By John Ramos

SAN JOSE (KPIX) — Bay Area mobile home parks are affordable, but also highly vulnerable to the soaring price of real estate. That has led some mobile homeowners in the South Bay to mount an effort to take control of their homes into their own hands.

Two years ago, homeowners in the Westwinds mobile home park in San Jose got a letter from park management saying the property owners were giving “no lease extensions,” possibly “displacing over 720 households and over 1,600 residents.”

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“We were alarmed,” said homeowner Patrick Grimes. “We said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do something to preserve our park.'”

“This is the last thing you would want to do, to take this out of our inventory. Because we don’t have enough affordable housing at all” said homeowner Jim Canova.

Mobile homeowners are in a tough spot since they own a home but not the land under it. Moving out would mean moving the house as well. So Grimes and a group of residents formed a homeowners group called the Westwinds Residents Organization.

The group petitioned City Hall and in March 2020, they won. By unanimous vote, the City Council voted to create mobile home-only zoning, not just for Westwinds, but for every mobile home park in town.

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“What we’re looking for is the security of knowing that our homes are not going to be sold out from underneath us,” said Grimes.

But knowing that the city’s protection could one day be reversed, the Westwinds homeowners are now working to form a co-op that would buy the park, making the residents co-owners of the land itself.

Paul Bradley heads up a non-profit called Resident Owned Communities USA that helps mobile homeowners form co-ops.

“When the homeowners step up and purchase the community, they are removing this property from the speculative real estate market and removing the profit motive from the operation of the community,” said Bradley.

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The Westwinds co-op effort has a long way to go as far as building its membership and attracting investors. But they hope one day that the place they call home will be something that no one can take away from them.