area. According to the data, for some ethnic/racial groups, Native Americans and Hispanic/Latinx in particular, manufactured housing appears to play an important role as a source of housing. Numbers show that about 12% of all Native American households and 9% of Latinx households are likely to live in manufactured housing in Minnesota.

According to the 2000 U.S. census data, within the State of Minnesota, 2.9% of the population identifies itself as Hispanic or Latinx. Although this is significantly lower than the comparable rate for the United States, which is 12.5%, the number of Latinx has increased dramatically in recent decades. In 1990, there were 53,884 Hispanic or Latinx individuals living in the State of Minnesota, while in 2000 that number nearly tripled reaching 143,382.[24] According to a report by Centro Campesino and the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA), 31% of migrant workers live in manufactured homes.[25]

APAC has documented the disparities that manufactured home park residents in Minnesota face as a consequence of their race. Wide racial gaps exist in homeownership within manufactured home parks. For example, the average rate of homeownership for non-Latinx residents is 91%, whereas, for Latinx, only 66% own their homes. Similarly, the differences between the two main manufactured home parks in the city of Melrose (Melrose Mobile Home Park and Rose Park) show a high degree of racial disparities. While Melrose Mobile Home Park is composed of only 6% of Latinx families, the percentage in Rose Park is about 86-95%. Yet the average home value for residents in Melrose Mobile Home Parks is $17,000 while in Rose Park it is only $7,000. Also, the homeownership rate in Melrose Mobile Home Park is higher (91%) than in Rose Park (67%).[26] Finally, park closures have had a disproportionate impact on people of color, who have constituted more than half of households affected by manufactured park closures.[27]

The lead-up

The sale of Lowry Grove was neither a sudden occurrence nor entirely unexpected. The owner, Phil Johnson, had been looking to divest himself of the park for some time, although this was in fact unknown to the residents. Johnson had, at one time, been a major player among manufactured home park owners in the nation in terms of the number of parks under his control. But as he grew older, he began to reduce the number of his holdings. On two different occasions prior to the sale of Lowry Grove, Johnson had sold a park to the residents. In both cases, the residents used Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF) to secure financing and to receive technical assistance necessary to go about establishing a residents’ cooperative to purchase the property.

In 2005 Johnson sold the Paul Revere manufactured home park to the residents through NCF. It was, at the time, the largest resident-owned cooperative in the state at more than 100 units. The park is located in Lexington, Minnesota, a northern suburb of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Six years later Johnson sold Park Plaza in north suburban Fridley, Minnesota, just four miles from the location of the Paul Revere Park. Park Plaza holds 88 manufactured homes.

Johnson spoke highly of NCF and seemed well-pleased with the process of selling to residents.

Both co-ops used NCF and from my end, the process was professional and efficient. The people that live in these communities, they’re not rich people. If [NCF] is able to provide some assistance, then they can realize that dream.[28]

In 2017, after Lowry Grove had been sold and closed, Johnson sold yet another park, Zumbro Ridge Estates in Rochester, Minnesota to residents. The residents of Zumbro Ridge also used NCF to purchase the 122-unit park and convert it into a resident coop.

If Johnson was willing to sell these parks to their residents, why did he not follow the same route for Lowry Grove? In fact, Johnson had investigated the possibility of selling Lowry Grove to the residents and in 2014 approached NCF about the possibility. The price that he quoted at that time, according to Warren Kramer, executive director of NCF at the time, was $6 million.[29] NCF seriously investigated the offer. Johnson shared the park’s financial records with NCF, but the nonprofit concluded that the property was worth only $3 million in its configuration as a mobile home park. In addition, there were clearly significant infrastructural upgrades that would need to be made in the park, something that Johnson readily admitted to NCF at the time. On the basis of previous experience, Kramer and NCF estimated that the cost of infrastructural improvements of the sort they saw in Lowry Grove might cost as much as $10,000 per unit or about $1 million.

Kramer, who said he enjoyed working with Johnson on the previous deals, noted nevertheless that the two parks Johnson had previously offered to NCF (Paul Revere and Park Plaza) showed the same type and level of infrastructure decay and decline. “It’s the business model,” said Kramer, “you make money by collecting rents and spending as little as possible on the private infrastructure.” Then you sell.

Johnson admitted to reporters that there were serious infrastructure problems in the park. “All of the infrastructure was put in well before I purchased the park,” he said to a reporter in 2016. “All of the water lines are undersized and old. We are constantly having water leaking issues. The same with the sewers; the lines are old and we’ve never totally been clear where they run…They get plugged and back up and we can’t get them unplugged. The sewer has lift stations. When they break down, it’s very expensive to fix.”[30] As the owner of the park, Johnson and his business partners chose not to fully address those problems but instead did the minimum necessary to keep the park running. “Piecemeal and with duct tape” is how he characterized his effort.[31] Johnson simply did not see an incentive to provide decent facilities for the residents because doing so did not cost out. With the age of the park, the lots were too small to accommodate modern manufactured homes, which are typically much larger than the older models that filled Lowry Grove.

NCF concluded that there was nothing they could do to take advantage of the possibility of helping the residents of Lowry Grove purchase the park and run it as a coop. NCF is not a developer and so did not think about changes in the park or redevelopment that might make it work. Their work is in facilitating the purchase of existing parks by their residents. In 2014 paying $6 million for Lowry Grove made no financial sense as a way of preserving a manufactured home park and certainly made no sense for establishing a resident coop. Clearly the purchase price that Johnson quoted was a reflection of the market value of the land and reflected Lowry Grove’s location within a high-status suburb with good schools, near the central city and downtown Minneapolis.

Residents old enough to remember the previous park owner, Hobie Swan, generally spoke highly of Swan and noted that when he ran the park it was well run and well kept up. Swan had run the park since 1948 when the property contained cabins that were rented by the day or week.[32] Lowry Grove had held trailers since the 1930s. The area around it was open, even though it abutted the City of Minneapolis. Large scale suburbanization had not yet begun, and the land was in largely undeveloped areas dotted with farms. Swan himself installed the gas and electric lines that served the park up until its closing in 2016. The water lines also dated to the late 1940s and early 1950s. Swan sold the park in 1996 to Johnson and three partners who made up Lowry Grove LLP.

According to residents we interviewed, physical conditions in the park declined rapidly after 2000. There were a series of on-site managers, and residents had little good to say about most of them, claiming their approaches to management ranged from indifference to venality. The owners, however, invested very little in the park or in improving infrastructure. Upkeep was minimal, enough to keep the park operating but not enough to improve physical conditions of the roads or the infrastructure. The City of St. Anthony did little to nothing to force or incentivize better upkeep of the park. Not directly responsible for the private infrastructure within the park, the city allowed conditions in the park to deteriorate. The social environment in the park declined as well. Police calls at the park increased, drugs and prostitution became problems, and in the year before the sale, St. Anthony police responded to 174 calls from the park.[33]

In 2014 a resident of the park was shot and killed by St. Anthony police outside of his trailer home after a standoff that lasted some hours.[34] One resident we spoke to called it a “suicide by cop.” It is the City of St. Anthony’s last fatal shooting.

The conditions that prevailed within the park by the 2010s, conditions that the owners had allowed to prevail, were in stark contrast to the surrounding community. The park was located in the midst of well-maintained single-family homes and an upper-middle class neighborhood. One neighborhood activist who worked hard to support Lowry Grove residents in the months before the park closed, reported:

I used to live nearby [Lowry Grove] on Buchanan. I would go by it, and I’m ashamed to say that I used to think, “what an eyesore” and I thought about what could be done about it. I didn’t think of the residents who lived there, and who they were, and what they were going through and why the infrastructure of the place was so neglected by the owner and the city. But I can tell you they were definitely not integrated into our community. They were not regarded as part of the city, either by neighbors or by the city itself.[35]

Lowry Grove was literally and figuratively on the margins of St. Anthony Village. The park occupied the far southwest corner of the village, at the intersection of Lowry Street and Stinson Parkway. The three other sides of that intersection are in the city of Minneapolis. With a strong single-family housing market on all sides, and located within a desirable school district, the park was sitting on prime real estate and the owner knew it. “Lowry Grove has an excellent location,” Johnson said. “The land is valuable and its highest and best use is for something different. For this particular property, its time has come.”[36]

Lowry Grove was located on transit lines and just four miles to downtown Minneapolis. The park was part of the St. Anthony/New Brighton school district, a district known for excellence. The neighborhood was clean, safe, and well-served by shops and stores. Johnson no doubt understood that despite the conditions that prevailed within the park, he would be able to sell it at a good price because of its location. Though he and his partners bought the property for $1.4 million, their target sale price was $6 million.[37]

Thus, in the years and months leading up to the sale of Lowry Grove the owner of the park, Phil Johnson, was following a path of disinvestment. He had shopped the park around and considered selling it to the residents through NCF. This inclination to sell no doubt factored into his reluctance to adequately maintain the park, but it may also have been the result of years of decline in the park spawned by his refusal to replace inadequate infrastructure.

The City of St. Anthony Village held Lowry Grove in the same low regard that its owner did. St. Anthony Village is a small, first-ring suburb on the northeast side of Minneapolis. The city is only 2.35 square miles in size and contains fewer than 10,000 residents.[38] The city’s median income in 2014 was $54,943. This is less than several nearby suburbs but greater than neighboring Minneapolis. The poverty rate in St. Anthony is quite low, only 6.1% compared to nearby suburban areas with rates greater than 11%. In 2010, 43% of the residents had bachelors’ degrees, up from 34% just a decade earlier. And the community is overwhelmingly white; 85% of residents are non-Hispanic white, fewer than four percent are Latinx.

Eighty percent (80%) of the residential land use in the city is single-family housing. Only 458 units in the city were, at the time of Lowry Grove’s closing, affordable to families at or below 30% of the area median (an income of $25,740 or less). St. Anthony city planner Breanne Rothstein said that the vacancy rate near Lowry Grove at that time, was “near zero” and rents that matched the $440/month that Lowry Grove residents were paying “’just don’t exist’ in the city”.[39]

The city is served by School District 282, which covers St. Anthony and a portion of neighboring New Brighton, Minnesota. District 282 is the smallest geographic school district in the State of Minnesota and serves over 1,800 students in one elementary school (Wilshire Park Elementary), one middle school (St. Anthony Village Middle), and one high school (St. Anthony Village H.S.). It is also one of the best school districts in the State of Minnesota. The high school was ranked as the state’s third best by U.S. News & World Report in 2016.

In addition to the inclination of the owner to sell Lowry Grove, the City of St. Anthony Village had made it quite clear that it saw no future for Lowry Grove as a manufactured home park. The city’s 2008 comprehensive plan, in fact, named Lowry Grove as one of the city’s best redevelopment opportunities.

The Lowry Grove mobile home park is the one major instance of aged and deteriorated housing in St. Anthony. However, it is also the major source of affordable housing for population (sic) with incomes less than 50 percent of the community median.[40]

The conditions in Lowry Grove were in contrast, the plan pointed out, to the housing conditions throughout the rest of St. Anthony Village, which the plan describes as “generally good.”

The plan goes on to detail the potential for redevelopment of Lowry Grove on pages 2-24:

The Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park could be privately redeveloped into townhouses and condominium apartments… The bank building on the corner of Kenzie Terrace and Stinson Boulevard is sound and should probably remain.

If redevelopment of this site occurs, the City of St. Anthony will ensure that the residents of the mobile home park are assisted in their relocation to other housing that meets their needs in terms of cost, location, handicap access and other provisions as required by state law (M.S. 327C.095). That law requires, among other provisions, that:

  • There be a public notice of the owner’s intent to convert the mobile home park to another use.
  • There be a public hearing before the City Council on any needed zoning change.
  • That a displaced resident be paid reasonable relocation costs if he/she cannot relocate his/her mobile home to another manufactured home park within 25 miles.
  • That residents be given the opportunity to collectively purchase the mobile home park for the same cash price as the seller would have received from the actual prospective buyer (the redeveloper).

To ensure that adequate and affordable replacement housing is found for the park residents, the city may work on its own or in cooperation with the redevelopment company and/or the Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority or a private nonprofit housing corporation. The relocation housing would ideally be located in St. Anthony, either in the form of existing or newly constructed units. Potentially, some of the new housing for displaced residents could be located on the site of the redeveloped St. Anthony Shopping Center.

Thus, in a public document, eight years before the eventual sale of Lowry Grove, the City of St. Anthony Village clearly signaled its desire to see the park go. The plan established Lowry Grove as a redevelopment opportunity and, importantly, a redevelopment that would not include manufactured housing as part of whatever new was built on site.

In January of 2016, Johnson was conducting serious negotiations with CPG for the sale of the park. The parties executed a “Letter Agreement” in January that referenced CPG’s intent to prepare a formal purchase agreement following an inspection. The Letter Agreement included the negotiated $6 million price, including the $1 million in earnest money to be paid when the purchase offer was formally made. The Letter Agreement gave CPG 120 days for an “Inspection Period” to, among other things, “evaluate the homes, environmental assessments, and other materials provided by [the seller] and ‘obtain redevelopment financing terms.’”[41] Most importantly, the sellers were “prohibited from giving information or cooperating with anyone else regarding the sale (including park residents) and the arrangement was confidential.”[42] Thus, CPG and Johnson had negotiated a secret process in which CPG was given four months to inspect the property and obtain financing in order to prepare a purchase agreement. This was both an advantage that CPG had which was not afforded to the residents and an arrangement that was purposely kept from the residents.

Resident leaders knew that the comprehensive plan targeted the park for redevelopment, and they understood the precarious status of the park within the community of St. Anthony Village. The Lowry Grove Residents Association had been active in the early 2000s, advocating for better conditions within the park. At that time, there were rumors and concerns about the park closing simply because of its location—the proximity to Minneapolis made it ripe for redevelopment, and residents were concerned that this would translate into a real proposal to close and redevelop the park.

In the spring of 2016, just weeks before the closure letter arrived, resident leaders at Lowry Grove decided that because of what was in the city’s comprehensive plan and because of the never-ending rumors about the sale of the park, that they would convene a group of residents and perhaps resurrect the residents’ association. A resident organizer said they tried to organize residents to head off the potential sale of the house, but that many residents at the time did not believe them.[43]

MH

MH lived in Lowry Grove with his wife and two sons. Both MH and his wife are in their 40s and their sons were 12 and 16 at the time of the interview (10 and 14 at the time of displacement). MH was born in -------- but moved to ---------- because of civil strife.

MH and his family moved into Lowry Grove in April of 2013, buying a home for $6,000. They moved from a duplex on University Avenue and Lowry Avenue in NE Minneapolis, just over two miles away from Lowry Grove. Lowry Grove was attractive because of the affordability. The family was spending $850 in rent for their two-bedroom unit, and the rent at Lowry Grove was $380 when they first moved in, though it increased in each of the years they lived there. When they were forced to move out, they were still paying half as much rent as they had been paying for their apartment three years earlier.

MH’s wife had family living in Lowry Grove, and he remembers the neighbors being very friendly and welcoming to him and his family when they moved in. His two boys had lots of friends at Lowry Grove and even a friend who lived outside the park from the neighborhood surrounding Lowry Grove. The two boys walked to their schools, each one located about a ten-minute walk from Lowry Grove. Neither one had to change schools when they moved into the park. MH and his wife were very happy with the schools: “They had a very good reputation…They had good teachers. Well, everyone would say that it was a good school.”

MH told us that the park was safe and a good place for kids. At the same time, he tells of an incident in which the police forced him and his wife out of their home in the middle of the night.

“One day came when our trailer was surrounded by cops. It was about 3 in the morning, and someone called 911 that there was a shooting. But, we didn’t hear anything. We were sleeping. They thought it was us. I think the people that lived here before us had a bad record. That is why they left or were kicked out, I think; but who knows what happened. So, I don’t know if they consumed or sold drugs. We don’t know. The police must have thought they still lived there when they surrounded us to come out. So, since we didn’t do anything wrong, we came out. When we came out they told us to put our hands above our heads, to us adults. And we also had a dog there as well. So, the little dog was barking. They opened the doors to check if there were shots, blood, or knives in the kitchen, if there was a sign of violence. But, now everything checked out. They put us in the police cars for a while, they asked us questions, and released us. They also took the children. They really thought it was violence. They put the children in the cop car. They put my wife in a separate car, like this (demonstrated with his hands) with her hands handcuffed.”

INTERVIEWER: What did you think when this was happening?

“Nothing. Well, I didn’t know anything. They asked us if we heard the shooting. And no, we hadn’t heard anything. I don’t know. I don’t know. But it was strange. Because at 3 in the morning or 4 in the morning, it was dawn already, the sun was practically coming out. Everything was clearing up when this happened. This was the only thing I didn’t like from there, and the St. Anthony police told us that this wasn’t a good place to live, that this place had a bad record for many years. But we were here because the rent was too expensive in other places. And we stayed there until we were forced out.”

INTERVIEWER: “Do you still think that it was a good place to live? To raise a family?”

“My response would be that it was good. Actually, the one that causes trouble should be the one that is scared of being arrested. It was good… So, just because of a few people the whole area is bad? That is wrong. Only because one couple fought, are bleeding, are fighting, are mistreating each other, they say that the entire park is bad. But no… It was a safe place… because there were many kids that played on the streets. They would ride their bikes during the day; everything was calm. There were no problems.”

The family lived there for only three years before the notification of the park’s sale and eventual closure was sent out to all residents “It was a surprise,” MH said. “Once we received the letter we started to think, ‘Where will we go? Where will we go?’ And primarily for us as adults there isn’t an issue because I can go to the outskirts of the city. But the children started to say, no, they don’t want to leave far from here because of their friends and because of school.”

MH and his wife began to attend meetings of the residents shortly after the park closure letter arrived. “Phil Johnson and that woman, I think her last name was Tomas, she bought the land. They only did the trade of the land without thinking about the people that lived there. So, they ignored the people that lived there. What were they going to do with the people? He sold the land and she bought it. They didn’t take us into account.”

MH liked the location benefits of Lowry Grove. “We wanted to live there permanently, because of the schools, the stores, we like it there. We still like it. I had my kids and they always missed it there. So one day we will go live over there by Central, lower down.”

MH and his family moved right away. They began looking for new housing immediately and moved in June 2016, two months after receiving the closure notice. “Because since the letter arrived in April 2016 we were thinking we should wait until the kids are out of school. We didn’t want to wait because we also didn’t want to move when it was snowing in December. So let’s leave now.”

They looked for other manufactured home parks to live in, one that would take them with their dog. They could not find any and now the dog, who is small, is kept inside, out of sight.

In the end they found a new manufactured home to move into Hilltop, a community less than five miles from Lowry Grove. According to MH, “we were lucky that I have my brother-in-law living here (in Hilltop) and he had started living here before we lived in Lowry Grove. Here we started to search and search…. On the weekends I would come here because no one wanted to sell their trailer. Until finally, the man living here put up a ‘for sale’ sign. We asked him, and yes, he said he was about to move out to Texas. And we got this trailer home. It was luck.” MH feels that his family was luckier than others, “other families did not have that same luck. Because other families had to move to apartments and pay $1,000, where the rent is too high.”

Three of their neighbors from Lowry Grove also live in the same manufactured home park in Hilltop, as well as MH’s brother-in-law. The youngest boy remained at Northeast Middle School, MH drives him in the mornings. The oldest son now attends Edison High School, although there is a high school closer to where they live.

