Updated: Mar 10, 2021
The top priority of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP is the well-being of the residents of Tarheel Mobile Home. Members of our Housing Committee have been working with residents for months, listening to their concerns and working behind the scenes to protect their interests and prevent their displacement. We are concerned that the situation at 1200 MLK Boulevard has been misunderstood so we wanted to both post the Branch’s official position in this blog post and explain some of the reasoning behind our official stance.
What do we want the Chapel Hill Town Council to do?
Our previously released official statement is at the bottom of this document.
We want the Town Council to approve the rezoning. We believe that Stackhouse Properties will close the park if they do not get their way. We do not think this is fair or ethical, but from an economic perspective, closing the park and selling to another developer is definitely more profitable than operating the mobile home park on its own. If the mobile home park is closed, we do not see any way that the Town would be able to help the residents find new housing that they can afford within the school district within the six-month period before they have to leave.
We want the Town to keep up the pressure on Stackhouse Properties, both to ensure that they honor the agreement to keep the mobile home operating and affordable for 15 years and to keep the property properly maintained.
We want the Town to take the high-level conceptual plans for protecting mobile home residents that they have been discussing and turn them into actual concrete plans with action items and budget allocated to make them a reality.
Background on Mobile Homes in Chapel Hill
It has been known among Housing advocates for years that mobile home residents are vulnerable in Chapel Hill. Rising property values mean that mobile home parks are a less profitable use of land in Chapel Hill than alternative uses of property. Additionally, some mobile home residents are immigrants who lack documentation, which means that they are especially at risk since they have fewer places to go if they are displaced from their current homes. Surveys of mobile home residents indicate that many of them do not want to live in apartments. Many of them would choose to live in single-family homes if they could afford it. Rental prices for the plot of land where a mobile home is kept cost about $400-$500 per month in Chapel Hill. It is not possible to rent an apartment or a house for a similar price in Chapel Hill or Carrboro. Without intervention from the town, mobile home residents who are displaced will not find market rate housing that they can afford within town limits or within the limits of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District. Four years ago, Lakeview Mobile Homes faced a crisis where a developer was potentially going to close the mobile home park in order to build apartments. Due to the efforts of the NAACP, other housing advocates, and the residents of Lakeview, there was public outcry and the project was abandoned. Ever since that time, the NAACP has been encouraging government officials and staff in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange County to intentionally make plans for how to help mobile home residents who are displaced. We want concrete plans for how immediate assistance can be given in the short-term to help people who are displaced and we want longer-term plans for development of housing options that are either owned by nonprofits that provide housing services or owned by the town where people can move to for long-term stability. There have been high-level discussions within and between all three government bodies about which properties could potentially be used for those purposes and what sorts of strategies could be paths forward but there have not yet been concrete plans with budget line items put in place to make that happen. This failure to put in place a plan for helping mobile home residents in danger of displacement means that there are very few options right now for Tarheel Mobile Home residents should the mobile home park be closed down.
Background on 1200 MLK Boulevard
Stackhouse Properties bought the land at 1200 and 1204 MLK Boulevard in 2019 from the Moody family, who had long operated Tarheel Mobile Homes at the site. The Moody family reportedly sold the land to Stackhouse with the understanding that Stackhouse Properties would not evict the current residents and would continue to run the mobile home park on the property. Stackhouse Properties proposed a project to the Town Council for a gas station/convenience store and a storage unit facility to be built on the part of the property facing MLK Boulevard. Fifteen mobile homes would be moved to other parts of the property but no residents would lose their homes. Stackhouse Properties claimed that they would not be able to make sufficient profits off the property through the mobile home park revenues alone and therefore wanted to increase the revenue from the property through the gas station/ convenience store and storage units. Stackhouse has repeatedly stated that if they are not able to operate this project, they will close the mobile home park and sell the property. Specifically, if the rezoning to allow the gas station and storage unit is not passed, they have threatened to close the mobile home park and sell the property. After negotiations, there is an agreement between Stackhouse Properties and the town where a condition of the rezoning is that Stackhouse will keep the mobile home park operating for at least 15 years and must keep rent within the limits of the average rent for mobile home parks in the region. Stackhouse Properties has also agreed to offer 12-month leases in the place of the month-to-month leases that the residents currently have, providing additional stability to the residents. Seventy-three families now live in Tarheel Mobile Home Park.
What have we heard from residents?
In the meetings that NAACP Housing Committee members have attended together with the residents, we have heard the following from the people who live at Tarheel Mobile Homes:
People are afraid that if the rezoning falls through that they will be forced to move elsewhere. Most of them want to stay in their homes and they are afraid that if the park closes, they will not be able to find a new place to live within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district and they will be forced to change schools.
Residents do have a lot of concerns about the way that Stackhouse is maintaining the property. Specific concerns include potholes in the roads, poor lighting, and a lack of places for children to play. A field that used to be the play area for the neighborhood kids has had mobile homes placed on it that were moved to make room for the storage facility.
Residents also have expressed fear that if they publicly talk about their concerns while expressing a desire to stay, that they could face retribution.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP has been working with the residents of Tarheel Mobile Homes for about two years now and we have been working on the broader issue of preventing displacement of people from mobile homes since the founding of our Housing Committee in 2016. The vote this week is not the last action on this topic; it is one step in the process. We fully expect that for the next 15 years we will be working, both with the Town and with the residents of Tarheel Mobile Homes to empower them and allow their voices to be heard so that they are treated fairly within our community. We do not assume that the fight is over and we are dedicated to sticking with the fight.
Official statement regarding Tarheel Mobile Homes, presented to the Council on January 25, 2021. Dear Mayor Hemminger and Town Council Members,
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP is writing to urge you to approve the rezoning request for the property at 1200 Martin Luther King Boulevard. There are currently 73 families living in the Tarheel Mobile Home Park at that property and the owners have been working to ensure that current residents can remain on the property during and after the proposed redevelopment. If the rezoning is rejected, it is likely that the owners will sell the property and those 73 families will be displaced. Many of these families have children who attend the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District whose education would be disrupted if they were forced to move outside of the district. The highest priority of the council should be the well-being of the families that live in Tarheel Mobile Home Park. Members of our Housing committee have been in communication with the residents of Tarheel Mobile Homes and the residents have expressed a desire to remain in their homes and fear that if the rezoning is not approved that they will be forced to move. We recommend approving the rezoning to allow the construction of storage units in part of the property, while also working to get legally binding agreements from the owners that will protect the current residents. We also expect the town to continue to work with residents to ensure that their needs are being met.
This situation also highlights the need for the town to continue to develop its strategic plan for how to help people displaced from mobile home parks. We are encouraged at the creation of a high-level plan outlining several options for helping mobile home residents; it is now time to delve into the details of making those high-level strategies a concrete reality.
Chapel Hill should live up to its espoused values by working to ensure that the town is a welcoming place for people of all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds. A major part of that is ensuring that people of all backgrounds are able to live here. We urge the following three-pronged approach:
approve the rezoning of 1200 MLK Boulevard and continue to work with the landowner on their plans that include keeping the residents on the property,
work with the residents of Tarheel Mobile Homes and other mobile home parks in Chapel Hill to ensure that their needs are met, and
continue to flesh out the strategic plan for helping mobile home residents who are in danger of displacement.
Delores Bailey and Heather Brutz
Co-chairs of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro NAACP Housing Committee