Miami-Dade County stalls mobile home park rezoning for 90 days
By Lou Ortiz
The Miami-Dade County Commission Tuesday extended a moratorium on mobile home park conversions another 90 days after a two-hour hearing in which residents from mobile home parks pleaded for the county's help to keep their homes.
In extending the ban on rezoning of mobile home parks and issuance of building permits for park conversions that the commission put in place on Oct. 16, commissioners told the Miami-Dade administration to come up with a plan on the feasibility of the county buying mobile home parks and using the land for affordable housing.
The moratorium affects 40 mobile home parks and 8,000 units in unincorporated Miami-Dade. But the moratorium does not bar eviction of tenants.
In 2006, 12,647 mobile home units were in the county, according to county documents, with a population the previous year of 34,883 people.
"This has truly been a sad day listening to these people," said Commissioner Jose "Pepe" Diaz, who has five mobile home parks in his district. "It's difficult to hear."
For much of Tuesday morning, commissioners heard mobile home residents say that trailers were the only place they could afford to live, and they would become homeless if they were forced from their homes.
The mostly low-income residents, who packed the commission chambers, represented a cross-section of ethnic backgrounds, from Anglo-Americans to African-, Cuban- and Haitian-Americans. Hispanics from Honduras, Nicaragua and elsewhere were also represented.
Mobile home park residents "are being thrown out in the street without any place to live," said Regla Gonzalez, a resident of Li'l Abner Trailer Park at 11239 NW 4th St., who also feared being displaced. She said that residents have poured their savings into buying their mobile homes. "It's very sad," she said. "This is a difficult situation for people."
Most mobile home park residents said their neighbors included the elderly and disabled. Others said they lived in mobile home parks for those 55 and older, whose incomes were limited.
But others spoke against the moratorium, including builders and land use attorney Michael Larkin.
Mr. Larkin urged the commission to end the moratorium. "The extension of the moratorium accomplishes nothing," he said. "It doesn't preclude the eviction of the tenants."
Another land use attorney, Jeffrey Bercow, also asked commissioners to end the moratorium. He acknowledged that some mobile home residents had suffered "terrible injustice," but he said "most mobile home park owners observe the letter of the law.
"We believe you must terminate the moratorium today," he said.
Commission Vice Chairman Barbara Jordan said the county has an obligation to its residents and how they are treated. She proposed the resolution that was adopted by commissioners without dissent.
It not only extends the moratorium but it also explores the possibility of Miami-Dade buying one or more of the mobile home parks, and allowing the residents to continue to live there while the county builds affordable housing on the sites.
The resolution also calls for a town-hall-type meeting with mobile home residents and officials from the state Department of Community Affairs, to encourage the state to increase relocation assistance to trailer park residents and possibly to change laws that now favor those who own and run the parks.
The commission also adopted recommendations from the administrative staff as part of the resolution that helps and provides assistance to displaced residents to prevent homelessness, among other things.
"Everyone deserves to have some security in their homes, and not have them yanked from under them," said Commissioner Katy Sorenson. "You've got our attention."