Their new home is not new, and MH says, “there are a few upgrades we need to make to the home, but that is natural. Just a few things that need remodeling.” Their old home, from Lowry Grove was too old to move

MH’s assessment of the move is that “it hasn’t been good” because of the impact on his children. “Because of their friends and their school.” When asked what, if anything, he misses the most about living in Lowry Grove, he answers, “What I miss most are the neighbors, the people. It’s like they died because they all went in different directions.”

Resident Resistance

We are a humble community, made up of immigrant families, seniors on fixed incomes, and working poor. If the sale goes through, we stand to lose everything.

 

JH, former Lowry Grove resident.[44]

Phil Johnson and CPG consummated the sale of the park on Monday, June 13, the first business day after the end of the 45-day waiting period and the first business day after Johnson had received Aeon’s counteroffer. The residents, who had celebrated the previous Friday their unlikely success in mounting a credible and matching counteroffer, now faced the fact that the buyer and seller had gone forward with the sale in spite of that counteroffer. CPG maintained that the Aeon offer was not a viable one and did not strictly meet the requirements of the law. Specifically, they argued that Aeon had not complied with the legal requirement of obtaining authorization from 51% of the owners of the manufactured homes. CPG claimed that although there were enough signatures, many of them were duplicates from within the same household and some were not, in fact, owners of the homes they occupied. Thus, the signatures, they argued, did not represent 51% of the owners.[45]

The residents, who had seen the Aeon bid as their main hope to keep the park open, began to explore legal options to force acceptance of the counteroffer. They had already retained the services of the Housing Justice Center and attorney Jack Cann in anticipation of a legal fight to assert their right of purchase. If at first they imagined that the legal fight would be to defend their purchase of the park against a challenge from CPG, in the end it turned out that they were the plaintiffs challenging CPG’s purchase. This distinction was to prove critical in the end.

Within one month of CPG’s purchase, the residents and Aeon had filed a lawsuit. Aeon, resident leader Antonia Alvarez, and the Lowry Grove Residents Association were co-plaintiffs in a suit filed in Hennepin County District Court on June 27 against both the buyer and the seller.[46]

The lawsuit alleged that the owner had wrongfully rejected Aeon’s offer in favor of the CPG offer, in violation of the state law that gave residents the right to match any purchase offer received by the owner. The plaintiffs asserted that they had complied with the requirements of the law, had received the authorization to proceed from at least 51% of the homeowners in the park, and had fully matched the terms of the purchase agreement between CPG and Lowry Grove Partnership. Thus, the plaintiffs sought a declaration from the court nullifying the sale of the park to CPG, voiding the closure of the park, and requiring the owner, Lowry Grove Partnership, to honor the terms of Aeon’s purchase agreement. The suit was filed on June 27, 2016, in the Fourth District Court of the State of Minnesota, Hennepin County.

For the residents, the main concern of course was the loss of their homes and community, and the impact on their children, including their attendance at school. Families worried that if they had to move, their children would have to change schools and might end up in inferior schools. For most of the residents, their incomes would make relocation and finding new housing very difficult. But, most pressingly, they feared the loss of their homes and community.

A great deal of research has documented a number of problematic outcomes for persons experiencing displacement from their homes. The earliest research on displacement focused on the negative mental health impacts of losing one’s home and community or what one researcher called “grieving for a lost home.”[47] Public health psychiatrist Prof. Mindy Fullilove has named the phenomenon, “root shock.” Root shock, according to Fullilove, is a traumatic stress reaction to the destruction of all or part of one’s emotional ecosystem.[48] This trauma “undermines trust, increases anxiety, destabilizes relationships and destroys social, emotional, and financial resources.”[49] Other researchers argue that displacement can disrupt a person’s sense of psychological well-being and stability that derives from continuity in one’s place in the world.[50] Displacement can interrupt that stability by introducing insecurity of housing tenure, disrupting all of the patterns and routines of a person’s life, and introducing the fear of continued instability. One study, for example, uncovered “a palpable sense of fear and anxiety that [displaced households] would be dislodged a second or third time from their home,”[51] a pattern of hyper-mobility that has been documented by research.[52] Loss of connection to one’s home and community can “bring about fragmentation of routines, or relationships, and of expectations” about one’s life.[53] The loss of home has also been shown to be “a significant crisis that can precipitate suicide.”[54]

Research has shown that displaced persons lose their connections to social networks and support systems. Informal systems of support are especially important for low-income people who substitute favors and reciprocal assistance for the kinds of goods and services that others purchase on the market.[55] Thus, informal exchanges of childcare, transportation, and in the meeting of other daily needs are not simply matters of friendship and relationships, but in fact constitute strategies of survival and getting by for people of limited means. These reciprocal relationships are built up over time as trust and experiences are built with neighbors and acquaintances who live nearby. Displacement means the interruption of these relationships and the destruction of these critical supportive ties.

The impulse to oppose one’s own displacement from home and community is extremely strong. This desire for stability, the desire to maintain one’s community is strong even in places where middle-class reformers think that “community” does not exist or where conditions don’t meet the standards of middle-class life. The best example of this is the widespread opposition to displacement staged by public housing residents all over the country from the mid-1990s through the first decade of this century.[56] Residents of public housing communities that had been depicted as “no-go zones” in the media, that had been written off by private sector investors and public officials, that were considered the most dysfunctional communities in America, stood up against the plans to demolish their communities. They organized themselves to make their own plans to improve their communities.[57] They attempted to alter the discourse about their communities,[58] and they mounted lawsuits to protect their communities and forestall their displacement and relocation.[59] The residents of Lowry Grove were experiencing what most displaced persons feel, and they mobilized as many displaced communities do. As one resident said shortly after the sale of the park, “I believe that people that live in low-income housing are taken advantage of a lot when developers come in and they just wipe away 100 or 200 people at a time.”[60] Residents began their opposition in earnest in the days following the sale of the park.

In addition to the lawsuit, residents began to concentrate their efforts on the St. Anthony Village City Council to enlist their assistance in at least slowing down the process. The inclination of the City Council, however, was to not interfere with what they called a purely private transaction.

MS

MS was born in the Chicago area in 1935. She moved into Lowry Grove early this century. She had some money saved for her retirement, and she bought her home in Lowry Grove. She found out about Lowry Grove and realized that living there would save her money compared to where she was. “I figured, that’s my home until they cart me away.”

“It was a lovely home,” she remembers. “Boy, do I miss it.” She remembers Lowry Grove being very quiet and well run when she first moved in. “It was quiet, if I couldn’t sleep, I felt comfortable to go outside and get some fresh air at two in the morning. I felt very safe. I had nice neighbors who lived across the street and next door, and across the back street was a nice man named Frank who was the one who committed suicide over the move.”

Like others we spoke with, MS noticed that the maintenance of Lowry Grove had suffered in the years leading up to the sale. MS, in fact, had moved into Lowry Grove before Phil Johnson purchased the park. She said, “things changed a lot when Phil bought the place.”

What she liked about Lowry Grove was its location. She said, “I could walk out of the park, go down a hill to the library, go down a different hill to the shopping center to go get coffee…”

MS said she was stunned when she heard about the closing of the park. “That was my home for the rest of my life.”

“I’m in my eighties. I’m not happy that I have to uproot and you know, I had everything set. I had everything paid for, and a nice place. And I don’t think it’s nice of them to force me out. Made me angry.”

MS had to leave her manufactured home in Lowry Grove when she moved out. Her’s was a model from the 1980s, though it had been totally remodeled. “They gave me a check, and the check was about half of what I could have bought a similar home for.” She also lost her piano in the move. MS has been playing piano since high school in California. She played at a piano bar for about 20 years in California. She said she played just about every day in Lowry Grove. She put the piano into storage in anticipation of moving it into her new place. She had trouble finding a new place and couldn’t continue paying for the storage. She let the storage company take the piano.

She lives on social security now. “I’m not rich, and my income is too low to be accepted by most apartments. I’m sure there are low-income places, one of my sisters was a social worker and she has told me that there would be places that I could move to, but I’m used to privacy, you know what I mean?”

She moved to the Four Season’s Park in suburban Blaine and bought a “fixer upper,” as she calls it. She had hoped to move her house, but she could not find a vacant pad in any nearby park to move it to. She ran out of time and had to leave the house.

“When we left, you know I had hoped at the end that I could move my home, and that didn’t work out. My daughter, who lives in St. Michael, wanted me to move in with her into an apartment eventually, and so I went to stay at her home after I was out. But that didn’t work out, and part of the reason that my grandson had come to stay with me while getting ready to join the Navy, I really hadn’t seen my family that much. And that’s because partly of my daughter’s job, and she was taking classes to earn her degree and doing her job… After a few days she would yell and slam the doors, but other stuff was going on for her, and I couldn’t live that way, so then I left. I stayed in a hotel for a few weeks.”

She lived in the hotel for about five weeks, she reports. There was a Denny’s restaurant right there so she could walk to it. The hotel changed the rates for her after a while, reducing her costs a bit. “And they did have free coffee in the morning.”

When she moved into her new home in Blaine, she moved in with a friend from Lowry Grove, who had found the fixer upper “and then we decided to see how it was to live together for a while. It’s fine to live with him, but neither one of us likes this place.” She said she pays $560 and doesn’t feel as safe as she did in Lowry Grove. MS is hoping to find another place when the weather turns better. She is hoping for something closer to Minneapolis.

She misses “not having a nice, neat home, not being able to store things. Missing my neighbors, a little bit, you know. And being able to go for a walk to the library. I mean everything was wiped out.”

City Council Meeting
A St. Anthony Village City Council meeting attended by residents of Lowry Grove

“Poster child for racial tension”

By the end of the summer of 2016, however, St. Anthony Village was in danger of becoming what one local reporter called a “poster child for racial tension.”[61] In addition to the Lowry Grove situation in which the small city’s only concentration of people of color was being threatened with forced eviction, the city was dealing with the fatal shooting of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old Black man who had been pulled over by police for a traffic violation. The shooting occurred on July 6, 2016, less than a month after the sale of Lowry Grove. Though the killing of Castile took place in the neighboring community of Falcon Heights, because Falcon Heights contracts with St. Anthony for police services, the shooter was a St. Anthony Village policeman.

Thus, the July 2016 St. Anthony Village City Council meeting was not only attended by residents of Lowry Grove urging the city to do something to save their homes and communities, but it was also attended by groups that were there to demand information about the Castile killing and the St. Anthony Village police department.

These events were in addition to a previous controversy that had unfolded two years earlier. In that incident, the City of St. Anthony Village had denied a permit to the Abu Huraira Islamic Center to use a property in the city as a place of worship. In 2012, the Islamic Center had entered into a $1.9 million purchase agreement with the St. Anthony Business Center located in St. Anthony Village’s “light industrial” zone. Members of the Islamic Center had met with planning staff, the Planning Commission, and had attended meetings “of the City Council and Planning Commission to address any concerns held by the city.”[62] Both the city’s planning staff and Planning Commission recommended approval of the permit. Public opinion within the city was divided, however. When it came to a vote in June 2012, four months after the Islamic Center had applied for the permit, the City Council rejected the application on a vote of four to one. A number of residents spoke at the council meeting, on both sides of the issue. According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “some who spoke against the mosque made disparaging comments about the Muslim faith.”[63]

At the time, St. Anthony’s denial of the permit was “the fourth mosque opposition incident in Minnesota in the past year. The other three mosque projects […] were eventually approved despite community opposition.”[64] Though St. Anthony Village City Council member Hal Gray maintained at the time that “the issue is strictly a land use issue and ‘doesn’t have anything to do with their religion whatsoever,’”[65] the Minnesota Chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations asked federal authorities to investigate the situation.

On August 27, 2014, the city was sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), which contains provisions prohibiting religious discrimination and protecting against unjustified burdens on religious exercise. The lawsuit hoped to “Enforce Abu Huraira’s constitutional rights under RLUIPA by requiring St. Anthony Village to grant the conditional use permit to allow Abu Huraira to assemble for the purpose of worship.”[66]

The complaint specifically alleged that the City Council treated the application for a conditional use permit on less than equal terms than other, non-religious, conditional use permits for assembly, and that, “The denial of the necessary permit for the worship center unlawfully disfavored a religious use, because the light industrial zone where the building is located allowed ‘assemblies, meeting lodges and convention halls,’ including a union hall with banquet facilities available to be rented by the public.” The denial of the permit also burdened Abu Huraira’s members from practicing their faith. Members in the northern Twin Cities were burdened from praying together based on the length of time it took to travel to worship centers in south Minneapolis and because locations in south Minneapolis were too small to accommodate members.[67]

On December 16, 2014, the Department of Justice announced a settlement agreement resolving the lawsuit. The settlement was agreed upon during a 12-hour meeting before U.S Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Keyes.[68] The city agreed to allow Abu Huraira to use the space it had purchased for religious worship. The agreement also stated that “The City of St. Anthony Village will not treat Abu Huraira or any other religious groups in a discriminatory manner by application of its zoning laws, […] that elected leaders, managers, and certain city employees will participate in education training about the requirements of RLUIPA, [and] the city […] will also make RLUIPA information available to the public through its website and will report periodically to the Justice Department.”[69]

The St. Anthony City Council unanimously approved the settlement one week later, though not all members did so in the belief that it was the preferred solution. Council Member Randy Stille said that “to fight the case, no matter how right we are, it would be costly, and it would be without a sure outcome, […] the common theme with most RLUIPA cases is small cities don’t have the resources to fight the unlimited resources of the federal government.”[70]

The mosque incident, the Castile killing, and then Lowry Grove had each thrust the small City of St. Anthony into the regional and sometimes national spotlight in ways that highlighted racial, ethnic, and religious tensions.

“Save Lowry Grove”

Thus it was that Lowry Grove was not the only sensitive social issue on the agenda when the St. Anthony City Council met in July of 2016. That same month, some residents of St. Anthony had come together in response to the Castile shooting to create St. Anthony Village Community Action (SAVCA). As one member of the organization stated:

SAVCA was created as a result of the Philando Castile shooting. Neighbors came together to talk about what had happened, we were feeling that this is not the sort of thing that should happen in our community. We started having meetings about it… You know, the Castile shooting was not the first incident. The City had been the subject of a lawsuit over the Islamic Mosque. So, we were seeing a pattern of things happening in this community and SAVCA stepped up and bravely pointed this out. I say bravely because on the face of things, here we are this all-American city with good schools, good property values, quiet and safe streets, but this reality was only for some.[71]

Members of SAVCA attended the July 2016 council meeting, to “talk about policing in St. Anthony Village and about inequities in the city.” For the members of SAVCA, meeting Antonia Alvarez at the council meeting and hearing about what was happening at Lowry Grove introduced an entirely new set of issues they felt the city needed to address.

The city council meeting in which I saw Antonia talk was the first I had heard about the proposed sale of Lowry Grove and the potential loss of that affordable housing.[72]

The residents of Lowry Grove thus gained an ally in SAVCA.

Residents started working on a number of fronts. Alvarez hosted a weekly meeting of residents outside her home in Lowry Grove. A number of residents attended regularly and others contributed to specific actions. For many of the residents, such direct political action was something they had never done before. “Bob and Sherri Wargin, who have lived in the park for more than 25 years, took time off work to be [at a protest]. They’d planned to retire in Lowry Grove, but now their plans—and savings—are under threat. ‘I’ve never been to any kind of protest,’ Sherri said. ‘But when I realized how much it was showing that we’re really involved in this, to be here, we were on board.’”[73]

Residents continued to ask the city council to intervene on their behalf, but they looked for other allies as well. A request to the Attorney General’s (AG) office resulted in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the AG’s office in early August. The AG, at that time Lori Swanson, argued that “the plain language” of the state statute and the legislative history both indicate that its primary purpose is “in preventing and remediating the significant harm caused by park closures.”[74] The brief maintained that the seller and the buyer pursued several actions “to undermine, circumvent, and violate” the law providing residents the right of first refusal.[75] Though intervening in this way and at this stage of a legal dispute is unusual for the AG office, the brief made it clear that the affordable housing crisis in the region and the public interest in preserving affordable, manufactured housing provided a rationale. For their part, CPG maintained that they had followed the law to the letter and would “continue to do so.”[76]

Residents made city council meetings a regular part of their efforts to keep their homes. On August 9, Alvarez attended a council meeting to request that the city not approve any zoning changes that would allow redevelopment of the park.

LGRA invited members of the City Council to visit Lowry Grove on several occasions over the next 12 months. Only once did an official show up. City Manager Mark Casey met with residents on August 12 at the park. Again, the residents asked him whether the city would do anything to help stop or slow their eviction. Casey evaded the direct question and “answered that his role is to see that laws are followed. ‘We will do what we can to assure’ that in any process, it’s fair, equitable and all voices are heard.’”[77] Responses of this type would become the city’s refrain over the next year. Officials would repeatedly maintain that they had no role in intervening in a purely private real estate transaction, that their stance was one of not taking sides.

By late summer, 2016, the next step in the dispossession process was for the city to call a hearing at which a “Third Party Neutral” (TPN) would be appointed to oversee the terms of the removal of the current residents of Lowry Grove. The city was ready to have the hearing to appoint the TPN in early September but was forced to postpone the hearing indefinitely, pending resolution of the lawsuit. Residents were happy, calling the development a “miracle,” though understanding that it was a modest and temporary roadblock.[78]

Having filed a lawsuit to stop the sale, the residents also appealed to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), filing a complaint alleging that the sale and closure of Lowry Grove would be a Fair Housing violation because of its negative and disproportionate impact on people of color who make up a far larger percentage of Lowry Grove residents than of the surrounding community. A group of residents had driven from the Twin Cities to the Chicago office of HUD to meet with regional HUD authorities. Residents filed the claim on September 8, arguing that one-quarter of the Lowry Grove residents have Hispanic surnames while Hispanics make up less than 7% of the population of Hennepin County.[79] The Fair Housing complaint was seen as a backup plan to the lawsuit, but given the Obama Administration’s commitment to fair housing and its advocacy of a ‘disparate impact’ approach to housing discrimination cases, the residents were optimistic that HUD might be supportive of their efforts. In October, the Chicago regional office of HUD requested that CPG “refrain from taking further action to effect the removal of residents from Lowry Grove” while the agency was conducting its investigation.[80]

Protest march
Lowry Grove residents marched or rode from their homes six miles to downtown Minneapolis to the Hennepin County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit moved quickly. The first hearing in the case was August 26. Close to 50 Lowry Grove residents marched or rode from their homes six miles to downtown Minneapolis to the Hennepin County Circuit Court. Along the way they protested with cowbells, a megaphone, and signs.[81] They attended the hearing at the court that day. Lawyers from both sides made their cases and the judge promised to rule quickly.

That ruling came one month later, and it allowed the sale between Johnson and CPG to proceed. The judge ruled that the law provided no remedy for residents once a sale was consummated as the sale of Lowry Grove had been on June 13, 2016. This is so, even if the sale was made in violation of the provisions of the law that required residents be given their right of first refusal.

Affordable housing advocates had been watching the Lowry Grove legal challenge with interest. One housing rights attorney noted that this case would be the first time the Minnesota right of first refusal law would be tested in court and that the precedent would be important.[82] To the extent that the decision in this case was important for determining how well the law could protect the right of manufactured homeowners to purchase their homes, the law was revealed to be a major disappointment. Judge Klein specifically referenced Subdivision 9 of section 327C.085 which says:

“If a manufactured home park is finally sold or converted to another use in violation of subdivision 6 or 7 [which spell out the statute’s provisions for allowing the residents their right of first refusal], the residents do not have any continuing right to purchase the park as a result of that sale or conversion.”

