The nonprofit Western Reserve Land Conservancy will use federal relocation guidelines for Euclid Beach Mobile Home park residents who must move to make way for the expansion of Cleveland Metroparks’ Euclid Beach Park.
Residents had lobbied for WRLC to use the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act, or URA, in determining how much residents would receive for such things as moving expenses and the price of their mobile homes. WRLC had initially intended to use the URA as a framework for its plan and tweak guidelines to meet the individual circumstances of residents, who include renters as well as those who own their units.
Residents believe the federal guidelines will be more favorable to them. WRLC officials believe that having guidelines based on the “spirit of the URA” would have allowed the nonprofit to best meet the needs of residents.
WRLC currently owns the 28.5-acre mobile home park, officially known as the Euclid Beach Mobile Home Community. The plan is for WRLC to relocate the residents occupying the 118 units and convert the parcel to vacant land before giving it to Cleveland Metroparks.
The Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Foundation announced in July that it was giving WRLC $10 million in connection with the major redevelopment of Euclid Beach Park. About $6.2 million will be used to relocate residents of the mobile home park next to the Metropark, overlooking Lake Erie in North Collinwood, and also convert the parcel into vacant land.
Residents have a better chance of being treated equitably with the federal guidelines being used, said the lawyer representing the United Residents of Euclid Beach, or UREB.
“It has always been UREB’s position that the URA would provide a fair and transparent, tried and true standard of fair and compassionate relocation assistance for residents who want to leave or are being forced to leave,” said Michael Russell, a senior Legal Aid Society of Cleveland lawyer.
He said residents had concerns “that private negotiations between the landowner and each individual resident” could have resulted in deals in which some residents would have come up short.
“This provides an overarching standard that anyone can look to and say, ‘Okay, so here’s what I’m entitled to,’” he said.
WRLC officials said the federal standard was a good one. This is why they intended to make it the basis of the guidelines they were devising. However, their guidelines would have addressed the URA’s limitations, said Isaac Robb, vice president of planning, research and urban projects.
“In going the URA route, we’ll have to follow it very specifically, which gives us way less flexibility to work out separate things based on people’s needs,” Robb said.
Will Euclid Beach Mobile Home park renters lose out?
Renters could potentially be the most affected by the use of the federal standards, said Matt Zone, a WRLC senior vice president and director of Thriving Communities. About 20% of the units in the mobile home park are rented out.
“It’s tilted heavily to owner-occupants,” he said of the URA. “Our intention all the time was that we wanted to take care of people. We did not want people to be left to fend for themselves.”
Zone emphasized that WRLC wasn’t legally required to offer relocation or other assistance since public money wasn’t used to buy the mobile home park and won’t be used in converting it into vacant land.
Robb said the URA is most often used when residents are forced to move such as when “a state highway is expanding a road network and they’re acquiring single-family homes.”
Under the URA, renters in the mobile home park will qualify for such things as relocation, planning and advisory services, and moving expenses for personal belongings. They’ll also qualify for rental assistance up to $7,200 to pay for the difference between rent at the mobile home park and their new housing.
Many residents have concerns about finding affordable housing. Residents who own their mobile homes roughly pay $400 monthly to rent the land on which they sit. The cost for renting units can vary, but most residents say they are affordable. Many of the residents are seniors on fixed incomes or are low-wage workers.
Residents who own and live in their mobile homes qualify for what renters can receive, plus additional assistance. This includes comparable replacement housing, the appraised value for their unit, and replacement housing payments up to $31,000.
What owner-occupants are able to receive is often based on whether their units are moveable. For example, If the units are in a condition to be moved, the URA covers the cost to relocate the unit.
“WRLC’s relocation framework allows residents the option of relocating their unit if it can be moved or to sell their unit to WRLC for the appraised value,” Robb wrote in an email to Signal Cleveland. “The Land Conservancy is committed to remaining as flexible as possible under the URA to meet the housing needs for current residents.”
The URA offers a benefit that WRLC couldn’t offer. By law, any assistance residents receive under the federal regulation isn’t considered income, Robb said. It is considered a non-taxable resource that does not impact whether a person is eligible for public programs such as Medicaid or Social Security. Some residents want to move to subsidized housing or use other income-eligible programs. They wanted assistance that would not render them ineligible.
Resident Anthony Beard said even if it isn’t perfect, he believes URA is the better option because the federal regulation offers specifics of how most residents will benefit.
“When you’re trying to advocate for a group, you have to take the group dynamic into consideration,” he said. “The safest thing to do when you’re dealing with a large group of people is to try to protect the rights of the group instead of deferring to the rights of the individual.”
Euclid Beach Mobile Home park residents lobbied for federal assistance
Soon after residents learned last winter of WRLC’s plans to close the park, they began lobbying to keep the mobile home park open.
Some residents are now lobbying to get a smaller mobile home park built in the area, Beard said.
After WRLC said that the park would definitely close, many residents began focusing on getting the best relocation assistance. Their efforts included lobbying Metroparks officials to ensure that WRLC uses the URA.
Zone said at a residents’ meeting in early August that WRLC officials informed them of the nonprofit’s intention to use the federal guidelines. Some residents spoke at an Aug. 17 Metroparks’ board meeting, urging commissioners to ensure that WRLC uses the URA.
Commissioner Bruce Rinker, who is board president, sought clarity about whether the public agency wanted the nonprofit to use the URA.
“Is it fair to say to the public that from the standpoint of Metroparks, unless and until the conservancy does follow that relocation act, if not to letter certainly in spirit, we’re not interested?” he asked.
Rosalina Fini, the agency’s chief legal and ethics officer, said that that was “the sentiment” Metorparks had conveyed to WRLC and that the nonprofit had looked at it “very favorably.”
In the next few weeks, the URA process officially began when WRLC mailed certified letters to residents, Zone said.