In The Mix

[Oak Leaf Revitalization (Before)]

[Oak Leaf Revitalization (After)]

PORTLAND - There are some 62,000 manufactured homes located in just over 1,000 parks across Oregon. That's four percent of the state's housing stock, Oregon Housing and Community Services ( reported in 2017.

Residents of those homes are more likely to own their units than residents of other types of housing, but often don't own the land on which the unit's sited. From 2001 to 2015, 104 parks closed in Oregon displacing an estimated 6,800 people and eliminating 4,000 spaces.

In January 2016 residents of the Oak Leaf Mobile Home Park in the Cully neighborhood of Portland heard they might be next. The then owner had decided to sell the park to a developer who, in turn, planned to demolish not restore the "dilapidated" and "dangerous" park which, St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County's Terry McDonald told Oregon Public Broadcasting ( showed "all the signs of benign, sometimes not so benign neglect. Resident Victor Johanson told KGW-TV ( that "if you tried to pull this out and move it, "everything would fall apart."

Distressed as the Park was, residents resolved to fight the sale. On a limited income "I had no place, absolutely no place to go," said Johanson. "I would have been on the street."

They reached-out to Legal Aid, the nearby St. Charles Catholic Church and Living Cully, ( a coalition of non-profit community development organizations. "It was a small movement from a small community that decided to stand together," explained Living Cully's Mayra Torres. "Spreading out the word to make sure everybody knew this was going on."

By November, that "small movement" jam-packed a meeting at City Hall where the Council authorized the Portland Housing Bureau to issuance bridge loan to enable Living Cully to buy and "own the park as an interim measure, until federal funds" in the form of a CDBG-backed Section 108 "are available for St. Vincent de Paul" - which has acquired and preserve six similarly-distressed parks in and around Eugene - "to buy it from us". The Park's owner agreed to the sale. Residents, said Living Cully, were "breathing a sigh of relief."

The price-tag to acquire and renovate what's now called Oak Leaf Park is expected to be $5.2 million. The Housing Bureau allocated $3.2 million in HUD Community Development Grant funds to the project with additional funding and assistance from Multnomah County, Oregon Housing and Community Services, CASA of Oregon, the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, VEDE, the Energy Trust of Oregon and, obviously, Living Cully and St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County.

Restoration's nearly done. In July its temporarily-relocated residents returned for a welcome home party to celebrate its upgraded water and sewer lines and completion of the first 11 of 22 energy-efficient new manufactured homes to replace the "dilapidated" and "dangerous" units some of which, Johanson told KGW, had first been occupied back when The Beatles were still a band.

It was, said Living Cully, is "a victory for the current residents" and, said City Commissioner Dan Salzman, "a major milestone" as the city's "first mobile home park preservation project."

It likely won't be the last. There are more than 50 parks similar to Oak Leaf within the city limits, providing some 3,000 spaces for affordable, manufactured housing, Willamette Week ( has estimated. When the City Council okayed a bridge loan to Living Cully, it also adopted zoning changes to protect and preserve other parks from being developed for more lucrative uses.

For good reason. "There are real human beings living in those parks and they often have very limited incomes and options," St. Vincent de Paul's McDonald told OPB in 2016. Such parks "are affordable housing that often is not considered in the mix of our conversations," added then-Commissioner Salzman. "But we need to consider them as well." Thanks to the efforts of "a small movement in a small community," nowadays in Portland they are most certainly front and center "in the mix."


Content Archived: February 1, 2021