Incredibly, the law stated, in effect, that residents have a right of first refusal unless and until the park is sold in violation of that right. Judge Klein regarded the language in the statute as “clear and unambiguous.”[83] The only remedy available to the residents in such a situation is to pursue monetary damages. Judge Klein allowed the suit to continue so as to assess whether monetary damages were, in fact, due to the residents (in other words, to assess whether the sale of the park was indeed in violation of subdivisions 6 or 7 of the law), but all further legal action would be limited to the issue of damages. The residents’ attempt to stop the sale of the park to CPG was denied.

The residents and Aeon decided to continue the lawsuit in pursuit of monetary damages. Alan Arthur of Aeon said the organization was “already exploring other housing options for Lowry Grove residents if the park does close,” noting that more than 1,000 people expressed interest in the last 47 units the organization completed.[84] CPG continued to move forward with its redevelopment proposal and moving out the few households who were ready to move out. The firm’s Vice President Traci Tomas reported to be “pleased but not surprised by Judge Klein’s ruling” and continued to assert that CPG and the seller, Johnson, had not violated the statute in closing the sale in June. By the end of September 2016, a handful of households had left the park already.

The city moved immediately after the court decision to restart the dispossession process. The court made its decision on September 24 and within three weeks the city council held its public hearing and made the appointment of the Third Party Neutral. Residents and their allies tried to persuade the council to postpone the hearing. HUD was conducting its investigation and had requested that no further steps be taken in removing the residents from the park, but the city went forward.

Residents and their supporters demonstrated outside the St. Anthony Village City Hall in October when the council scheduled the public hearing. One resident spoke to the council and told them, “it is not fair what you are doing to us.”[85] The resident, a single mother with four children, tried to convey to the council the importance of the affordable housing that Lowry Grove provided to her. After listening to the resident and other residents for two hours, the council voted to proceed. Echoing the city’s familiar refrain, the mayor said that the city council could not take a side in this private business transaction. “We can’t save Lowry Grove and give it back to the people. We don’t own it. We never have, and we never will.”[86] By the middle of October, 38 of the 95 homeowners in the park had made an agreement with CPG to move. The new owner paid some residents directly to move out. Tomas reported that the average payment made by the owners was around $8,350 per mobile home. Homes were demolished on site or taken to other manufactured home parks. “You come home and your neighbor is gone, Antonia Alvarez said of the demolitions noting how discouraging it was to see the park empty out.[87]

In public statements, CPG Vice President Traci Tomas repeatedly acknowledged that the forced relocation of families from Lowry Grove would be very difficult for the families. “From the beginning, we’ve realized that this is a difficult situation for the residents. That has never been something that we’ve taken lightly.” But the closing of the park was their intention from the beginning, and they never hid that. The firm had closed another manufactured home park in St. Paul years earlier. Of that case, Tomas recalled that “[t]here were several residents upset about it… They just didn’t understand some of the resources available to them. When we sat down and walked them through the process, they ended up being in much better living conditions than the houses they were in.”[88]

Lowry Grove resident Scott Anderson was not so sure. Sixty-five years old and raising his two grandchildren “on a not-very-good-sized pension,” he worried about his future when the park closed. “I spent 57 years of my life working, not being a bum, not being anything other than a worker…And now I’m going to end up on the street, under a bridge.”[89]

In the fall of 2016, conditions at the park seemed to deteriorate even further. Though the site manager did not change, residents felt that conditions were worsening. Residents noticed drug dealing where before there had been none. One resident leader fighting the park closure had to call the police one night in October, 2016. In her words:

Mi hija, mi cuarto era el último hacia atrás, para la parte de atrás del parque. Y por la parte de atrás había RVs. Era de tiempo de calor y yo tenía abierta la ventana y mi hija ya estaba acostada, de hecho ya dormida eran las 10 de la noche. Yo apagué la luz y ya me iba a acostar y unos hombres por esa ventana me gritaron: Get out of there, bitch.

I was with my daughter. My bedroom faced the backside of the park... And back in that area of the park, there were a lot of RVs (Recreational Vehicles). The window was open, it was summer and the weather was hot. My daughter was already asleep, in bed, it was after 10 pm. I turned off the lights, I was going to bed and then I heard some men shouting out by the window: Get out of there, bitch.

Un poco abrí la ventana y eran dos hombres, pienso yo que eran los dos blancos, shorts, cabello largo. Una mujer creo fue la que levantó la llamada y me dijo vamos a estar aquí alrededor de la casa, hasta las 6 de la mañana.

I opened the window and saw the two men. I think...they were white, wore shorts, and had long hair. I think one of the women in the park also called the police and she told me we will be around, we will be here until 6 in the morning, you dont have to worry. They said they would be there in case something would happen.

No pasó nada esa noche. Pero en otro día, después, como el mes después, Maritza venía llegando del trabajo. Ella vivía en la P2. Eran como las 2 de la mañana, 2:30 am y sonó mi teléfono y ella estaba bien asustada, diciendo levántese, levántese hay un hombre con una lámpara hacia su casa, levántese, algo van a hacerle. En ese momento llame a la policía. Y le dije que hay un hombre cuando yo me levanto, prendo la luz y el tipo corre y alcanzó a ver.

Nothing else happened that night. However, one month after that night, M. was getting home from work, she lived in unit ----. It was around 2 am in the morning and my phone rang. She sounded pretty scared. She told me get up, get up, there is a man around your house holding a light, pointing into your windows, get up because otherwise, something is going to happen to you. Right after that call I called the police. I told the police there was a man outside my house, I turned up the lights and saw him escaping, I was able to see his back, he was running.[90]

No additional incidents of this type occurred, according to the resident activist, nor was any further information ever gathered about the identity or motives of those the resident saw on those two nights.

When resident leader Antonia Alvarez spoke to a newspaper reporter about these incidents months later, she suggested that the “uptick in drugs and violence was part of the [developer’s] plan.” As reported in a weekly newspaper, City Pages in March 2017:

The new owners, she thought, allowed in RV renters with drug problems and histories of violence. And when that history was enacted on other tenants, she alleged, [the owners] looked the other way. The ensuing chaos would make broader St. Anthony back the park’s closure.[91]

These allegations were denied by the owners who then filed a counter suit against Alvarez in June 2017.

Yet, the fear felt by the resident involved was real enough. Another source of the fear was ICE. A number of the Latinx residents of Lowry Grove are undocumented workers. In fact, many residents of manufactured home parks elsewhere in the state worry about immigration arrests.[92] Sarah Lawton, pastor of Northeast Methodist Church on Lowry Avenue who made the church available for meetings of the LGRA when the weather turned cold in 2016, did so in order for the Lowry Grove residents to have a place of refuge should they feel the need.

In the fall of 2016, more residents were moving out. By December about half of Lowry Grove residents had moved out. Among those who stayed, there was an increased sense of fear about what would happen to the park and to their homes. The owners were trying to expedite the clearance of the park, offering residents $1,000 to leave, on top of what they would receive from the State Trust Fund for the value of their homes. Alvarez reports that she was offered an apartment in the new development that CPG planned to build for a rent that would not exceed what she had been paying in Lowry Grove. She declined the offer.

For some residents the offer of $1,000 to move was tempting. Their lawsuit was still pending in the Appeals Court. If they did not win the appeal, there would be no additional compensation beyond the value of their homes.

The State of Minnesota park closure law established a Trust Fund that would provide residents of parks with compensation for their home if it cannot be moved. The amount due to homeowners, set in the legislation, is $8,000 for a single-wide home and $14,500 for multi-section homes. If the homes can be moved, the Fund provides $7,000 for moving costs of a single-wide and $12,500 for moving multi-section homes. The City of St. Anthony Village, however, had a park closing law on the books prior to the time the state law was adopted. In such a case, the amount of compensation is determined by which law, the state or the local law, requires the higher amount. The St. Anthony Village law contains no upper limit on compensation for manufactured homeowners; it instead calls for residents to receive the market value of their home if they do not move it. Though the St. Anthony Village law could result in a resident getting an amount above the state-determined limit, it also means that there could be much more variation in compensation across residents. In the state law, all residents get the same based on the size of their homes.

The Third Party Neutral (TPN) determines the amount that residents get paid. In the case of Lowry Grove, which was subject to the St. Anthony Village law, the TPN had to establish the market value of each manufactured home that was demolished. Once the TPN established what a resident was to receive, the State of Minnesota paid the resident out of the Trust Fund.

The entire process of compensating homeowners is not a very transparent process from the residents’ perspective and can be chaotic. It is difficult for residents to figure out how much is due to them and for what (compensation for the home, or moving expenses, or “related” expenses). In the case of Lowry Grove, some payments from the State Trust Fund had been made to residents before it was known that St. Anthony Village had a park closing ordinance that superseded the state statute. These owners had to be re-contacted and given additional compensation.

GB

GB lived in Lowry Grove for 37 years. She lived there first with her son, Jake, who moved out in 2014 and then with her daughter in 2015. Her daughter then bought her own place at Lowry Grove in 2015. She bought her trailer and had to move out shortly afterward when Lowry Grove was sold and demolished.

When she first moved in, she says, the owner at the time, Hobey Swan, ran the park “like a concentration camp. You had to register overnight guests. He would paint the lines to park. If you parked over the line he’d give you a ticket. It was real strict.” After Phil Johnson bought the park, “all the rules went out the door. It was just free game. He didn’t maintain anything. Trees were falling down, he didn’t cut the grass. He was a slum lord.” Worse, to GB, was the decline in the infrastructure in the park.” The water, all the pipes underneath, they started to deteriorate. And they didn’t fix anything… He never repaired anything. So, he was just letting it go downhill. The City of St. Anthony would come through” and issue citations to pick up debris.

GB also complains about the managers that Johnson hired, alleging that some were behind criminal drug activity in the park.

Despite the conditions, GB remembers the community of people as being friendly. She remembers picnics among the residents (“twice a month from April to October”) and lots of socializing. She remembers the growing Latinx population as being very hard working, family oriented, who kept their homes well-maintained and did not mix much with the older residents. Their children were in the St. Anthony schools and were benefiting from those good schools. “That’s why they fought so hard, I think” to keep the park operating.

GB loved the larger community and the location of Lowry Grove. Talking about St. Anthony, she said that when she moved in she thought, “I love this neighborhood, I love the area, the community.” For a long time she worked at Hennepin County Center and from Lowry Grove it took her five minutes to get to downtown Minneapolis. “Shopping is available. It’s just a great area. So yeah, ‘I’m staying here.’” GB also mentioned the quality of the middle school that both of her children attended as they were growing up.

GB had a difficult time after her displacement from Lowry Grove.

Her trailer was old, built in the 1960s. “I put about two or three grand into it after I retired to fix it now that I had the time, when I had the time. But, yeah, it was all for naught.” She fixed up her bedroom, replaced her toilet, replaced the hot water heater, all after retiring. She took ceilings down and put new floors in as well. But the home was old and, as GB put it, was “Rube Goldberged” (unlicensed additions had been made). In the end it was demolished and she received $5,000.

She remembers being “devastated” when she received the letter notifying residents of the park’s sale and imminent closure. “I had been there for 37 years, and I thought I would go out of there feet first, you know? Or maybe I’d fix my trailer, maybe I’ll sell it, maybe I’ll move up north.”

She wishes that she hadn’t moved out so quickly. She complains that others received more because they “held out.” She “listened to the management… The maintenance man, he just pulled me aside because we were friends, and he said, ‘get out of here as fast as you can or you’re not going to get a dime.’ So, I sold out for five grand which broke my heart. And then moved into a really bad situation in North Minneapolis. I moved into a basement of a 120-year-old row home, and I’m allergic to molds and mildews so I got really sick.” The landlady of that building was GB’s cousin. But GB moved out because of the dampness. She then moved back in with her daughter in Lowry Grove and stayed there until the park closed on June 30, 2016.

At that point she started looking for a place to live. During that period she slept at her son’s apartment. “That’s when I applied for public housing and I had no idea the rental situation in the city. You know, 37 years in one spot you don’t pay attention to anything like that. So, I didn’t know it would be so hard and that’s why I’ve been homeless.” Unable to find anything, she started camping at Rice Creek County Park in Anoka. “But you could only stay five days then you have to go away two days and you could come back for three. So, my cousin lives on ------- and -------. I slept in my tent in his backyard off and on through the remainder of the summer.” She bounced around from her son’s to her cousin’s place until she moved into public housing in North East Minneapolis. At the time of our interview she was anticipating moving within two months into a senior housing unit operated by Aeon, the nonprofit housing provider that worked with the Lowry Grove residents to try to preserve the park.

Throughout all of that six-month period she was spending $160 per month for a storage unit in St. Paul and another $89 per month for storage in North Branch, MN. “I came from a seven-room, double wide trailer. And when I moved out I just moved it all into storage. And I sorted and threw out many things. She was paying to camp out the nights she was at the park, she paid gas to transport herself from Bloomington (where her son lived) to North Branch (her cousin’s place), to Anoka (the park), and elsewhere. She paid $160 to rent a truck to move her belongings into storage. But even with the truck and the storage units, she couldn’t move everything.

She misses her garden a lot. “I had a grapevine that was 30 feet long and I got barrels of grapes and I would give all of the neighbors some. You know, ‘come on over, bring a bowl.’ I had a raspberry patch that was 20 feet by 8 feet… I grew little cherry tomatoes. So, I lost my raspberries, I lost the grapevine. That was heartbreaking to me because I make jelly and, you know, as I said, the neighbors… I gave away a lot.”

GB has changed churches in the move. She reported going to ---------- Lutheran “where the food shelter is and I kind of volunteer there.” GB goes to the food bank twice a week, “which helps because, you know, all the money I’m paying for what I’m going through.”

Thinking back to the move is hard for GB. Crying, she said, “and I thought I’d live happily ever after with my grapevine and raspberries and fixing my home. So, I had, what, a year of happy retirement. And I’ve gone through hell since. I didn’t think it would be like this.”

“No, I don’t think [being forced to move] was a good thing. We were forced out, we had to move, we had to scramble. I’ve learned a lot…. I was stable. I was fixed. I was happy, I was retired, and things were going good. And having to move and not knowing where to go, what to do. Not having money. Because of my income, you know. I was stable there. And being out in this world now, it’s expensive. So yeah, it’s…it devastated me.”

When asked what she misses most about Lowry Grove, GB said, “my home. My friends. The community, the familiarity. The shopping center. Just… it was my home.”

Extension

As the fall of 2016 wore on, little progress was made in reconciling the residents with the new owners. CPG preferred that residents leave sooner rather than later, and it continued to provide incentives to residents to do just that. In November, the park manager distributed turkeys to all residents still living in Lowry Grove. Alvarez interpreted it as an attempt to buy the residents’ compliance. As she recalls:

They gave the turkeys to all the community and the last person was me. They gave turkeys for every single house, everybody got the turkey. So when they came to my door and knock on the door, I see the window and I see the manager and he said: “Traci [Tomas, VP of CPG] sent this for you, for the Thanksgiving.” I said “no, I don't want the gift for my house.” He said it is for you, you don’t understand? You don’t want this turkey? No, I don’t want it, I don’t want the turkey and I closed the door. And I called the community and said: “Ok, the manager is in my house and he gave this turkey” and people said, “ohhh they gave me turkey, too” and I said, ok, called every person and tell them to return the turkey. This turkey is not the value for your house, put the turkey in the house, they want to take your dignity, exchange your dignity for one turkey. Your dignity is stronger, recognize your dignity and put the turkeys in the door. Everybody was back with turkeys in the office. They had a big truck and everybody put the turkeys there. The manager, he is very angry with me because everybody followed what I said. Everybody, the white and Latinx people took the turkey there, but when I spoke with everybody, they all returned the turkeys.

In December, CPG and the residents met at Nativity Lutheran Church in St. Anthony Village across the street from City Hall. Alvarez invited the Auxiliary Bishop of the Catholic Church, Andrew Cozzens, to be present at the meeting. Alvarez felt the Bishop’s presence would put pressure on Tomas and might help a humanitarian appeal to keep the park open. After some negotiations, the parties agreed to extend the move-out date from March until the end of June in order to not disrupt the children in the middle of the school year.

The arguments in front of the Court of Appeals were held in March of 2017. In early May, the Appeals Court upheld the District Court decision on the sale of the park. About half of the residents were still living in the park in May when the Appeals Court made its ruling. Those who remained were faced with finding some place to go within a matter of weeks.

Closure

As the June deadline to vacate the park neared, the new owner and developer filed a countersuit against resident leader Antonia Alvarez and against Aeon, the nonprofit developer who had attempted to purchase the park on behalf of the residents. The suit alleged that Alvarez had made false statements about the case and about the new owner. Traci Tomas said that the developer had not set out to make a counterclaim but was forced to do it: “…my character and our business has routinely been trashed by a small group of people led by Antonia Alvarez who know what they are saying is not true. At some point, we had to draw the line and expose the truth.”[93]

In the days that remained before the park closed, Alvarez and other resident leaders led an effort to make sure all residents found a new place to move. Resident leaders knocked on doors to make sure everyone had a plan. For those without a plan, assistance was found. One source of assistance was the group, Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, a tenants’ rights group, a group of volunteers organized by North East Methodist United Church, Pastor Sarah Lawton, and a group of community volunteers, residents of St. Anthony Village who were members of SAVCA. Staff from the St. Anthony School District also worked to help Lowry Grove families, attending resident meetings and working with families over the summer to make school transition plans. School officials also worked with families who wanted their children to stay in the district.

As the deadline to move was approaching, Alvarez knocked on the door of Lowry Grove resident Frank Adelmann. Frank had lived in Lowry Grove for about 13 years. Alvarez reports that Frank told her he was not going to leave Lowry Grove. She told him that their struggle to stop the relocation had failed and everyone must leave. The sheriff would remove anyone still in the park after the deadline.

The last time I saw Frank he smiled at me and said, “I’m not leaving Lowry Grove. I’m living here the rest of my life.” I told him I was scared for him. I don’t want the sheriff to hurt you. We all need to leave together. He continued smiling and gave me a hug and said, “don’t worry about me. The sheriff won’t hurt me, I’ll live here the rest of my life.”[94]

Similarly, Adelmann’s friend, Nancy Gonzalez, who lived four houses away, wondered what his plan was for relocating from Lowry Grove. “When I asked him about what he was going to do,” says Gonzalez, “he was always really vague and would change the subject. Frank made it sound like he had other arrangements. You didn’t want to pry, and he made it sound like he had it under control.”[95] 

Frank Adelmann committed suicide on June 20, 2017, less than two weeks before he would have had to move away from Lowry Grove. The remaining residents held a vigil for Adelmann days before the park closed. The mayor of St. Anthony showed up to the vigil, his only visit to the park during the entire controversy.

Alvarez said that during this time she received a call from a county social worker, worried that she, Alvarez, was a suicide risk. When the social worker asked if there was anything that could be done to help, Alvarez asked for three houses for families that did not yet have places to go and for the county to stop the owner from demolishing the park.[96]

Volunteers helped residents pack their belongings, and in some cases helped residents find new housing. In a couple of cases, SAVCA members provided the new housing for residents, including providing temporary housing for families that had nowhere to go.

