A Homestead trailer park for people who are 55 and older has been sold and residents warned that they will have to leave the premises within six months. The loss of trailer park lots, which rent for $400 a month per home, comes at a time when studies have found South Florida to be the most unaffordable metro area in the nation, especially for the elderly.
The planned closure of Pine Isle Mobile Home Community would impact around 40 households that live in the park, according to attorney Nejla Calvo. The park was sold in November for nearly $13 million, according to county property records, but residents received a six month notice of eviction from the new owners in mid-March.
The notice would put them out of their homes by October 31.
“It’s kind of shocking to have this place close up, although there’s been rumors for years about somebody buying the park,” said Chuck Baldwin, a retired Miami-Dade Public Schools teacher who has lived in the park since 1998. “Some of these people here moved in the last year, and I would really feel cheated -- that the place would be sold out from under them.”
The 43.7 acre site has 317 mobile home lots that are restricted to residents ages 55 and above. Not all of the lots have homes on them, and many residents have already picked up and left. The area is lightly wooded, with old oaks and royal palm trees jutting up in between fruit trees and shrubs. Planes from the Homestead Air Force Base shriek overhead while peacocks call on the ground below.
“There’s been a lot of wrongdoing in this park and I would like to see justice,” said Julie Mallock, who has lived here for 15 years and expected to live here for the rest of her life. “I’m not out for a buck. I wanna stay here. I want the park to remain a park.”
Many mobile homes are only mobile in name, and cannot be picked up and moved. Some residents fear their homes might be total losses, or that they won’t be able to foot bills that can run in the thousands if their homes can be picked up and moved.
Residents banded together on Tuesday to vote on creating a new homeowners’ association, and appointed attorney Calvo to represent them as a group.
Calvo said she is hopeful the collective will be able to negotiate with the new owners to provide for more money and more time for homeowners as they start to close the park. If no new agreement is reached, Florida law provides that single-wide mobile homeowners should receive $1,375 from a state fund set up to help displaced mobile home residents. If the single-wide home is able to be relocated, they could be eligible for $3,000. Residents say that would hardly help with related relocation costs, much less having to pay higher rents in the market outside the park.
“There’s major stress and anxiety and depression already being triggered, and a lot of folks don’t have support, or are not physically able to figure out their next step,” said Calvo. “A lot of folks here are feeling helpless.”
Sunny McCoy is one of them. She has lived in the park for 19 years, and has lived in the Homestead area since 1952. Closing the park would put her “under a bridge,” she said.
“It would leave me out with no place to go. The bad part of it is: they know that,” McCoy said of the new owners. “They know that a lot of these people have no place to go.”
“It’s an indication of the crisis we have in regards to finding affordable housing in Miami-Dade County,” said Marlon Hill, an attorney and candidate for the Miami-Dade County Commission District 9, which includes the park. Hill was in attendance on Tuesday for the homeowners’ association vote, and expressed concern that some residents have already picked up and moved their homes to other parts of the state like Fort Pierce and Port St. Lucie.
“It makes me very sad that we can’t find quality of life for people that just want a home,” said Hill. “I think this is an immediate threat to many residents across the county.”
Correction: The original version of this story erroneously identified the Pine Isle Mobile Home Community as the Pine Island Mobile Home Park . We regret the error.