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Trailer Park Residents Face Uncertain Path

Eviction notices served to residents

The clock is ticking on residents of what is commonly referred to as Timm's Trailer Park in White Salmon.

Eviction notices were delivered to all residents of the trailer park at Fifth Street and Jewett Boulevard on April 1.

"They received their notice on April 1, and have one year to move, according to Washington state law," explained Linda Schneider, executive director of Washington Gorge Action Programs.

Hood River-based Smart Development Corp. recently bought the property and is proposing to build a "planned unit development" or "pocket neighborhood" that would feature cottage housing spread over three acres.

"They've taken possession of the land and are going through some legal hoops. They're working with the city to get the planned unit development through," said John Mayo, chair of the White Salmon Planning Commission.

Schneider sponsored a public meeting on May 3 with residents of the trailer park, and invited Donna Regan of Washington's Community, Trade & Economic Development Department (CTED) to attend. Regan passed out "Mobile Home Assistance Program" packets to advise residents what the state can do to help them relocate.

White Salmon Mayor Roger Holen and City Council members Timi Keene and Brad Roberts were also there, along with about 30 people from the trailer court.

CTED offers a reimbursement program to help people in mobile home parks that are being closed. The program helps people pay their relocation costs and/or to demolish their old mobile home.

The state provides payment of up to $7,500 for demolition of a single-wide, and $12,000 for demolition of a double-wide trailer.

"It's the owner's responsibility to demolish or remove it," Schneider said.

However, after hearing more about the CTED reimbursement plan, Schneider said she was discouraged.

"We didn't get any good news at all," Schneider said. "Those who put in for reimbursements in December 2005 are scheduled to get paid in November 2008. That's because so many mobile home parks are closing down."

Schneider pointed out that many of the approximately 40 mobile homes/residential units at Timm's are too old to be moved.

"It makes me even more concerned about what's going to happen to the families," she said.

Schneider added that she planned to ask the state if there is any chance of assistance via a short-term, low interest loan to help families move.

"The sad thing is, a lot of these families are the same families from the blue apartments in Bingen," Schneider said. "One woman told me that when she had to leave Bingen, she bought a trailer because she thought that would mean it would not happen to her again."

Because of a shortage of housing for low-income residents, Schneider said most of those displaced may be forced to leave the area.

"It will be very difficult for them to find affordable housing in this area," she said. "They are working families, and it's going to have a devastating impact on the schools -- there are a lot of kids at Timm's Trailer Park."

David Duncombe, a member of the board of directors of WGAP, said he was gratified there was a community effort to help residents of Timm's.

"I'm really glad to see a public service agency like WGAP is going to take some initiative in this, and also glad the mayor and some of the City Council are involved in figuring out not only the immediate problem of where to move people, but the much longer-term problem of housing in this area," Duncombe said.

Duncombe suggested that the city pass an "affordable housing ordinance."

"It would be good to have a housing authority, where you don't knock down any housing until you know where you're going to move people," Duncombe explained. "I wish we had something in place like that right now."

Schneider pointed out that many of those who are being evicted are Spanish-speaking residents, "but the information from the state was available only in English," she said. "They were very concerned when they heard about the length of time before they could receive assistance."

Schneider urged the White Salmon City Council to require developers to make provisions for low-income housing.

"There's lots of development going on, and unless each developer has to have at least two or three low-income units, we're going to see low income families move out," Schneider explained. "That's a big concern for schools and employers."

City Council member Timi Keene said she believes the city has to take some responsibility for low-income residents, and for those from Timm's in particular.

"The city needs to take a more pro-active role in helping the people living there," Keene said. "The movement of people will dramatically affect the business community and the schools."

For now, Schneider promised her agency would do all it could to help displaced families find a new place to live in the area.

"We'll work with families one on one. We'll provide all the assistance we can," she said.

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