As one Lowry Grove resident described, “people in the community outside the park, the villagers, came. They helped us. They helped me move my stuff to my locker, they helped people load trucks. They actually brought all their vans and their trucks in and we just loaded them up and they said, ‘where do you want us to go?’ I had a person with a van help me with a couple of loads.”[97]

Another resident said,

We moved out on the day the park closed because I couldn’t find another place. I didn’t find a place. I couldn’t on my own. Saint Anthony (neighbors) helped me find a new place where I could take my children. If it hadn’t been because of this community I would have to sleep on the street, with my children, we would sleep on the streets because there was not anywhere else to go. There were people who came and rescued us, they didn’t let these organizations throw us on the streets. These people opened their houses to us because we were like 8 to 10 single mothers, with our kids and a lot of these families had five or six kids; they weren’t welcome anywhere.[98]

Some residents remained at Lowry Grove with only hours to spare, packing their belongings and saying goodbyes. All were out by the midnight deadline.

As at the beginning of this story, the Lowry Grove issue intertwined again in June 2017 with the killing of Philando Castile. The verdict in the case of Police Officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of Castile came just two weeks before the residents of Lowry Grove had to vacate the site. The city council meeting of June 27 was packed with people unhappy about the city’s leadership on both issues. Attendees demanded the resignation of the mayor, claiming “a pattern of practice of ignoring and dismissing concerns” of residents about the city’s role in both cases.[99]

Less than two weeks after the closure of the park, HUD handed down its ruling in the discrimination case the residents had filed the previous autumn. HUD said that “no reasonable cause exists to believe that a discriminatory housing practice” occurred in the sale of Lowry Grove.[100]

The redevelopment

In the summer of 2016, the original idea was for a mixed-use development to include around 90 units of affordable housing.[101] In late August, CPG filed preliminary plans with the city that included five apartment buildings with a total of 800 units and 37 townhouses.” [102]

Critically, however, there was no formal agreement with the city; no commitment from the city that a development of that size could be built. Tomas had said at the time of the purchase that she and CPG “would be working with the city and the neighborhood” to determine what is right for the site. [103]

Nevertheless, CPG felt confident that the city understood what their plans were and had not raised any objections. In fact, CPG purchased the property to redevelop it, and the city knew this, and moreover, it conformed with the city’s own plans for the site as laid out in its comprehensive plan. CPG had been in conversation with the City of St. Anthony about the city’s redevelopment goals for the property and felt as though they could deliver on those objectives. They envisioned high density housing on the site. In fact, for the 15-acre site, their original idea was for 840 units or about 56 units per acre. The city’s initial environmental assessment declared that the developers plans were in line with “the general vision outlined for the property in the comprehensive plan and includes units of affordable housing.”[104]

In fact, CPG met with city officials on multiple occasions in early 2016 about the purchase and redevelopment and felt that they had been encouraged by the city to proceed.[105] Throughout the fall of 2016 and the first half of 2017, CPG developed plans and drawings for the proposed redevelopment.

On February 14, 2017, the city council adopted a “Record of Decision” declaring that no Environmental Impact Statement would be necessary for the proposed development. In that document, signed by the Mayor, City Manager, and City Clerk, the city noted that the proposed density was higher than what was permitted in the City’s Comprehensive Plan and that the city would “address these discrepancies in the 2040 Updates to the Comprehensive Plan.”[106]

Shortly after the park closed at the end of June 2017, CPG and the residents (and Aeon) settled the lawsuit with an agreement to partner on the redevelopment. The settlement would have made Aeon the developer for the affordable housing on the site and would have placed the affordable units on two acres of land at the southwest corner of the parcel, closest to the intersection of Lowry and Stinson Boulevard.

On its website, Aeon characterized the partnership thusly:

On behalf of The Village, LLC and Continental Property Group LLC, Lowry Grove Partnership, LLP, Aeon, Antonia Alvarez, The Lowry Grove Residents Association, Ned Moore, and La Asamblea de Derechos Civiles, the Parties have reached a global resolution that is intended to not only resolve the litigation but to also provide a positive impact to the broader community. While the terms of the settlement agreement are generally confidential, it does require the City of St. Anthony to approve the agreed upon development, and the Parties found it important to share certain aspects with the public…

The Village has always been committed to including affordable housing in its redevelopment, a commitment that was central to the former owner’s decision to sell the property to The Village. Recognizing that all Parties desire to see affordable housing in the redevelopment, The Village has agreed to use Aeon as the affordable housing developer in this matter. Practically, that means that The Village will sell 2.1 acres of the overall project to Aeon, who plans to construct 110 units of affordable housing including units designed to provide housing to those with the greatest financial hurdles. The Village, the Residents Association and Aeon have agreed to work with the City and public funders and lenders to help make the affordable housing happen in a way that makes it as affordable as possible and integrates appropriately with the rest of the development and the community. The Settlement Agreement provides the now former Lowry Grove Manufactured Home Park residents the ability to return and live in St. Anthony Village in any of the housing on the overall site, as is applicable and workable for them financially and otherwise.

Another important part of this agreement is that it provides additional assistance to the former Lowry Grove residents. The Village has agreed to make a six-figure donation to start a charitable fund called the Lowry Grove Resident Support Housing Fund. The Fund will be managed by a separate group agreed upon by all Parties. The Fund and its administration will be guided by principles and a process to be developed by the resident association, the Housing Justice Center, Faegre, Baker Daniels and Aeon.

The Parties will be working with the City to discuss the revised development plans and to reach a shared vision for the entire project. We all look forward to presenting the joint vision beginning at the Public Hearing on August 28, 2017. The Parties look forward to working with the City on those provisions of the Settlement Agreement that require City approval such as TIF financing and zoning and project approvals and to help make the 110 affordable apartments happen and be as affordable as possible.

Neighborhood opposition and city reversal

The initial development proposal began to attract attention from neighbors, many of whom lived in the Minneapolis neighborhood of Windom Park to the west of the site. In February 2017 around 200 people attended a meeting at a nearby church to discuss the proposed development for the site. According to a northeast neighborhood newspaper, the meeting was spearheaded by a Windom Park resident.[107] At the meeting, residents voiced their preference for a park on the site and discussed issues such as traffic, stormwater management, the proper scale of the proposal, and the mix of units on the site. No one from The Village was present.

The organizers of this first meeting stressed to those in attendance that they were simply trying to become involved in the process and not meaning to merely “bash the developers.”[108]

CPG responded to concerns by scaling back the density, from over 800 units to less than 750 and then again to 615 units. Approval of the development plan was necessary for the legal settlement to take effect.

On October 10, 2017, the St. Anthony City Council voted unanimously to deny the proposal, “citing concerns about livability and how the redevelopment might fit with the character of the neighborhood.” [109] The city’s decision on October 10 had been preceded by two public hearings dominated by white homeowners voicing concerns about the potential impacts of the development on schools, traffic, and the environment. On October 10, they came to the City Council meeting again: “One by one, area residents stepped forward Tuesday and objected to the development’s scale. Worries emerged about overwhelming local schools.”[110] One of the speakers handed the council a petition signed by approximately 830 people opposing the plan. The proposal that was considered that night was a scaled-back version of the developer’s original idea and contained only 615 units.[111]

The council voted unanimously to reject the proposal. The decision “spurred applause inside city hall” when it occurred.[112]

Denial of the proposal meant that the sale of the Bremer Bank site (2.1 acres of the 15-acre site) to Aeon to build the replacement affordable housing was off, as was the “six figure” fund to help residents offset the cost of relocation.

One city council member at the time said, according to one report, that “‘trying to shame the City of St. Anthony for its lack of affordable housing is ridiculous.’ He called affordable housing a ‘regional problem and national problem, it’s not an acute St. Anthony problem.’” [113]

Representatives for the property owner, The Village LLC, were incensed by the council’s decision. The president of the company claimed that the city council and city manager “flat out lied” to him about approval of a high-density development proposal. [114] A representative for the new owner, The Village LLC, said, according to reports,

“that none of this would have ever happened—the park sale, the protests, the hundreds of people relocated—if it had known the city council would hold them to 25 units per acre. William R. Skolnick, speaking on behalf of The Village’s president, Brad Hoyt, said: ‘We would have walked away.’ The Village claims the [decision] is in direct contradiction with earlier conversations the company had with St. Anthony about the future of the park. They claimed Casey, the city manager, told them ‘the more density, the better’ before they even bought the park.” [115]

Indeed, as noted, the City’s Environmental Assessment Worksheet, completed in November 2016 and signed by the city planner, indicated that even a density of 54 units per acre (part of the original concept plan for the development) was consistent with the vision of the comprehensive plan. Moreover, as noted earlier, the “Record of Decision” adopted by the city council in February 2017 indicated that the city would revise its comprehensive plan in order to accommodate the higher density of the proposed development.

Organizers for the residents wondered out loud whether this ‘bait and switch,’ encouraging a sale and demolition of the park and then denying the affordable housing proposed to replace it, was part of the city’s strategy all along.[116]

Brad Hoyt, the president of The Village, seemed to agree with the resident organizers on this point: “They used us to do their dirty work, accomplishing their goal of evicting the mobile home and RV residents from St. Anthony. We refuse to play along with their heartless plan.”[117] Within days the developer had posted a sign on the Lowry Grove site that the park would be “reopening soon.” As Hoyt said, “We’ve made the decision to reopen the Lowry Grove RV Park immediately. We plan to reopen the mobile home park in April. This is not what we wanted, but the City of St. Anthony and its council left us no choice. By rejecting our development plans, they denied any economically viable redevelopment on the property.”[118] Not many regarded this as a serious tactic on the part of The Village but rather an attempt to force the city to relent on its opposition to a different kind of development.[119]

The developers returned with another proposal later in 2017. On November 27 of that year, The Village held an open house at St. Anthony Village High School unveiling a plan for just 466 units or fewer than 28 units per acre. There was no specification that night about the types of units involved,or how many senior, market-rate, or affordable housing units would be included. Traci Thomas did indicate, however, that “the deeply affordable housing outlined in our original plans is no longer economically feasible.”[120] In addition, this version of the development plan did not include Aeon.

The Lowry Grove site is now referred to by the city as the “Southern Gateway Site” in its comprehensive plan. The site is guided as high density and the comprehensive plan estimates a unit potential of 308 to 462 on the site. This is roughly half of the residential growth forecast for the city over the next 20 years. Over the ensuing weeks, Aeon negotiated to purchase the Bremer Site and build 90 units of affordable housing, contingent on the city providing tax increment financing to help subsidize the units. The proposal would have allowed the city to replace the affordable units lost in the demolition of Lowry Grove, an objective that was contained in the city’s comprehensive plan. It would also have produced affordable housing in the context of a mixed-income environment, as CPG would develop the rest of the site with market-rate housing. Mixed-income developments represented the state of the art approach to affordable housing and had been highly touted by policy makers for decades.

Urban Grove
After redevelopment failed, the former Lowry Grove manufactured home park is now known as 'Urban Grove' and occupied by fewer than 50 manufactured homes.

In the end, however, the city declined to provide the subsidy, essentially eliminating the affordability and killing this proposal as well. Hoyt considered this the second stab in the back by the city, referring to assurances that he had been given that the city would provide such subsidies. In August of 2018, Hoyt sued the city. The lawsuit alleged that a series of assurances given to him by the city led him to purchase and clear the land, expecting that the redevelopment would receive approval by the city. The city denied all of the charges and called the suit “ridiculous”.[121] The suit was dismissed by a federal judge in 2019.

In July of 2022, six years after the residents received the letter informing them that they would be losing their homes, the site is occupied by fewer than 50 new manufactured homes that sit on the eastern portion of the site. The new homes are now part of a manufactured home park called “Urban Grove” and operated by CPG, and the plan is to put up to as many as 100 homes on the site. The first new manufactured homes were added to the site in the spring of 2020. CPG sold the western portion of the site facing Stinson Boulevard to a developer who is building 135 units of senior housing. Bremer Bank remains on the southeast corner of the site.

A New Law

The Lowry Grove case made clear that the state law to provide a right of purchase to the residents of manufactured home parks, and more generally to protect the residents of parks facing closure, was woefully inadequate. During the 2019 legislative session, advocates worked to fix the law. The legislature did enact improvements to the law. The new law strengthens the position of residents seeking to invoke their right to purchase in a number of ways that are directly responsive to the problems faced by Lowry Grove residents and Aeon in 2016. The law requires the owner to work in good faith with residents, guarantees a reasonable due diligence period, specifies that the matching requirement applies only to the material conditions of the first offer, and more. The legislation also increased the size of the Relocation Trust Fund and increased notice requirements for park closures.

Conclusion

The story of Lowry Grove provides a number of lessons related to the politics of affordable housing in metropolitan areas.

In 2016 the housing market and the land market in the Twin Cities metropolitan area put Lowry Grove, a 15-acre site of extremely affordable housing, at risk. Indeed, by most accounts the park was sold for $2 to $3 million more than it was worth as a manufactured home park. The purchaser clearly calculated that the site was not operating at its ‘best and highest use’ in real estate terms. That Lowry Grove was erased from the landscape of St. Anthony Village should be especially alarming to housing officials who have for decades now espoused the benefits of mixed income development, dispersal of affordable housing, and the importance of making subsidized housing available in “opportunity” neighborhoods. St. Anthony Village is such an opportunity area. With a highly rated school system, low crime, and a stable, largely middle- income, single-family housing stock, the suburb is just the kind of place that many housing policy advisors, including fair housing activists, say that low-cost housing should be placed. The Lowry Grove case suggests that in addition to the difficulty of building new affordable housing in opportunity neighborhoods, the difficulty of preserving existing affordable housing in those areas is a significant challenge to meeting the region’s affordable housing needs.

The residents of Lowry Grove were failed by the 1991 state statute in place to protect the residents of manufactured homes. The supposed right of first refusal for residents turned out to be unworkable, a largely illusory hope that did not withstand the first legal test it faced.

Local elected officials, whose responsibilities presumably include responsiveness to the needs of their residents including lower-income immigrant families, also failed the residents of Lowry Grove. The role of the Mayor and City Council of St. Anthony Village during this case is especially worth scrutinizing. Lowry Grove had, of course, long been in the sights of these local officials; the 2008 Comprehensive Plan for the City identified it as a prime target for redevelopment. That the park would be redeveloped is therefore not at all surprising, from the standpoint of the land’s market value and from the standpoint of the City of St. Anthony’s expressed plans for the site. But the comprehensive plan also notes that “the City of St. Anthony will ensure that the residents of the mobile home park (sic) are assisted in their relocation to other housing that meets their needs…”[122] The plan further states that to “ensure that adequate and affordable replacement housing is found for the park residents, the city may work on its own or in cooperation with the redevelopment company and/or the Hennepin County Housing and Redevelopment Authority or a private nonprofit housing corporation.”[123] In the end, the city leaders did none of this. City officials at the time made essentially no effort to support or aid the low-income residents of Lowry Grove. In fact, the actions of the city facilitated the displacement of Lowry Grove, expedited the process, and then put up roadblocks to the development of adequate replacement housing.

City officials retreated behind claims of pursuing ‘neutrality’ in the process. In this case, a ‘hands-off’ approach meant standing back and allowing the most rapid dispossession of the 100 low-income families in Lowry Grove that the law would allow. The families at Lowry Grove fought desperately and unsuccessfully for their homes. Residents and allies repeatedly appealed to city officials, stressing the city’s responsibility to its residents. This responsibility is one that was acknowledged at least once, publicly, by the mayor who told Alvarez, “we know our responsibility is to the residents first, not to a corporation.”[124]

As one SAVCA activist said,

“The council could have slowed it down. They had to appoint a ‘third party neutral’ and they could have taken their time doing so, but they didn’t. Even just on a humanitarian level, they could have returned our calls. They could easily have worked with us, without losing their neutrality, to get the necessary social support in place prior to the closing of the park. That would have been good. But they never did anything. They made no statement that these people were of any value at all.”[125]

In fact, the disregard shown by the City Council of St. Anthony Village for the residents of Lowry Grove was matched only by the responsiveness of those same officials to the predominantly white property owners and nearby residents of St. Anthony who lined up to oppose redevelopment plans for the site.

Many of the parties in this story, in fact, came away with the impression that the city had orchestrated a complex sequence of events that managed to rid the city of the Lowry Grove park and its inhabitants, while simultaneously thwarting efforts to build higher density and affordable housing on the site. Whether this was the design of city officials throughout, and whether they would be able to successfully achieve such a scheme is not known. What is known is that such a sequence of events did, in fact, occur. City officials held talks with the developer in 2016, prior to the purchase of the park. City documents assured the developer that his redevelopment plans were consistent with the comprehensive plan’s vision for the site. The developer alleges that he received direct assurances from city officials that his proposed density was welcomed. The purchase took place, families were evicted, the park was demolished, and the site was cleared. Then city officials voted unanimously against the developer’s proposal. When the developer returned with a lower-density proposal, the city scuttled that by withholding subsidies—subsidies made necessary by the very reduction in density that the city forced.

In subsequent years, in the municipal elections of 2017 and 2019, St. Anthony voters reelected the council members who had voted against the redevelopment proposals four out of five times and failed to elect a SAVCA activist twice. There has been no electoral backlash for those city officials who ushered out Lowry Grove and resisted affordable housing as replacement.

Six years after the sale of the park, the site of the former Lowry Grove manufactured home park has fewer than 50 manufactured homes on it compared to the 100 that had been in place in 2016. Along the western edge of the site, a 135-unit building for seniors is under construction, the number of units a fraction of the 800-plus units that had been originally proposed or even the 400-plus units proposed in the revised development plan. The result of the Lowry Grove case to date, has been a one-half reduction in the number of affordable units on site and a plan to build fewer than one-third of the housing units originally envisioned for the site.

Finally, it is important to recall the costs incurred by the residents of Lowry Grove during this process. The disruption of lives, the stress of forced displacement, and the anxiety of being forced to find new housing in a very difficult rental housing market that were experienced by dozens of very low-income households forcibly expelled from their community is the central outcome in this story. The experience of these households is the subject of parts two and three of this report.

In 2017 CURA researchers began working with residents of Lowry Grove to document their experiences after having been evicted and displaced from the manufactured home park. As noted in Part One of this report, residents began to move out of Lowry Grove shortly after the sale. Some families, however, remained in the park until the move out deadline of June 30, 2017. A group of residents continued to meet throughout 2017 and into 2018 to keep track of the lawsuit, the settlement, the redevelopment plans, and the relocation compensation that was still at stake in the process. CURA researchers met with this group of residents several times regarding the potential to research and document the experience of the residents.

The research design involved in-depth interviews with families who agreed to be interviewed and a statistical summary of the relocation outcomes for all families who could be tracked. When research began in early 2018, some families had been out of Lowry Grove for almost 18 months, while others had been out for seven. The researchers relied on the resident organization to provide the contact information for as many of the former Lowry Grove residents as possible. The interview approach was to collect information on life in Lowry Grove based on the recall of the interviewee and to collect information on current conditions of the families. Table 2.1 shows the summary of interviews.

* Endnote [126]

All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Interviews were conducted in the native language of the residents. This meant that almost one half of the interviews were conducted in Spanish, transcribed in Spanish, and then translated to English. The resident group provided contact information for 84 households. Since all 84 of these households had moved recently, many of the contact numbers were out of date. Households that moved early in the process and who never engaged with the resident group were the most likely to have contact information that was not up to date. Sixteen (16) phone numbers were disconnected by early 2018 when researchers attempted to make contact. Another 24 numbers did not yield any contact despite multiple attempts and messages left on voicemail or answering machines. Another ten households declined to be interviewed. Interviews were completed with members of 34 different households.

