Trailers for sale or rent

King of the Road <br>Eleas Moreno Hernandez stands in front of his home, a trailer in a mobile home court on E. 8th Street. The court and its residents my soon have to move to make way for an apartment complex.

King of the Road
Eleas Moreno Hernandez stands in front of his home, a trailer in a mobile home court on E. 8th Street. The court and its residents my soon have to move to make way for an apartment complex.

Photo By Alexis Harmon

Nine years ago, somebody hit Eleasar Moreno Hernandez in the head with a baseball bat. He has been on disability ever since. With his monthly disability payment, he manages to pay the $260 rent at No. 3 1197 East Eighth St.

In the near future, he and other low-income residents on two neighboring parcels in central Chico may be evicted in order to construct a four-building, two-story, 31-unit apartment complex on the site.

The site between Eighth and Ninth streets near Highway 32 currently hosts a crowded, run-down mobile home park. The property, with loud, barking dogs and tiny, dilapidated trailers looks uninviting from the street, but its residents are friendly and make their small, closely situated lots personal and homey despite the limitations.

To Bob Summerville of the city’s Development Review Committee, the Eighth street site and the one next door at 1190 East Ninth St. constitute a “blighted area.” He says the plan proposed by Stone Building Corporation—the one likely to displace current residents—will “clean up” that property.

The proposed 1.5-acre apartment complex is still in planning stages and has yet to be formally submitted to the city.

A preliminary meeting held Oct. 28, though, indicated the project will exceed restrictions for site’s current low-density residential zoning designation under the city’s General Plan, requiring a seldom-allowed zone change.

Merging the two properties and changing the zoning would create what city officials refer to as a “spot zone” of medium- to high-density residential, surrounded by a low-density residential zone in that area. The increase in population density on the property would increase traffic and noise in the area.

The city generally discourages “spot zoning,” but this project may be granted an exception if it includes affordable housing, something the city supports.

Housing is affordable, according to the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD), when a household spends no more than 30 percent of its annual income on housing. Families that spend more than that on rent or a mortgage are considered “cost burdened” and can have trouble affording other necessities like food and clothing.

“In all likelihood it will be [subsidized housing],” said Gregg E. Stone of Stone Building Corporation, the project’s contractor, at the city’s Development Review Committee meeting.

Subsidized housing refers to the use of housing choice vouchers funded by HUD and provided by a local public housing agency to cover the cost of rent when it exceeds 30 percent of a household’s annual income. The Housing Authority of the County of Butte is no longer accepting signups to its waiting list of 1,800 potential Section 8 clients.

After the meeting, Stone declined to answer questions about the project’s affordability or its effect on current residents, saying the project’s current planning stage makes it too early to know what will eventually be built.

Even if the project does become “affordable housing,” though, it is possible that many current residents will not have priority for the new units or could not afford the presumably higher rents.

The current residents of the two properties have not been notified of the plan.

Some newer residents don’t plan to live in the mobile home park permanently. Arturo Hernandez Martinez moved in a month ago when he lost his job and couldn’t afford to pay for his apartment. He now works in construction and plans to rent a mobile home on the site for the next two months to save money, while he is “looking for something else.” He will likely move before eviction notices go up.

But many other residents live here permanently. Many, like Winfred Mason, have nowhere else to go. Mason, a resident of 1197 East Ninth St. for two years, is on a fixed income. He fears that rents will be much higher elsewhere.

“This is the only trailer I own and I can’t move,” he says. “Most of the people here are like that.”

Eleasar Moreno Hernandez is like that. Moreno spent his life “working and working,” but since his head injury and consequent operation, he can’t work or spend time in the sun. He has lived and gardened on his small, shady lot for “seven or eight years.” He, like Mason, will have very few options in the event of an eviction.

“I don’t know where to go,” he says. “I don’t even know where to look.”