Friendly Village mobile home park will remain both a park and affordable for its residents following King County Housing Authority’s recent purchase of the community.
The age 55-plus, 40-acre park at 18425 N.E. 95th St. in Redmond was put on the market several months back, before the Housing Authority purchased it.
The Housing Authority took over operations of the park on Nov. 1
Rhonda Rosenberg is the director of communications for the Housing Authority, and said the prior owners wanted to preserve the property as a mobile home park.
“What we’re really delighted about is that they wanted to maintain it as a mobile home park for the people that were there instead of selling to a private developer,” she said.
The Housing Authority paid $25 million for the park, which consists of 224 mobile home pads, putting the price of each pad at roughly $111,000.
Residents own their homes, but pay on average only $782 a month for a space in the park. That’s far lower than rent elsewhere in Redmond and Puget Sound.
Rosenberg said if a private developer had bought it, even one that would keep it as a park, rent prices would have likely ballooned. This presents a problem for the seniors who live there, many of whom are on fixed incomes.
“We don’t have a profit motive, like a for-profit private developer,” Rosenberg said.
Long-time resident of the park Arthur Ingalls echoed those thoughts.
Ingalls has lived in the park for close to two decades, and was spending a sunny morning earlier this week clearing leaves from his walkways.
Many of his neighbors are on fixed incomes, he said. If they had been evicted, many wouldn’t have had a place to go and local authorities would have a major housing problem.
“They’d have two or three hundred senior citizens on their hands,” Ingalls said.
Because the former owners wanted to keep the property as a park, Ingalls said he wasn’t too worried when he heard it was up for sale, but was worried that a new owner would begin hiking up rates.
Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was cautiously optimistic about the Housing Authority buying the park.
Nancy Fudge, manager for the park, said operations will continue as usual.
“It’s been here a long time, and when it first came up for sale, a lot of people were very upset because they were afraid a developer was going to come in and get rid of them,” she said.
The Marcus family, which had owned the park, was specific they wanted it preserved, Fudge said.
At one point, there was private interest in the park, Rosenberg said.
The residents of the Friendly Village park are luckier than those of the former Firwood Mobile Park in Kirkland.
Firwood was located in a prime location in Juanita. It was bought in 2015 by a private developer, which ripped out the affordable housing and replaced it with around 20 high-end homes.
The residents of Firwood were forced to relocate, and many of them couldn’t move their homes due to safety concerns surrounding relocating old structures.
Rosenberg said mobile home parks, which provide relatively cheap housing for many low-and-fixed income earners, are disappearing as market pressures lead owners to sell and developers to create expensive houses, condos or apartments.
“These people would probably otherwise be homeless,” Rosenberg said of the residents of Friendly Village had it been destroyed for development.
The Housing Authority took out a line of credit to finance the purchase of Friendly Village and in 2019 it will be pooled with other parks to be refinanced into a single rate, tax-exempt bond.