The 34 households interviewed represent just over one-third of the manufactured home residents of Lowry Grove at the time of the sale. These 34 households are not a random sample and very likely are not representative of all Lowry Grove households. These are households who were most active in the residents’ resistance efforts, and they are likely to be residents who stayed longer at Lowry Grove before moving out. Finally, it is possible that these residents either had stronger ties to Lowry Grove, or fewer resources to manage a move out of the park, or both. Because Lowry Grove was entirely a private housing development without ongoing public subsidies for the housing, there is no available data on the profile of the entire resident population at Lowry Grove prior to the sale. Given the low rents and the general age and condition of the housing stock in the park, it is likely that residents were on average well below the area median income. Media accounts suggest that at least one-third of the residents were Latinx.

Lowry Grove interviewees

Compared to the population in the census tract, former residents of Lowry Grove that we spoke with have, as a group, a higher percentage of Latinxs, a lower percentage of US-born population, a larger average household size, and a smaller proportion of population with a bachelor's degree (Table 2.2). Among the 42 residents interviewed, over half are Latinxs. Only 5.7% of the interviewees had a bachelor's degree, which is significantly lower than the percentage in the census tract.

Note: Tract-level data from the 2015-2019 ACS 5-Year Sample.
a Universe: Residents who reported nativity (N=38).
b Universe: Residents who reported year of birth (N=36).
c Universe: Residents who reported household size (N=41).
d Universe: Residents who were 25 years and above as of 2017 (N=35).

These averages, however, hide significant differences within the Lowry Grove population. The Latinx households we interviewed tended to be younger families with children, while the other households were much more likely to be seniors living alone or older couples without children. Among those whom we interviewed, the Latinx residents were significantly younger than the non-Latinx residents. The average age was 65 years for non-Latinx residents and 40 years for Latinx residents. The difference in the mean age is statistically significant (p<.001). Moreover, the Latinx households tended to have a larger family size and more children (Table 2.3).

There is an ethnic split as well in terms of the length of stay at Lowry Grove. The average length stayed in Lowry Grove is 11.5 years (N=33). On average, however, the length of stay of the non-Latinx families is 14 years longer than that of the Latinx families (p<.001). All of the Latinx families moved into Lowry Grove after 2000 (Table 2.4).

Before moving to Lowry Grove, the majority of the interviewed households (87%) lived in apartments or townhouses (N=31). Only 3% reported living in manufactured homes before they moved to Lowry Grove. The major reasons for moving to Lowry Grove were affordability, to support family, and to achieve independence in their living situations.

Perceptions of Lowry Grove

Interviewees were asked about their perceptions of what Lowry Grove was like when they first moved in and again what it was like when they moved out. The data shows that one’s perception of the park and how much the park changed was highly dependent on when one moved in. Table 2.5 shows the results.

In general, there are not large differences in the perception about how friendly the park was and how that changed over time. A slightly larger percentage of recent in-movers (since 2010) reported a decline in friendliness. Still, a large percentage of all residents felt the park was friendly while they lived there. The second question related to socializing among the residents of the park. Regardless of when households moved in, a slightly larger percentage reported socializing at the time of move-out than did at the time of move-in. This is to be expected to some degree since families are likely not to know many of their neighbors at the time of moving in. Still, larger majorities reported socializing in the park at both move-in and move-out.

Larger changes are reported in perceptions about upkeep in the park, safety, and the degree to which the park was a family-friendly environment. On all of these dimensions, respondents reported worse conditions at move-out than when they moved in. On the issue of park maintenance and upkeep, longer-term residents were more likely to report decline in conditions. All of the respondents who moved in prior to 2010 reported that park upkeep was poor at the time of move out, while less than 50% of them reported poor upkeep when they moved in. Among residents who moved in after 2010 there was essentially no change in the likelihood that they reported poor upkeep (though most of them perceived the park to be in poor condition). More recent residents, it seems, did not notice a deterioration in conditions while older residents did, suggesting that most of the deterioration had already occurred by the time recent residents had moved in (i.e., prior to 2010).

Both long- and shorter-term residents reported a significant decline in safety in the park. The degree of decline was greatest among the longer-term residents. This could be because the contrast in conditions was greatest over a longer period of time, or it could be because the longer-term residents were also more likely to be senior, and seniors tend to perceive greater safety risks than younger people. Overall, while 90% of respondents felt the park was safe when they moved in only 30% felt that way when they moved out.

Finding a new place

Respondents were asked a series of questions about their housing search and the difficulties they encountered. Almost all (91%) of the households we interviewed reported not wanting to move in the first place (n = 32). Respondents reported that it took them on average 13 weeks to successfully find a new place to live. The major difficulty that households encountered when finding new homes was affordability. Nearly half of the interviewed households found it difficult finding an affordable place to live (N=29).

Households also reported great financial loss in the moving process. Only one-third of the interviewed households said they took everything they wanted when moving. Most of the households had to give up their manufactured home when moving and were facing a move to a smaller unit, especially those moving into an apartment.

Nearly 90% interviewed households reported that they had done work to upgrade their home in Lowry Grove (N=31). However, only 12.5% of those households were able to move their home to the new address. The investment made to their homes was lost for most of the families.

The residents we interviewed also felt that the compensation they received was insufficient compared to the financial loss they experienced. Fewer than one-third of the households we interviewed reported that compensation was enough to cover all of their relocation costs.

The new neighborhood

We were able to collect current census tract information for 32 residents.

As shown in Figure 2.1, most of the former residents of Lowry Grove chose to relocate to nearby neighborhoods. Out of the 32 residents who reported current addresses, 28 of them moved to census tracts within five miles of Lowry Grove.

Figure 2.1. Map of relocation (N=32)

Figure 2.1. Map of relocation (N=32)

Our analysis of the census tract changes shows that most of the Lowry Grove residents relocated to neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty (Table 2.6). The average tract-level household income declined by more than $8,700, the poverty rate increased an average of 11 percentage points, and the non-Hispanic white population of tracts declined by more than 27 percentage points. Residents moved to neighborhoods with fewer college graduates and to areas with lower home values. More than 90% of the interviewees moved to census tracts with lower percentages of non-Latinx whites, higher poverty rates, lower proportions of population with a bachelor's degree, and lower median home values. All changes except for the change in median rent are statistically significant (p<.001, two-tailed test).

Most of the households we spoke with were satisfied with their new neighborhoods. Twenty-three (23) out of 31 households (74%) had a good impression of their new neighborhoods. Fourteen (14) out of 32 families (44%) moved to another manufactured home park, and the rest moved to townhouses (22%), apartments (19%), and single-family homes (16%).

While satisfied with their new neighborhoods, the interviewed households had to bear higher housing cost burdens and deteriorating living conditions. Two-thirds of the households experienced a rent increase after moving (n=24). Some of the households attempted to deal with higher housing costs by increasing household size to share expenses. Ten out of 30 (one-third) households reported an increase in household size after moving. Six respondents who lived by themselves in Lowry Grove shifted to multiple-person households after moving.

Residents who moved to new neighborhoods reported losing their social connections in Lowry Grove. Twenty-five (25) households (81%) reported having had friends and/or family in the Lowry Grove neighborhood. After moving, the proportion having friends and/or relatives in the new neighborhood decreased to 39%. The interviewed households, on average, reported having seven neighbors they knew well in Lowry Grove (n=26). After relocation, 16 households reported that they didn’t know any of their neighbors.

The relocation had also affected the residents emotionally. Sixteen (16) out of 30 households (53%), in fact, reported that the relocation's biggest impact on them was emotional. Eleven (11) out of 31 households (35%) reported missing their friends and family in Lowry Grove the most, seven households (23%) reported missing their mobile home the most, and seven (23%) reported missing the location of Lowry Grove the most.

In Part Three of this report, we detail resident reactions to their forced removal from Lowry Grove and from St. Anthony Village.

The Lowry Grove manufactured home park had been closed for more than six months at the time we spoke with the former residents. Some of the residents had been at their new residences for more than a year but for others the move was more recent. We asked each of them a series of questions about life in Lowry Grove, about what happened to them personally and collectively when the notice of the park closing was received in April 2016. We also asked them about the move, their new homes, and the impact of the move on them and others. We report this data as we received it. One of the realities of a forced relocation like the Lowry Grove case, that involves multiple laws (the state manufactured home park closing law and the City of St. Anthony Village’s park ordinance), and multiple legal attempts to stop the sale (the lawsuit, the appeal, and the HUD complaint), is that there are many different understandings of what is required of all the actors and what in fact occurred. The responses we report below are the residents’ understanding of and reaction to what happened to them and to their homes during the period under question.

Repeated attempts were made to speak with the developers, but no response was ever made to our requests. St. Anthony City Council members we contacted also declined to be interviewed for this report.

Loss

One of the obvious themes discussed by many of the former residents of Lowry Grove was the sense of loss that they feel at having been displaced from their home and their community.

For some of the residents, the loss centers on the home itself. LM talked about his home: “I’m kind of a loner person; I’m not a huge social person. So, moving away from the other people was not a big deal to me. But it was always that when I was there, ‘this home is mine,’ you know? It’s bought and paid for. It’s mine. It’s cheap to live here. I loved the location, I loved my yard and everything. That’s what I miss… for the most part it’s the home itself that I miss.” He went on to describe it further: “I had a beautiful yard at Lowry Grove and it was right on Stinson Parkway. And the full length of my mobile home and everything, I miss that. I miss being able to plant my flowers in the spring, mow my yard, and have an outdoor space. Where now, yeah, I have a park out back but it's not the same as having your own yard. So that’s what I miss. I had a really nice home, so I miss my home.”

HJ spoke poignantly about losing his home. “You know, you’ve got to leave a house behind that you know, basically, you didn’t grow up much in but you just know you can call it a home. You can be like, ‘this is my home, let me show you it.’ It wasn’t like the prettiest looking house, it wasn’t like a white family’s house, but it was a house you could be happy for, like ‘this is my home, I love my home.’ And now just having that gone is just…”

Loss of social networks

Others described the loss of social networks and the disruption to their intimate social environment. Doreen M.’s family split up in the displacement. The family did not have the resources to move into another housing unit big enough for her and her two adult children. Her son went in one direction and her daughter went in another. She didn’t know where either of them was for a time.

Loss of the affordability

The loss of the affordability of Lowry Grove affected many of the families. Most of these families have low incomes or are living on very modest retirement incomes. The shock of losing their affordable housing is multiplied by other factors producing precarity.

JE reported that he is paying triple what he paid at Lowry Grove. Others talked about facing rents of around $1,000 to $1,200 per month compared to the $450 they typically paid in Lowry Grove. GB recalls being told that a local nonprofit had found her an apartment for $1,200 which she simply could not afford. Even rents that she can meet on a monthly basis would not leave her enough for any type of emergency. When the nonprofit found a rental for her at $950, she said that she thought, “I can’t, I can’t do that. What if my muffler falls off?” She laughed uncomfortably, “What if I get sick and go in the hospital, you know?”

For HJ the move has meant that his parents have to work much longer hours to pay for housing. He said, “The biggest impact is that my mom has to work hard every day all day just to pay off the rent… I don’t see my parents any more, they work long hours… My brother works now, and I have to take care of my two sisters.”

As difficult as the losses are, families lost much more than their homes and communities. HJ described how the displacement affected his parents’ plans, “They [his parents] gave them some of the money that they were saving for college to buy the trailer so we could have a place to live because at that time we didn’t have a place to live… We were staying at my mom’s friends’ parents’ house, living there, sleeping in the living room until we got our lot.” HJ and his family faced a choice of investing in continued housing stability after being displaced from Lowry Grove or maintaining a nest egg that had been earmarked for HJ’s college education.

JM reported a similar loss: “The hopes that we had were to save for our daughter, so that she could go to university, since the rent [at Lowry Grove] was so low. So, all that came crashing down because well now everything is different. Here [the rent is] a bit more so the money we were saving for her we had to spend on the home. So, for us it was very, very sad because we didn’t know what to do.”

In HJ’s and JM’s cases, the affordability of Lowry Grove provided an opportunity for the families to invest in upward economic mobility by targeting resources to increase the human capital of children. In both cases, the forced displacement from Lowry Grove and the increased housing costs facing the families has foreclosed that option.

Other families described how the displacement affected them financially. RF describes how he feels that “the third party [who administered the relocation assistance process] came in and lowballed everybody. The mover and the management—the on-site manager and the movers would go around and bug these old ladies that were living in there and talk ‘em way down—got ‘em out of there for four grand, a couple of them, and just really lowballed everybody. I couldn’t replace my place, by the ordinance I was supposed to be [compensated] at fair market value, and I couldn’t buy my place somewhere else for what they gave me… I had to pay money to move, which had to come out of the [sale money].”

Others talked about the financial loss they took during the displacement. NW reported that she “paid $10,000 in hotels, $2,500 in storage.”

AD, at the time of the interview, said he was finally getting his finances in order, “and I was close to probably being ruined. If I hadn’t moved in with my kids….” He shook his head thinking about what might have happened to him.

AK reported that she had to give up her job in order to manage her move. AK, who had health problems, worked at a grocery store a mile from Lowry Grove. She had undergone heart surgery a year before the move and said she also suffered from vertigo. “And then they told me I had to move, and I didn’t have time to get all the arrangements to move the whole trailer over here [to her new place]. So, I had to give up my job over there so I could get this place moved. Because I had to get a pod and run with that, so I gave up the job because of it.”

Several residents reported losing the investments they had made in their homes in the years before the sale of the park was announced. GB reported that when she retired she “started fixing my trailer. I had a lot of water damage. It was old, it was from the sixties, and I put a couple thousand dollars into it. And they smashed it in the end, you know. And gave me $5,000." JM asked, “Why didn’t they tell us in time? Because if they would have told us on time we wouldn’t have invested so much money in that home. Because my husband said, we’re going to make upgrades to the house to live better. So, when they realized this, why didn’t the manager in charge say, ‘hey, don’t remodel, we’re about to sell the park. Don’t keep remodeling.’ He didn’t say anything, so we kept on investing. So, then my husband, in order to live more comfortably, said, let’s build a bigger garage so we have more space. So, then he went to ask the manager for permission to build a bigger garage. And he told him yes, knowing well that they were about to sell the park.”

Loss of possessions

Some families lost many of their possessions in the move because they didn’t have money to pay for storage, and they couldn’t take their possessions with them. GP said, “We threw away most of our things, beds… We couldn’t find a place to keep everything. A friend of mine provided some space in her living room but most of our things were thrown away.”

MS, a 72-year-old, long-term resident of Lowry Grove, has played the piano her entire life and had a piano in her manufactured home. She lost it in the move. “The piano company came to get my piano. I thought, maybe for a month, well, now it’s been several months, so my piano is gone. I should’ve just told them initially to take it and sell it for me, but I was paying rent on having it stored at the piano company plus the cost of moving out and so, I no longer have my piano.”

GB talked about having to give away “wagons and yard things and my barbeque and ladders and I thought I don’t know where I’m going so here, take this, take that. I had a grapevine that was 30 feet long and I got barrels of grapes and I would give all of the neighbors grapes. You know, ‘come on over, bring a bowl.’ I had a raspberry patch that was 20 feet by eight feet, ‘come on over and bring a bowl,’ you know? I grew little cherry tomatoes. So, I lost my raspberries, I lost the grapevine. That was heartbreaking to me because I make jelly and, you know as I said, the neighbors, I gave away a lot. Lots of stuff. I would have to stop and think. Yeah… I left a lot behind.”

“Feet first”

As noted, Lowry Grove had a sizable population of older residents well past their prime earning years if not already in retirement. Of those we interviewed, several of them spoke about the difficulties of making adjustments to their living situations at this stage of their lives. AD felt that he had a level of independence at Lowry Grove that he no longer has at his new place. “I never expected to have to start over again at 71, you know?”

GB said that thinking about moving was devastating for her. “Because I had been there for 37 years and I thought I would go out of there feet first, you know?... And where am I gonna go? Now what am I gonna do? After all that. I want to cry, I’m sorry.”

RF said, “I was gonna stay there the rest of my life, have the ambulance come and take me away. That was a perfect place.” RF was one of the luckier residents; he ended up in public housing and is actually paying less for rent now than he did at Lowry Grove, though he has traded in his own home for a one-bedroom apartment in a highrise.

Precarity

Precarity was a common theme in the conversations we had with former residents of Lowry Grove. The most widespread version of this anxiety was related to finding new housing. As LS said, “people were desperate. We didn’t know where to go. It was sad because there were a lot of kids. A friend of mine had four, five kids. It was very sad because he had to think about paying a new rent and he didn’t have enough money for that. It was dispiriting and uncomfortable for most people.”

Finding new housing was a challenge for many of the residents. AW said, “I struggled for five months for an apartment, but I didn’t get it because they asked for credit. Others didn’t let me get the place because I had four children and my working hours were not enough to pay for everything. It wasn’t easy. I looked for an apartment for three, four, five months, so terribly desperate.”

Some of the residents lacked a support network that could provide the needed housing assistance in the short term. GB said she went to a “cousin’s house on -------- and I slept in a tent for a couple of weeks in his backyard.” RF said, “out of my money, I had to spend two grand right away just to pay for moving and a locker and a place for my stuff. I was homeless for two months. That’s a scary thought, when you’re living with your cat in your car.” IM said, “None of my friends could put me up—and that’s another happy little assumption… that everybody has friends and families that would just love to put them up—No! And if you don’t belong to the church or, say, a fraternal organization, there were, because I got a little behind, I would be picking up three months’ lodging costs myself at a hotel, and I stayed with a coworker for a week.” KH said, “I didn’t have anywhere to go. We didn’t, we seriously didn’t know what to do… Like I said, my daughter and her family are in one place, my son is downtown homeless – in a homeless shelter. I sat in my car on the very next block and cried.”

Bad park conditions and management

Most of the former residents felt that maintenance in the park had suffered in the years leading up to the sale. As JM said: “the maintenance was terrible. They did not maintain [the park]. The streets had many holes, it was not illuminated, there was almost no light. They left it like that.”

RF felt that the owner “was adamant about not doing anything to fix the park. He’d only fix the major things with band-aids, paper clips, and chewing gum. It ended up that the roads got worse.”

Several residents talked about the conditions of the roads and the mud and water pools that would accumulate in summer and spring rains. MS remembers “a hole in the road that a woman fell into and broke her leg. The roads got bumpy and had a bunch of holes. I remember they were supposed to fix the outsides and by the entrance to my outside porch, and I saw one of Phil’s [Phil Johnson, the owner] men and I told him that, and Phil had told me that it would be fixed, and the man said, ‘well, do you know yet how much it’ll cost?’ and I said, ‘what do you mean?’ and he said, ‘if we fix it, you’ll have to pay.’”

The park had had several site managers in the years before closing. Former residents had strong opinions about how these site managers kept the park up or not. LM said, “about four or five years after I moved in, [the site manager] left and that’s when things started going downhill. We went through three managers, two of which were drug addicts. They didn’t do the proper screening, and we ended up with some problem people in the park so it kind of slowly declined. At the same time, the owner of the park, Phil Johnson, kind of let it go to hell.”

There is a consensus among the former residents we spoke with about the degree to which maintenance declined in the past ten years. Many of the former residents agreed that the owner let the park go downhill. As GB said, “all the rules went out the door. It was just free game. He didn’t maintain anything. Trees were falling down, he didn’t cut the grass. He was a slumlord. And the structural… the water, all the pipes underneath, they started to deteriorate. And they didn’t fix anything…. He never repaired anything. So he was just letting it go downhill. The City of St. Anthony would come through and give us, you know, you got a pile of windows here, get that out of there. But I don’t think they [the city] really cared about the park, and I think they were glad it was sold.”

The condition of the park in the last few years of operation is in contrast to the way that people remembered it before Johnson bought the park or in the early years after he bought it. LM said that back then “it was a wonderful place to live. The place I bought was my best friend’s grandparents’ place. So, it was in excellent condition. They never had any kids or pets live in it or anything like that. At that time, it was mostly senior citizens that were at the park. By the time I moved in [2005] it was more mixed but it was still a lot of seniors, and we had a manager, his name was Mike, he did a good job of keeping the park upkeep up.”

SM remembers the park when he first moved in [2000], “it was quiet. It was so quiet that when I went to sleep that first night I thought, I couldn’t believe how quiet. You didn’t hear nothing. And also, it was a park for 55 and older.”

Many of the residents we spoke to alleged that the people who had been hired to manage Lowry Grove were engaging in criminal activity and were a source of many of the problems in the park. IM said, “I don’t think Phil was willing to pay for good management… It got—it went from less than mediocre to abysmal and downright scary.” ED claimed that one of the park managers, “they were all meth, they were all druggies. The people that were supposed to be taking care of things. And of course Phil knew that he was going to be selling the park, so there was virtually no maintenance at all.” RA called one of the managers “a downright thief. He stole from everybody. He was a scrapper, so he stole everything made out of steel… The nuts were running the asylum.” Several other residents referred to a number of the managers as criminals, too. SM said that he saw the caretaker making drug deals from his window. GB said one of the managers brought drugs into the park.

All the while, according to these residents, the infrastructure in the park was declining, potholes were left unfilled, and water pipes were decaying and malfunctioning.

“Economically trapped”

It is clear from the interviews that the residents do not romanticize the conditions at Lowry Grove and the quality of life there. They are quick to point out the problems with the infrastructure, the crime, and the declining conditions. Yet, almost to a person they expressed significant concerns about being displaced. The reason has to do with the affordability of the housing. As ED said, Lowry Grove “wasn’t a healthy place, but there was nothing else we could do. We were economically trapped.” GP, on why she wanted to stay at Lowry Grove: “Well, to me, the upkeep was something to worry about as well as safety, but I couldn’t go anywhere else because of my financial situation. To go from $400 to $1,000 or $1,200 was too much. It was too hard.” And MH said, “the St. Anthony police told us that this wasn’t a good place to live. That this place had a bad record for many years. But we were here because the rent was too expensive in other places. And we stayed there until we were forced out.”

Other

A significant number of residents felt that the problems began with the park owner, Phil Johnson. LM called him “probably that arrogant person that I have met in my entire life.” ED called him “one of the most evil people on earth,” running this park just for the money. RA called him “a pig. And I’ll say that. I don’t care what anybody says. And I’ll say it to his face. I have.”

The bad feelings for the owner were typically related to three issues; first, the feeling that Johnson was only in it for the money and did not care about the quality of life that the residents were facing in the park; second, that he had intentionally let the park decline because he knew he was going to sell; that he had followed a path of intentional disinvestment to milk the property for the maximum income it could provide; and, third, that he had not been straight with the residents about his desire and intention to sell the property.

Location

One of the unfortunate ironies of the Lowry Grove case is that the park was located in what planners and local officials like to call an “opportunity neighborhood.” While being close to downtown Minneapolis, it was nevertheless on the edge of a strong, single-family housing market and in one of the top school districts in the State of Minnesota. The overriding objective of housing policy over the past two decades has been to locate more affordable housing in such neighborhoods in order to give lower-income residents the access to these types of advantages that are often available only to people with greater means. The residents we spoke with frequently mentioned the locational advantages of Lowry Grove.

CR said, “There was the bus stop close and I would go to the grocery stores and then just take the bus. If I needed anything I could get it myself.” For residents who did not have regular access to a car, Lowry Grove was well situated. JM said the same thing about the schools: “Everything was close by. And we liked it because the school was about five blocks away and I would walk my daughter there.” Several other respondents listed the same close-by amenities, schools, shops, bus stops, etc. JE said, “we had everything there. We had the stores very close, the bus stop, the school nearby. And the freeway to go to work faster.”

LC spoke about the surrounding neighborhood. “I had no desire to move at all because it was close to work… We maybe had some bad elements in the park itself, but the St. Anthony community is really a nice, beautiful place to live. You know, everything’s there, there’s plenty of shopping, convenience for everything.”

MS told us, “One thing I like about Lowry Grove—well, I was born in Chicago, I lived in San Francisco, I’m a city girl. One thing I liked about Lowry Grove was I could walk out of the park, go down a hill to the library, go down a different hill to the shopping center to go get coffee. I miss the city streets.”

LM called the neighborhood “unbeatable” for its comfort and setting. Almost without exception, the residents who spoke about this felt that their move had put them farther away from the services that they had been using. Only one exception arose in the interviews. SM found that his new location was nearer to bus lines that were better for him, with more frequent service and better connections.

TD said, “the distance to my work is a lot larger now. Before, I used to get there in ten minutes. I used to have time to take a nap because I started working at five a.m. But now I have to get up an hour earlier and when I get stuck in traffic… I go out and traffic is really heavy. I also get home very late; I don’t have time for anything.”

Reaction to news of park sale

Reactions to the news that the park was going to be sold and closed were similar in terms of the concern it generated among the residents who were worried about losing their affordable living arrangements and the dissolution of the community in which they lived. There were differences among residents, however, in whether they were surprised or not. Most of the residents expressed shock and surprise at the news, and this reaction was more prevalent among the Latinx residents.

GP said of hearing the news: “It was something really sad. Even worse for a single mother. I fixed so many things in the trailer, it looked nice. It was my home. I couldn’t believe that suddenly they were telling me to sell it. I was getting over something really difficult, the divorce. It was painful for me and my daughters. For me, it was such a difficult situation. I was still getting better, it was like going from one problem to the next one, I didn’t know what to do or where to go.”

RJ also said she was shocked. “Stuff went through my head and I cried. It was devastating. It really, seriously was.”

JH said, “I remember that I almost fainted because everything turned black, black around me. I only grabbed the table and I was able to stabilize myself with a chair and I sat down and I wanted to calm down.”

LM also expressed shock. “I was surprised because I had been told by many people, including one of the city council members of the City of Minneapolis, who said that Lowry Grove would never close because it is one of the only affordable housing places in Hennepin County and the only affordable housing stock in the City of Saint Anthony. We were always told also that because of that property and the way it was situated we knew that there was pollution. Underground they had in the old days a great big oil tank that was back behind… so we knew that the soil was contaminated in the park. It didn’t affect us because all of our water lines and everything were separate from it. But we were always told that if someone were to develop this place that they would have to spend millions and millions of dollars… But, you know, times change and the park was in such a perfect location…”

Other residents were not surprised by the closing. GK said he had heard rumors that for almost 20 years there had been a chance of the park closing. ED also spoke about the “neighborhood gossip” related to the possibility of the park closing. IM said, “In my case, I was not surprised… A lot of my neighbors didn’t understand—language barriers, or they were very, very frail and elderly and couldn’t even imagine that this would happen. People would say, ‘oh, the park’s always been here, it’ll never close’… So it was devastating to some people. It was no great surprise to me, especially from 2010, like I said, the management got abysmal, and you could see less and less and less was being done [to keep up the property], so something was gonna give.”

Place attachment to Lowry Grove

AW has no complaints about her new home, a mobile home park in a more distant suburb of Minneapolis. Yet she talks about Lowry Grove and what it meant to her; “in Lowry Grove I felt more freedom, it was more like an open place. I felt like we were at the top, but here I feel like we are at the bottom. It was like being on a mountain there, but here it is harder. I don’t have a car to move around. When I get out here, the bus runs every certain time and we get it and it goes through Lowry Grove. I feel that I am back home, I feel free… Lowry Grove was like our ‘wing’s. The park made us feel free.”

Some residents had trouble expressing their feelings about life in Lowry Grove. JM said the moving “was very difficult. It is still very difficult for me. Because we still miss that place. Both me and the girl… Well, there we could save a little more than here. It is very, very difficult. I do not know if I just can’t express it better to you. Or, I do not know how to explain it because it’s very difficult for me. But, we really liked living there. A lot.”

LM spoke about the social relationships at Lowry Grove. “Everybody knew who everybody else was. Even if you didn’t know them very well, everyone knew what car so-and-so drove and who lived in what place. The Latino people tended to stick together and they fought like hell to save the park.”

ED also talked about the sense of community as being something he misses after having been forced to move away from Lowry Grove.

Among the Latinx families, there was, as LM noted, a strong bond. Several of the Latinx residents talked about the sense of a larger family of people who took care of each other.

Others noted that relationships were patterned. GB said, “it was a nice community. We would have picnics together. There were groups, you know. There was a large Latino population that moved in, I don’t know, I’d say eight years ago. And I think a third of the park was, you know, Mexican, Latino, from all over. Nice culture. Working hard, very family oriented. They didn’t mingle much, you know, with the rest of us, whatever cultures we were. But, I mean they kept their homes nice and they just were a tight-knit community, which is really good to see. That was pretty cool, and they’re the ones that fought so hard to keep [the park].” JM confirmed that there was less mixing across ethnicity than within. “Us as Hispanics, most of us got along well. But, with our white neighbors, only a hello or other conversation here and there a little bit.”

Not all residents participated in the community, of course. GP said that in the years just before the closing there was not a community because of people moving in and out all of the time. Other residents kept to themselves much more.

Organizing

The news of the park closure activated greater community cohesion. AD said that “out of fear everybody joined together and we started having social times. We started having food. We’d get together, eat together, and make plans on how we were trying to save the park.…The problem got worse but the social system got better because we were all together on the same page for a change. It was amazing to me and I look back on it and it's like if we had only had that kind of togetherness way back when, we could’ve saved the park. We could’ve owned the park.”

RF thought the biggest impact of the park sale “would be just having the fact that people got together and fought to stay… was the fact that people actually got out of their homes, got off the chair, got off the couch, got out and marched. Marched downtown. I thought that was wonderful. We had a big group of people that did that, and you just don’t find people that do that kind of stuff. It was just – getting hope and humanity, was my biggest plus out of the whole thing—even though the system always seems to fail, people rise above it.”

AW said, “at the end of everything, I got to know everybody. When we got notified about the closure of the park because there was a new owner who wanted to do new things with the park, all the neighbors became closer. We introduced ourselves and stated that we would struggle, fight for our houses that were so hard to build. Yes, we got to meet each other. At the end, we even took care of each other.”

MH said, “yes, we became very close because it became a worrisome thing.”

As EW related, “most people were just like, ‘we don’t know where to go. We don’t know what to do’ and then JH kind of like started gathering people together and saying ‘we’re going to fight this. We’re going to get compensation, and they aren’t going to push us out’ and you know we thought we had a chance. She pushed and pushed with all the legal things and we did get awareness and everything, but you know it came down to that it was legal or whatever, which I didn’t think it was. It’s kind of like we almost became more of a community because of that, because of common purpose to stay there and to fight for it.”

IM recounted that “JH moves very quickly, it’s hard to even track her. I had driven past her house every single day but not known her. But, she saw me rounding the curb one evening coming home from work and not long after, in this time period of May 2016, said, ‘Look, we’re having a meeting, would you like to come?’ And I think it was just because I smiled and waved at her in a nice manner that she stopped me. And I said, ‘sure.’ Those of us who chose to organize got with that program.”

Psychological impacts

The impacts of the park closing and the forced displacement were certainly material in many respects, and related to having to leave behind belongings, losing one’s home, and the much higher cost of housing that most residents faced. However, there were psychological impacts of the park closing as well. Residents described an array of impacts.

Some residents noted that the demolition of homes, one by one as families moved out, produced a negative psychological effect on those who remained. AW remembered it being “terrible, horrible. We couldn’t live there anymore. They were starting to break down the houses one by one. They destroyed them in front of us. It was very sad to know that we wouldn’t see any of the other families who lived there anymore. The park was destroyed since the moment we were told it would close.” AW reported that she “got depressed. I got very depressed because it happened at the same time as the time my kids lost their father. At the same time I was alone with my four children, they were telling me my house was going to be demolished, destroyed.”

JH said, “I don’t know if they would do it on purpose to mess with the lives of our children, but the machines started to destroy the homes right when the children got home from school. And you know when there are bombs that are bombing a city? Well, that’s exactly what it sounded like. Our homes would shake when you would hear the machines, when it was twisting the metals, when it was destroying the homes.” She said that “They would put an X [on the home] and all of the children knew that that X was a sign that they would destroy that home. So, for the children, it was a traumatizing experience. All the children would describe the X. All the children would describe that X. And they would remember their memories of ‘oh, my friend lived in that house,’ and it would cause emotional damage for many of them. I could perceive it because the children would talk to me about it as well.”

JM felt that the process affected her health: “We were very worried about where we would go. And with that I would get stressed. I’m diabetic and my sugar went up. My cholesterol. Everything went up due to the stress. So, then the worry that we experienced, for me was very, very difficult. And very bad because all those hopes that we had came crashing down. Everything was ripped apart.”

IM said, “I saw plenty. I know a lot about what happens to older people when they lose this kind of support – support of friends, neighbors, family that they have. I saw the endangerment to the people without citizenship. I know about the health problems that I had and that some other people had. I expect that some people I care about, I expect their lives probably will be shortened by this. And for some people it was an enormous loss.”

The system”

There was an overwhelming sense from the residents we spoke with that ‘the system’ failed them in the case of the closing of Lowry Grove. Over the final several years of the park’s existence, the owner of the park and the managers he had hired failed to keep the park livable, and in fact, according to many of the residents, actually brought in problems to the park. During the sale of the park and the subsequent fight to keep it, the residents feel that they were failed by the new owner who did not wish to hear their case for keeping their homes, they were failed by the Mayor and City Council of St. Anthony Village who, collectively and individually, did nothing to help the residents in their efforts to keep their homes, they were failed by the legal system which allowed the sale to go through despite the residents having generated a matching offer for the park, and failed by the legal process governing the relocation stage because they felt as though they did not receive all of the compensation due to them.

AD talked about the efforts to get the city of Saint Anthony Village to assist the residents in some way. “I went with different residents to all the meetings at the city, and they’d give us a chance to talk, but it didn’t make a difference. They didn’t hear a word we said. They didn’t care about us. They just cared about selling the property….I’m very disappointed in the City of St. Anthony and the mayor. I think he’s a crook. That’s my opinion.”

RA was more blunt: “That mayor was worthless. I mean I would love to see him homeless once. I mean just for a week. I mean I don’t want to see anybody homeless, but when people are like that…I mean he downright lies.”

RA said “The city should’ve been in there making Phil clean it up. The city let that park go. If I owned a house in St. Anthony and it looked like that, they’d be all over me. The city did not do nothing. They did not want to do nothing. They just looked at Lowry Grove as a trouble spot.”

Other residents reported similar views of the unwillingness of city officials to help residents. These feelings are similar to the sense among residents that the city did nothing during the last few years to make Phil Johnson clean up conditions at the park. Among some there was the sense that the city was working with the developer. EW said, “We did feel that the city wanted it closed down. That they thought it was an eyesore. That they didn’t want the park there. So, in some ways they kind of worked with Tracy, the new owner.”

Some of the residents had complaints about how they were treated during the relocation, especially in terms of the compensation they were given. Some, like LM, were satisfied with the amount they received. Others, not so much. KM said, “they walked through my trailer and they said that they were going to give me a market value of $4,000. And then the moving day they pulled a trick,” he claimed, identifying costs that would reduce his compensation, “‘oh, you have a stove in there… oh, that’s 60 bucks for that. Your refrigerator, that’s another 50 bucks for that. Oh, that fish tank there, that’s another 50 bucks for that. Oh, your washer and dryer that’s 50 bucks for each of those.’”

There was a sense among residents that all of the events of the six or seven years prior to the sale were a calculated negligence of the park in preparation for the sale. This was followed by a reluctance on the part of the city council to intervene on behalf of the residents because in the end, a sale and removal of the park had been sought by the city. The residents were aware of the commonality of goals between Phil Johnson, CPG, and the City of St. Anthony Village in terms of facilitating the sale and closure. Johnson wanted to sell, CPG wanted to buy in order to close and redevelop, and the City of St. Anthony Village wanted the park closed.

Assistance during the process came from four sources. The first was the failed attempt by Aeon, a nonprofit housing development corporation, to match the purchase offer and thereby save the park from demolition. The second was the legal assistance from the Housing Justice Center, a nonprofit legal agency that served as the residents’ legal team in trying to force the seller to accept the Aeon counteroffer. The third source of assistance was from residents of St. Anthony, organized by SAVCA, and teachers at the nearby school, who gave time and resources to help families move out of Lowry Grove and into new housing. These members of the St. Anthony Village community helped with transportation for families that did not have cars, and they helped pack up belongings to move into storage or into new homes and apartments. In some cases, members of the community took families into their own homes for a period of time until permanent housing was found.

The Lowry Grove manufactured home park closure and the subsequent redevelopment struggle in St. Anthony Village illustrate a number of different challenges for affordable housing in U.S. metro areas. Most directly it is a case study of the importance of manufactured homes as a means of providing housing affordability to low-income families and the vulnerability of manufactured home parks across the nation (see Sullivan 2014; 2018). Parks on the edge of or within metropolitan areas are frequently endangered because, as in the Lowry Grove case, they are not as lucrative an investment as other land uses. Lowry Grove was demolished precisely because the land it occupied was worth more with a different and more intensive use.

Manufactured homes are an important example of unsubsidized affordable housing and, as such, are a critical element in any regional strategy to meet affordable housing needs. The preservation of manufactured home parks has become a policy priority in a number of locations over the past 20 years. The effectiveness of existing efforts to preserve this part of the housing stock, however, is questionable. The Minnesota statute put in place to accomplish this goal was shown, in the Lowry Grove case, to be fraught with problems and incapable of protecting the 100 units of affordable housing in the park and the families who occupied them.

The Lowry Grove case is also an example of suburban exclusionism and the difficulties of producing affordable housing in the suburbs of metropolitan areas. In fact, the Lowry Grove case further illustrated the difficulties in preserving affordable housing that already exists in the suburbs. Thus, Lowry Grove represents both expulsion and exclusion. The elected officials of St. Anthony Village were presented with two opportunities to support affordable housing in the Lowry Grove case, and they failed both cases.

First, they might have made efforts to preserve the park and the affordable housing it contained, thereby avoiding the displacement of the families who were already in place. This they failed to do, showing no interest in assisting Lowry Grove families or pursuing alternatives to demolition and displacement. The officials hid behind an excuse of neutrality, proclaiming that what was occurring at Lowry Grove was a private market transaction in which the city would not interfere. This stance of the mayor and the council was in stark contrast to their impulse four years earlier when they moved to stop a private market transaction that was aimed at bringing a mosque into St. Anthony Village, ignoring the recommendations of their own city staff.

It is not clear that the city council or mayor could have reversed the course of events at Lowry Grove even had they wished to. But it is clear from the record, they took no steps to do so. Lowry Grove was listed in the St. Anthony Village Comprehensive Plan as the city’s chief redevelopment opportunity. The city encouraged the purchase of the property by signaling to the buyer that his plans for higher density development were consistent with the city’s vision. Finally, through the residents’ entire ordeal from being notified of the sale through their displacement one year later, city officials stood on the sideline and failed to offer any significant assistance or support to the residents, something the city could easily have done without taking sides in the dispute.

Beyond watching the displacement of Lowry Grove residents, city officials actively discouraged the development of affordable housing on the site once it had been cleared. The saga of CPG’s efforts, with and without the partnership of Aeon (one of the region’s largest affordable housing developers) to build housing on the Lowry Grove site is remarkable. Eleventh hour opposition to CPG’s redevelopment proposal in 2017, despite revisions to the initial plan that brought density well below the level that the city had previously indicated was consistent with its own goals, revealed the council’s and the mayor’s lack of commitment to maximizing the housing (and affordable housing) on the site. The city’s subsequent refusal to extend needed TIF financing for a later, still lower-density proposal by CPG, effectively killed that proposal as well.

Einstein et al. (2018) write about the classic NIMBY scenario in which the preferences of largely white, middle-class property owners are given priority over others. Expressing race and ethnicity-neutral concerns about density, traffic, and noise, these residents and their interests dominate public hearings and the approval process for housing development proposals. The public participatory process at the local level in communities across the country is not designed to consider more diffuse interests related to regional need for affordable housing or the interests of those who might eventually occupy the housing (both market and affordable) that is proposed for the site. As a result, the default outcome in hearings related to affordable housing is either outright denial or significant downsizing to reduce densities, and consequently, the number of units eventually built. In the Lowry Grove case, the developer attempted to appease the city through downsizing his proposal, a common response noted by Einstein et al. In the Lowry Grove case, even that downsized proposal was denied.

The dominant paradigm for affordable housing in policy and academic circles in the U.S. over the past 25 years has stressed the need to increase the opportunity for lower-income families to access high-amenity communities. The idea behind this approach is to enhance the living environment for lower-income families and reduce concentrations of poverty that many regard as problematic in their own right. St. Anthony Village is, arguably, just the sort of high-amenity community that these policymakers have in mind when they advocate for the dispersal of affordable housing. St. Anthony Village has a very highly rated school district, and the Lowry Grove site is surrounded by stable single-family housing stock, commercial opportunities, good transit, and highway accessibility. Lowry Grove thus represented exactly what policy experts for the past 25 years have suggested is necessary. Yet, when the park was threatened, there was no public agency with the responsibility or authority to protect this asset other than the city council of St. Anthony Village. And, as we have seen, the city council showed no interest in preserving the park. Policy activists who regularly advise central city governments and some inner-ring suburbs in the Twin Cities against building affordable housing that would, in their eyes, further the concentration of such units in core neighborhoods, did not mobilize in defense of Lowry Grove. The policymaking process related to land use and affordable housing that played out in the Lowry Grove case is simply not designed to incorporate a regional perspective or any perspective broader than that of the municipality. The achievement of the dispersal policy agenda, or the opportunity housing policy agenda, however one labels it, is limited by the parochial interests of local government officials and the powerful residents who routinely and repeatedly oppose and limit housing development in the types of high-amenity neighborhoods policy advisors would like to target.

The final, and in many ways most significant, reality that the Lowry Grove case illustrates is the cost to lower-income households of their housing instability and precarity. A significant portion of the Lowry Grove residents report a range of costs they had to incur in this case. They suffered material costs by losing their affordable housing; most paid significantly more in their new housing compared to pre-displacement. Some suffered the loss of investments they had made in their manufactured home in the years and months leading up to the sale. Some reported incurring uncompensated costs during their relocation. Many had to leave behind belongings they could not take to their new homes. Some saw their households split apart in the relocation, while others lost their independence and had to move in with others post-relocation in order to afford their new housing. All of the families saw the disruption of their lives and social support networks, as friends and family moved in different directions. Some of the residents we spoke to saw the loss of nest eggs that had been set aside for putting children through college.

The interviews further revealed the costs that these families incurred even while living in Lowry Grove. Management of the park had deteriorated in recent years according to virtually all of the interviewees as the park owner maximized his profit ratio by reducing maintenance and upkeep costs. The residents of Lowry Grove spoke about the manufactured home park in frank terms. They described the environmental decline that had occurred over the years preceding the sale. They vividly described the poor roads and the sewer and water problems that plagued them. Their defense of Lowry Grove came not from an unrealistic nostalgia for the place, but from a hard-nosed realistic assessment of its costs and benefits to them. They were made to endure poor conditions, and they did endure those conditions in exchange for the affordability that the park offered. The years of living in those conditions must also be noted as a cost incurred by the residents of Lowry Grove.

Expand all

Sources

Aeon, Maria Antonia Alvarez Baez, Lowry Grove Residents Association vs Lowry Grove Partnership LLP, The Village LLC. 2016. Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court.

All Parks Alliance for Change. n.d. “Fact Sheet - Manufactured Home Parks in Minnesota.” http://allparksallianceforchange.org/?q=reports/mnparks.

Alliance, Right to the City. 2010. “We Call These Projects Home: Solving the Housing Crisis from the Ground Up.” Right to the City Alliance.

Arena, John. 2012. Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization. Minneapolis; London: U of Minnesota Press.

Ashmore, Margo, and Karen Kraco. 2016. “Lowry Grove Appeals to City to Help Save Park.” Northeaster Newspaper, August 23, 2016. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/lowry-grove-appeals-to-city-to-help-save-park/.

Atkinson, Rowland, Maryann Wulff, Margaret Reynolds, and Angela Spinney. 2011. “Gentrification and Displacement: The Household Impacts of Neighbourhood Change.” Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/3034/AHURI_RAP_Issue_137_Gentrification-and-displacement-the-household-impacts-of-neighbourhood-change.pdf.

Bitters, Janice. 2016a. “Aeon Lawsuit Tests Little-Used State Law.” Minnesota Lawyer, June 30, 2016. https://minnlawyer.com/2016/06/30/aeon-lawsuit-tests-little-used-state-law/.

———. 2016b. “HUD Probes Sale of Lowry Grove Mobile-Home Park.” Minnesota Lawyer, October 11, 2016. https://minnlawyer.com/2016/10/11/hud-probes-sale-of-lowry-grove-mobile-home-park/.

Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council v. Chicago Housing Authority. 2008.

City of St. Anthony. 2008. “St. Anthony Comprehensive Plan.” http://www.allparksallianceforchange.org/?q=book/export/html/2644.

———. 2013. “ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET.” http://www.savmn.com/DocumentCenter/View/262/Environmental-Assessment-Worksheet-PDF.

Collier, Kristin. 2017. “Tsunami in St. Anthony: Antonia Alvarez’s Holy War to Save Her Mobile Home Park.” City Pages, March 15, 2017. https://www.aeon.org/news/tsunami-in-st-anthony-antonia-alvarezs-holy-war-to-save-her-mobile-home-park/.

Covington, Hannah. 2017a. “Lowry Grove Housing Discrimination Complaint Dismissed.” Star Tribune, July 13, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/lowry-grove-housing-discrimination-complaint-dismissed/434284013/.

———. 2017b. “St. Anthony Rejects Lowry Grove Redevelopment Plan.” Star Tribune, October 11, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-rejects-lowry-grove-redevelopment-plan/450433893/.

———. 2017c. “St. Anthony Rejects Plan for Site of Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park.” Star Tribune, October 11, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-rejects-lowry-grove-redevelopment-plan/450433893/.

———. 2019. “Judge Dismisses Developer’s Lawsuit over Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park in St. Anthony.” Star Tribune, May 27, 2019. https://www.startribune.com/judge-dismisses-developer-s-lawsuit-over-lowry-grove-mobile-home-park-in-st-anthony/510492262/.

Du, Susan. 2017. “Suit: Lowry Grove Residents Misled Public to Stop Sale of Mobile Home Park.” City Pages, June 5, 2017. http://www.citypages.com/news/suit-lowry-grove-residents-misled-public-to-stop-sale-of-mobile-home-park/425969984.

Edin, Kathryn, and Laura Lein. 1997. Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work. Russell Sage Foundation.

Einstein, Katherine Levine, David M. Glick, and Maxwell Palmer (2019). Neighborhood Defenders: Participatory Politics and America's Housing Crisis. Cambridge University Press.

Forliti, Amy. 2012. “Feds Probe Rejection of St. Anthony Mosque.” Twin Cities (blog). October 29, 2012. https://www.twincities.com/2012/10/29/feds-probe-rejection-of-st-anthony-mosque/.

Fowler, Katherine A, R Matthew Gladden, Kevin J Vagi, Jamar Barnes, and Leroy Frazier. 2015. “Increase in Suicides Associated with Home Eviction and Foreclosure during the US Housing Crisis: Findings from 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005–2010.” American Journal of Public Health 105 (2): 311–16.

Fried, Marc. 1966. “Grieving for a Lost Home: Psychological Costs of Relocation.” In Urban Renewal: The Record and the Controversy. Cambridge; London: The M.I.T Press. https://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/~tslater/assets/Fried_GrievingforaLostHome.pdf.

Fullilove, Mindy Thompson. 2016. Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do about It. New Village Press.

Furst, Randy. 2014. “Under Pressure from Feds, St. Anthony Agrees to Islamic Center.” Star Tribune, December 16, 2014. https://www.startribune.com/under-pressure-from-feds-st-anthony-agrees-to-islamic-center/285963301/.

Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford university press.

Goetz, Edward G. 2013a. New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell University Press.

———. 2013b. “The Audacity of HOPE VI: Discourse and the Dismantling of Public Housing.” Cities 35: 342–48.

———. 2016. “Resistance to Social Housing Transformation.” Cities 100 (57): 1–5.

Gustavo, Solomon. 2017. “New Lowry Grove Development Planning Presented at Community Meeting.” Lillie Suburban Newspaper, December 4, 2017. http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2017/12/04/new-lowry-grove-development-planning-presented-community-meeting.

Guzmán, Betsy. 2001. “The Hispanic Population.” U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-3.pdf.

Howard, Amy L. 2014. More than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Francisco Public Housing. Minneapolis; London: U of Minnesota Press.

Koumpilova, Mila. 2018. “Immigration Arrests Are Blamed on Conflict in New Brighton.” Star Tribune, January 8, 2018. https://www.startribune.com/immigration-arrests-blamed-on-brouhaha-at-new-brighton-trailer-park/468263763/.

Kraco, Karen. 2017a. “Neighbors Discuss Plans for Lowry Grove Redevelopment.” Northeaster Newspaper, February 22, 2017. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/neighbors-discuss-plans-for-lowry-grove-redevelopment/.

———. 2017b. “Discontent Follows Tumultuous Year in St. Anthony.” Northeaster Newspaper, July 17, 2017. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/discontent-follows-tumultuous-year-in-st-anthony/.

KSTP. 2017. “Lowry Grove Developer Calls St. Anthony Village City Council ‘Liars.’” http://kstp.com/news/lowry-grove-developer-calls-st-anthony-village-city-council-liars-after-redevelopment-plans-rejected-/4637179/.

Lindeke, Bill. 2016. “A Lawsuit in St. Anthony: The Fight to Save Lowry Grove.” MINNPOST, July 29, 2016. https://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2016/07/lawsuit-st-anthony-fight-save-lowry-grove/.

Mayerle, Jennifer. 2016. “Mobile Home Park Residents Fighting To Stay After Sale Of Property.” ST. ANTHONY, Minn.: CBS Minnesota. https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2016/07/04/lowry-grove-residents-fight-sale/.

Metropolitan Council. 2017. “Manufactured Housing in the Twin Cities Region in 2017.” https://metrocouncil.org/Data-and-Maps/Publications-And-Resources/MetroStats/Housing/Manufactured-Home-Parks-in-2017.aspx.

Minnesota District Court. 2018. BRADLEY A. HOYT and THE VILLAGE, LLC, v. THE CITY OF ST. ANTHONY VILLAGE; MARK CASEY; JERRY FAUST; BREANNE ROTHSTEIN; WSB & ASSOCIATES, INC.; STACIE KVILVANG; EHLERS & ASSOCIATES, INC.; and JAY R. LINDGREN. Minnesota District Court.

Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. 2016. “Memorandum of Amicus Curiae: The Attorney General of the State of Minnesota.” http://stmedia.startribune.com/documents/attorney+general+of+minnesota_amicus+brief.pdf.

Minnesota Management and Budget. n.d. “Frequently Asked Questions.” https://mn.gov/mmb/debt-management/cash-management/mn-manufacture-home/faq.jsp.

Mumford, Tracy. 2016a. “A Reprieve for Lowry Grove: 11th-Hour Bid Might Save Mobile Home Park.” All Things Considered. Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/06/10/lowry-grove-mobile-home-funding.

———. 2016b. “The Battle for the Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park Heads to Court.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/08/26/lowry-grove-court-hearing.

———. 2016c. “Judge’s Ruling a Blow to Residents Hoping to Buy, Save Their Mobile Home Park.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/09/23/lowry-grove-first-ruling.

———. 2016d. “St. Anthony Approves Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park Closure; HUD May Step In.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/10/12/lowry-grove-hud-and-st-anthony-city-council.

———. 2017a. “Lowry Grove: The Park Closed, the Land’s Empty -- Now What?” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/10/11/lowry-grove-park-closed-next-steps.

———. 2017b. “Disputed Lowry Grove Site May Reopen to Mobile Homes and RVs.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/10/13/developer-announces-lowry-grove-will-reopen.

Nyquist, Daren. 2007. “The Risk of Manufactured Home Park Closings: An Analysis & Recommendations for Effective Park Closing Ordinance.” All Parks Alliance for Change. http://allparksallianceforchange.org/files/Park%20Closing%20Ordinance%20Policy%20Report_0.pdf.

Olson, Gail. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Want to Buy the Park.” Northeaster Newspaper, June 2, 2016. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/lowry-grove-residents-want-to-buy-the-park/.

Poole, Jesse. 2016. “Lowry Grove Sold, Fate of Residents Still Unclear.” Lillie Suburban Newspaper, June 22, 2016. http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2016/06/22/lowry-grove-sold-fate-residents-still-unclear.

———. 2017. “Lowry Grove Redevelopment Proposal Rejected by St. Anthony.” Bulletin News, October 16, 2017. http://www.bulletin-news.com/articles/2017/10/16/lowry-grove-redevelopment-proposal-rejected-st-anthony.

Prather, Shannon. 2014. “St. Anthony Council Approves Civil Rights Settlement in Mosque Case.” Star Tribune, December 24, 2014. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-council-approves-civil-rights-settlement-in-mosque-case/286797281/.

———. 2016a. “Met Council Pushes to Preserve Mobile Home Parks in Suburbs.” Star Tribune, June 25, 2016. https://www.startribune.com/met-council-pushes-to-preserve-mobile-home-parks-as-affordable-suburban-housing/384396681/?refresh=true.

———. 2016b. “St. Anthony Manufactured Homeowners Can’t Undo Sale of Their Park, Judge Rules.” Star Tribune, September 24, 2016. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-mobile-homeowners-can-t-undo-sale-of-their-park-judge-rules/394641561/.

Raciti, Antonio, Katherine A Lambert-Pennington, and Kenneth M Reardon. 2016. “The Struggle for the Future of Public Housing in Memphis, Tennessee: Reflections on HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Planning Program.” Cities57: 6–13.

Regan, Sheila. 2011. “Co-Op of Residents Buys Park Plaza Estates Manufactured-Home Park.” Patch. February 16, 2011. https://patch.com/minnesota/fridley/co-op-of-residents-buys-park-plaza-estates.

Reinan, John. 2015. “Upscale Apartment Makeover Forces Hundreds to Move in Richfield.” Star Tribune, November 17, 2015. https://www.startribune.com/upscale-apartment-makeover-forces-hundreds-to-move-in-richfield/350820061/.

rosefrench. 2012. “Feds Launch Formal Investigation into St. Anthony Mosque Rejection.” Star Tribune. October 29, 2012. https://www.startribune.com/feds-launch-formal-investigation-into-st-anthony-mosque-rejection/176309071/.

Saadeh, Cirien. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Refuse to Lose Homes After Surprise Property Sale to Corporate Developer.” THE UPTAKE. May 25, 2016. http://theuptake.org/2016/05/25/lowry-grove-residents-refuse-to-lose-homes-after-surprise-property-sale-to-corporate-developer/.

Sinha, Anita, and Alexa Kasdan. 2013. “Inserting Community Perspective Research into Public Housing Policy Discourse: The Right to the City Alliance’s ‘We Call These Projects Home.’” Cities 35: 327–34.

Skobba, Kim, and Leigh Rosenberg. 2008. “Manufactured Housing in Minnesota: Overview and Policy Challenges.” Minnesota Housing Partnership. http://www.mhponline.org/images/stories/docs/research/reports/Manufactured_Housing_Study_Full.pdf.

Sullivan, Esther (2014). Halfway homeowners: Eviction and force relocation among homeowners in manufactured home parks in Florida. Law & Social Inquiry 39(2): 474-487.

Sullivan, Esther (2018) Manufactured insecurity: Mobile home parks and Americans’ tenuous right to place. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

United States Department of Justice. 2014. “Justice Department Files Suit Against City of St. Anthony Village Over Denial of Permit for Mosque.” August 27, 2014. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-suit-against-city-st-anthony-village-over-denial-permit-mosque.

Wells, Julia. 2007. “Racial Disparities in Manufactured Home Parks: Latinos’ Experiences in Minnesota.” All Parks Alliance for Change. http://allparksallianceforchange.org/files/Racial%20Disparities%20Policy%20Report.pdf.

Zurowski, Cory. 2017. “The Closing of a Trailer Park Meets the Closing of Frank Adelmann’s Life.” City Pages, July 26. http://54.241.145.63/news/the-closing-of-a-trailer-park-meets-the-closing-of-frank-adelmanns-life/435618753.

Endnotes

[1] Poole, Jesse. 2016. “Lowry Grove Sold, Fate of Residents Still Unclear.” Lillie Suburban Newspaper, June 22, 2016. http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2016/06/22/lowry-grove-sold-fate-residents-still-unclear.

[2] Reinan, John. 2015. “Upscale Apartment Makeover Forces Hundreds to Move in Richfield.” Star Tribune, November 17, 2015. https://www.startribune.com/upscale-apartment-makeover-forces-hundreds-to-move-in-richfield/350820061/.

[3] Skobba, Kim, and Leigh Rosenberg. 2008. “Manufactured Housing in Minnesota: Overview and Policy Challenges.” Minnesota Housing Partnership. http://www.mhponline.org/images/stories/docs/research/reports/Manufactured_Housing_Study_Full.pdf.

[4] Skobba & Rosenberg. 2008. “Manufactured Housing in Minnesota.”

[5] Saadeh, Cirien. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Refuse to Lose Homes After Surprise Property Sale to Corporate Developer.” THE UPTAKE. May 25, 2016. http://theuptake.org/2016/05/25/lowry-grove-residents-refuse-to-lose-homes-after-surprise-property-sale-to-corporate-developer/.

[6] Organizer interview, February 6, 2018.

[7] Resident interview, February 6, 2018.

[8] Saadeh. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Refuse to Lose Homes.”

[9] Interview with Alan Arthur, January 11, 2018.

[11] Mumford, Tracy. 2016a. “A Reprieve for Lowry Grove: 11th-Hour Bid Might Save Mobile Home Park.” All Things Considered. Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/06/10/lowry-grove-mobile-home-funding.

[12] Interview with Margaret Kaplan. February 27, 2018.

[13] Minnesota Management and Budget. n.d. “Frequently Asked Questions.” https://mn.gov/mmb/debt-management/cash-management/mn-manufacture-home/faq.jsp.

[14] Mumford. 2016a. “A reprieve for Lowry Grove.”

[15] Lindeke, Bill. 2016. “A Lawsuit in St. Anthony: The Fight to Save Lowry Grove.” MINNPOST, July 29, 2016. https://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2016/07/lawsuit-st-anthony-fight-save-lowry-grove/.

[16] Collier, Kristin. 2017. “Tsunami in St. Anthony: Antonia Alvarez’s Holy War to Save Her Mobile Home Park.” City Pages, March 15, 2017. https://www.aeon.org/news/tsunami-in-st-anthony-antonia-alvarezs-holy-war-to-save-her-mobile-home-park/.

[17] All Parks Alliance for Change. n.d. “Fact Sheet - Manufactured Home Parks in Minnesota.” http://allparksallianceforchange.org/?q=reports/mnparks.

[18] Nyquist, Daren. 2007. “The Risk of Manufactured Home Park Closings: An Analysis & Recommendations for Effective Park Closing Ordinance.” All Parks Alliance for Change. http://allparksallianceforchange.org/files/Park%20Closing%20Ordinance%20Policy%20Report_0.pdf.

[19] Nyquist. 2007. “The Risk of Manufactured Home Park Closings.”

[20] Metropolitan Council. 2017. “Manufactured Housing in the Twin Cities Region in 2017.” https://metrocouncil.org/Data-and-Maps/Publications-And-Resources/MetroStats/Housing/Manufactured-Home-Parks-in-2017.aspx.

[21] Wells, Julia. 2007. “Racial Disparities in Manufactured Home Parks: Latinos’ Experiences in Minnesota.” All Parks Alliance for Change. http://allparksallianceforchange.org/files/Racial%20Disparities%20Policy%20Report.pdf.

[22] Skobba & Rosenberg. 2008. “Manufactured Housing in Minnesota.”

[23] Skobba & Rosenberg. 2008. “Manufactured Housing in Minnesota.”

[24] Guzmán, Betsy. 2001. “The Hispanic Population.” U.S. Census Bureau. https://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/c2kbr01-3.pdf.

[25] Wells. 2007. “Racial Disparities in Manufactured Home Parks.”

[26] Wells. 2007. “Racial Disparities in Manufactured Home Parks.”

[27] Mumford. 2016a. “A reprieve for Lowry Grove.”

[28] Regan, Sheila. 2011. “Co-Op of Residents Buys Park Plaza Estates Manufactured-Home Park.” Patch. February 16, 2011. https://patch.com/minnesota/fridley/co-op-of-residents-buys-park-plaza-estates.

[29] Interview with Warren Kramer, October 4, 2018.

[30] This short history is based on Olson, Gail. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Want to Buy the Park.” Northeaster Newspaper, June 2, 2016. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/lowry-grove-residents-want-to-buy-the-park/

[31] Olson, 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents.”

[32] Olson, 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents.”

[33] Prather, Shannon. 2016a. “Met Council Pushes to Preserve Mobile Home Parks in Suburbs.” Star Tribune, June 25, 2016. https://www.startribune.com/met-council-pushes-to-preserve-mobile-home-parks-as-affordable-suburban-housing/384396681/?refresh=true.

[34] Sarah Horner, 2014. “In St. Anthony Village trailer park, police shoot and kill man with rifle.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 9.

[35] Interview with neighborhood informant. April 12, 2018.

[36] Olson. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Want to Buy the Park.”

[37] Saadeh. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Refuse to Lose Homes.”

[38] The information in this section comes from City of St. Anthony. 2008. “St. Anthony Comprehensive Plan.” http://www.allparksallianceforchange.org/?q=book/export/html/2644.

[39] Mumford, Tracy. 2016b. “Judge’s Ruling a Blow to Residents Hoping to Buy, Save Their Mobile Home Park.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/09/23/lowry-grove-first-ruling.

[40] City of St. Anthony. 2008. “St. Anthony Comprehensive Plan.” pp.2-11. http://www.allparksallianceforchange.org/?q=book/export/html/2644.

[41] Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. 2016. “Memorandum of Amicus Curiae: The Attorney General of the State of Minnesota.” http://stmedia.startribune.com/documents/attorney+general+of+minnesota_amicus+brief.pdf. p. 6.

[42] Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. “AG Amicus.” p. 6.

[43] Interview with JH, former Lowry Grove resident. January 23, 2019.

[44] Olson. 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents.”

[45] Bitters, Janice. 2016a. “Aeon Lawsuit Tests Little-Used State Law.” Minnesota Lawyer, June 30, 2016. https://minnlawyer.com/2016/06/30/aeon-lawsuit-tests-little-used-state-law/.

[46] Aeon, Maria Antonia Alvarez Baez, Lowry Grove Residents Association vs Lowry Grove Partnership LLP, The Village LLC. 2016. Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. https://pa.courts.state.mn.us/CaseDetail.aspx?CaseID=1623303802. The two defendants are the seller, Lowry Grove Partnership, a limited liability partnership headed by Phil Johnson, and the buyer, “The Village,” a limited liability corporation to which CPG assigned their purchase rights under the agreement with the seller. CPG and The Village are, for most intents and purposes, the same entity. The two list the same corporate address, and Traci Tomas acts as the Vice President of both. In this report we refer to the buyer by the parent corporation name, Continental Property Group (CPG) rather than by the assignee’s name, The Village, in order to avoid confusion with St. Anthony Village which is the name of the municipality in which Lowry Grove is located.

[47] Fried, Marc. 1966. “Grieving for a Lost Home: Psychological Costs of Relocation.” In Urban Renewal: The Record and the Controversy. Cambridge; London: The M.I.T Press. https://www.geos.ed.ac.uk/~tslater/assets/Fried_GrievingforaLostHome.pdf.

[48] Fullilove, Mindy Thompson. 2016. Root Shock: How Tearing up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We Can Do about It. New Village Press. p11.

[49] Fullilove. 2016. “Root Shock.” p14.

[50] Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford university press.

[51] Atkinson, Rowland, Maryann Wulff, Margaret Reynolds, and Angela Spinney. 2011. “Gentrification and Displacement: The Household Impacts of Neighbourhood Change.” Melbourne: Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute. https://www.ahuri.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/3034/AHURI_RAP_Issue_137_Gentrification-and-displacement-the-household-impacts-of-neighbourhood-change.pdf. p3

[52] E.g, in Chester Hartman, 1964. “The Housing of Relocated Families.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners, November: 266–86.

[53] Fried. 1966. “Grieving for a Lost Home.”

[54] Fowler, Katherine A, R Matthew Gladden, Kevin J Vagi, Jamar Barnes, and Leroy Frazier. 2015. “Increase in Suicides Associated with Home Eviction and Foreclosure during the US Housing Crisis: Findings from 16 National Violent Death Reporting System States, 2005–2010.” American Journal of Public Health 105 (2): 311–16.

[55] See, e.g., Edin, Kathryn, and Laura Lein. 1997. Making Ends Meet: How Single Mothers Survive Welfare and Low-Wage Work. Russell Sage Foundation.

[56] Goetz, Edward G. 2016. “Resistance to Social Housing Transformation.” Cities 100 (57): 1–5. See also Howard, Amy L. 2014. More than Shelter: Activism and Community in San Francisco Public Housing. Minneapolis; London: U of Minnesota Press.; and Arena, John. 2012. Driven from New Orleans: How Nonprofits Betray Public Housing and Promote Privatization. Minneapolis; London: U of Minnesota Press.

[57] Raciti, Antonio, Katherine A Lambert-Pennington, and Kenneth M Reardon. 2016. “The Struggle for the Future of Public Housing in Memphis, Tennessee: Reflections on HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods Planning Program.” Cities 57: 6–13.

[58] Alliance, Right to the City. 2010. “We Call These Projects Home: Solving the Housing Crisis from the Ground Up.” Right to the City Alliance. https://righttothecity.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/We_Call_These_Projects_Home-2.pdf; Sinha, Anita, and Alexa Kasdan. 2013. “Inserting Community Perspective Research into Public Housing Policy Discourse: The Right to the City Alliance’s ‘We Call These Projects Home.’” Cities 35: 327–34.; and, Goetz, Edward G. 2013b. “The Audacity of HOPE VI: Discourse and the Dismantling of Public Housing.” Cities 35: 342–48.

[59] See, e.g., Cabrini-Green Local Advisory Council v. Chicago Housing Authority, No. 04 C 3792, 2005 WL 61467. (N.D. Ill. Jan. 10, 2005); Henry Horner Mother’s Guild v. Chicago Housing Authority, 824 F. Supp. 810 (N.D. Ill. 1993)); Edwards v. District of Columbia, 628 F. Supp. 333 (D.D.C. 1985), Concerned Tenants Association of Father Panik Village v. Pierce, 685 F. Supp. 316 (D.C. Conn. 1988), and Tinsley v. Kemp, 750 f. Supp. 1001 (W.D. Mo. 1990) all on the issue of de facto demolition (see the discussion in Goetz, Edward G. 2013a. New Deal Ruins: Race, Economic Justice, and Public Housing Policy. Cornell University Press.)

[60] Mayerle, Jennifer. 2016. “Mobile Home Park Residents Fighting To Stay After Sale Of Property.” ST. ANTHONY, Minn.: CBS Minnesota. https://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2016/07/04/lowry-grove-residents-fight-sale/.

[61] Lindeke, 2016. “A lawsuit in St. Anthony.”

[62] United States Department of Justice. 2014. “Justice Department Files Suit Against City of St. Anthony Village Over Denial of Permit for Mosque.” August 27, 2014. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-files-suit-against-city-st-anthony-village-over-denial-permit-mosque.

[63] Forliti, Amy. 2012. “Feds Probe Rejection of St. Anthony Mosque.” Twin Cities (blog). October 29, 2012. https://www.twincities.com/2012/10/29/feds-probe-rejection-of-st-anthony-mosque/.

[64] rosefrench. 2012. “Feds Launch Formal Investigation into St. Anthony Mosque Rejection.” Star Tribune. October 29, 2012. https://www.startribune.com/feds-launch-formal-investigation-into-st-anthony-mosque-rejection/176309071/.

[65] rosefrench. 2012. “Feds Investigation into St. Anthony Mosque Rejection.”

[66] United States Department of Justice. 2014. “Suit Against City of St. Anthony Village.”

[67] United States Department of Justice. 2014. “Suit Against City of St. Anthony Village.”

[68] Furst, Randy. 2014. “Under Pressure from Feds, St. Anthony Agrees to Islamic Center.” StarTribune, December 16, 2014. https://www.startribune.com/under-pressure-from-feds-st-anthony-agrees-to-islamic-center/285963301/.

[69] United States Department of Justice. 2014. “Suit Against City of St. Anthony Village.

[70] Prather, Shannon. 2014. “St. Anthony Council Approves Civil Rights Settlement in Mosque Case.” StarTribune, December 24, 2014. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-council-approves-civil-rights-settlement-in-mosque-case/286797281/.

[71] Interview with Mel Chaput, April 12, 2018.

[72] Interview with Mel Chaput, April 12, 2018.

[73] Mumford, Tracy. 2016d. “The Battle for the Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park Heads to Court” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/08/26/lowry-grove-court-hearing.

[74] Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. “AG Amicus.” p.9

[75] Minnesota Fourth Judicial District Court. “AG Amicus.” p.14

[76] Mumford. 2016a. “A reprieve for Lowry Grove.”

[77] Ashmore, Margo, and Karen Kraco. 2016. “Lowry Grove Appeals to City to Help Save Park.” Northeaster Newspaper, August 23, 2016. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/lowry-grove-appeals-to-city-to-help-save-park/.

[78] Saadeh, 2016, #8.

[79] Bitters, Janice. 2016b. “HUD Probes Sale of Lowry Grove Mobile-Home Park.” Minnesota Lawyer, October 11, 2016. https://minnlawyer.com/2016/10/11/hud-probes-sale-of-lowry-grove-mobile-home-park/. #9.

[80] Bitters, Janice. 2016b. #9.

[81] Collier, 2017. “Tsunami in St. Anthony.”

[82] Mumford, Tracy. 2016b. “Judge’s Ruling a Blow.”

[83] Aeon et al., v. Lowry Grove Partnership and The Village, State of Minnesota District Court, Fourth Judicial District, County of Hennepin, No. 27-CV-16-9809, page 7.

[84] Prather, Shannon. 2016b. “St. Anthony Manufactured Homeowners Can’t Undo Sale of Their Park, Judge Rules.” Star Tribune, September 24, 2016. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-mobile-homeowners-can-t-undo-sale-of-their-park-judge-rules/394641561/.

[85] Mumford, Tracy. 2016c. “St. Anthony Approves Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park Closure; HUD May Step In.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2016/10/12/lowry-grove-hud-and-st-anthony-city-council.

[86] Mumford, Tracy. 2016c. “St. Anthony Approves Park Closure.”

[87] Mumford, Tracy. 2016c. “St. Anthony Approves Park Closure.”

[88] Mumford, Tracy. 2016a. “A Reprieve for Lowry Grove.”

[89] Mumford, Tracy. 2016c. “St. Anthony Approves Park Closure.”

[90] Interview, January 23, 2019.

[91] Collier, 2017. “Tsunami in St. Anthony.”

[92] Koumpilova, Mila. 2018. “Immigration Arrests Are Blamed on Conflict in New Brighton.” Star Tribune, January 8, 2018. https://www.startribune.com/immigration-arrests-blamed-on-brouhaha-at-new-brighton-trailer-park/468263763/.

[93] Du, Susan. 2017. “Suit: Lowry Grove Residents Misled Public to Stop Sale of Mobile Home Park.” City Pages, June 5, 2017. http://www.citypages.com/news/suit-lowry-grove-residents-misled-public-to-stop-sale-of-mobile-home-park/425969984.

[94] Interview with Antonia Alvarez, July 18, 2017.

[95] Zurowski, Cory. 2017. “The Closing of a Trailer Park Meets the Closing of Frank Adelmann’s Life.” City Pages, July 26. http://54.241.145.63/news/the-closing-of-a-trailer-park-meets-the-closing-of-frank-adelmanns-life/435618753.

[96] Interview with Antonia Alvarez, July 18, 2017.

[97] Interview with Bill McConnell, February 2, 2018.

[98] Interview with AW, former Lowry Grove resident. January 31, 2018.

[99] Kraco, Karen. 2017a. “Discontent Follows Tumultuous Year in St. Anthony.” Northeaster Newspaper, July 17, 2017. https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/discontent-follows-tumultuous-year-in-st-anthony/.

[100] Covington, Hannah. 2017. “Lowry Grove Housing Discrimination Complaint Dismissed.” Star Tribune, July 13, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/lowry-grove-housing-discrimination-complaint-dismissed/434284013/.

[101] Mumford, Tracy. 2016d. “The Battle for the Lowry Grove.”

[102] Mumford, Tracy. 2016b. “Judge’s Ruling a Blow.”

[103] Saadeh, 2016. “Lowry Grove Residents Refuse to Lose Homes.”

[104] City of St. Anthony. 2013. “ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT WORKSHEET.” http://www.savmn.com/DocumentCenter/View/262/Environmental-Assessment-Worksheet-PDF. p. 7

[105] Bradley A. Hoyt And the Village, LLC, v. The City of St. Anthony Village; Mark Casey; Jerry Faust; Breanne Rothstein; Wsb & Associates, Inc.; Stacie Kvilvang; Ehlers & Associates, Inc.; and Jay R. Lindgren. Minnesota District Court. pp. 3-5

[106] City of Saint Anthony Village, “Record of Decision: The Village, LLC Redevelopment EAW.” Adopted February 14, 2017.

[107] Kraco, Karen. 2017b. “Neighbors Discuss Plans for Lowry Grove Redevelopment.” Northeaster Newspaper, February 22, 2017.https://www.mynortheaster.com/news/neighbors-discuss-plans-for-lowry-grove-redevelopment/.

[108] Kraco. 2017b. “Neighbors Discuss Plans for Lowry Grove Redevelopment.”

[109] Mumford, Tracy. 2017b. “Lowry Grove: The Park Closed, the Land’s Empty -- Now What?” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/10/11/lowry-grove-park-closed-next-steps.

[110] Covington, Hannah. 2017b. “St. Anthony Rejects Lowry Grove Redevelopment Plan.” Star Tribune, October 11, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-rejects-lowry-grove-redevelopment-plan/450433893/.

[111] Poole, Jesse. 2017. “Lowry Grove Redevelopment Proposal Rejected by St. Anthony.” Bulletin News, October 16, 2017. http://www.bulletin-news.com/articles/2017/10/16/lowry-grove-redevelopment-proposal-rejected-st-anthony.

[112] Covington. 2017b. “St. Anthony Rejects Lowry Grove Redevelopment Plan.”

[113] Poole. 2017. “Lowry Grove Redevelopment Proposal Rejected.”

[114] KSTP. 2017. “Lowry Grove Developer Calls St. Anthony Village City Council ‘Liars.’” http://kstp.com/news/lowry-grove-developer-calls-st-anthony-village-city-council-liars-after-redevelopment-plans-rejected-/4637179/.

[115] Mumford. 2017b. “Lowry Grove -- Now What.”

[116] Covington. 2017b. “St. Anthony Rejects Lowry Grove Redevelopment Plan.”

[117] Covington, Hannah. 2017c. “St. Anthony Rejects Plan for Site of Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park.” Star Tribune, October 11, 2017. https://www.startribune.com/st-anthony-rejects-lowry-grove-redevelopment-plan/450433893/.

[118] Mumford, Tracy. 2017a. “Disputed Lowry Grove Site May Reopen to Mobile Homes and RVs.” Minnesota Public Radio. https://www.mprnews.org/story/2017/10/13/developer-announces-lowry-grove-will-reopen.

[119] Covington. 2017c. “St. Anthony Rejects Plan.”

[120] Gustavo, Solomon. 2017. “New Lowry Grove Development Planning Presented at Community Meeting.” Lillie Suburban Newspaper, December 4, 2017. http://www.lillienews.com/articles/2017/12/04/new-lowry-grove-development-planning-presented-community-meeting.

[121] Covington, Hannah. 2019. “Judge Dismisses Developer’s Lawsuit over Lowry Grove Mobile Home Park in St. Anthony.” Star Tribune, May 27, 2019. https://www.startribune.com/judge-dismisses-developer-s-lawsuit-over-lowry-grove-mobile-home-park-in-st-anthony/510492262/.

[122] City of St. Anthony. 2008. “St. Anthony Comprehensive Plan.” pp.2-24.

[123] City of St. Anthony. 2008. “St. Anthony Comprehensive Plan.” pp.2-24.

[124] Ashmore and Kraco. 2016. “Lowry Grove Appeals to City.

[125] Interview with Kate Martin, February 8, 2018.

[126] Based on estimate of resident leader Antonia Alvarez, quoted in Lindeke, Bill. 2016. “A Lawsuit in St. Anthony: The Fight to Save Lowry Grove.” MINNPOST, July 29, 2016. https://www.minnpost.com/cityscape/2016/07/lawsuit-st-anthony-fight-save-lowry-grove/.