A former resident of the Midfield Mobile Home Park says many of her former neighbours have been struggling to find a place to live following the city’s decision to shut down the park in northeast Calgary, despite the mayor’s assurances that ongoing help has been on offer.
“We were told we didn’t have to worry, our equity would be safe, we would be able to keep our homes,” Debby Kok said.
“Then, unexpectedly, in May of 2014, people woke up to eviction notices on their doors.”
The city-owned Midfield park is slated to close at the end of September because of aging infrastructure, which the city says has become increasingly costly. Residents are being offered a maximum of $10,000 in compensation and additional compensation associated with moving.
LISTEN: Residents of Midfield Mobile Home Park on the struggles they’ve faced after learning of the parks impending closure
READ MORE: City to close Midfield Mobile Home Park
“There’s a lot of people who have mortgages,” Kok said. “If you have a mortgage – say a $40,000 mortgage – the entire $10,000 isn’t going to help you pay that mortgage off. You can’t get another mortgage for another place without paying off the existing one. The banks aren’t going to give that to you.”
She added in many cases, compensation from the city would amount to much less. Potentially only $3,000 or $4,000. She said that’s in cases where the city has had to hire someone to clean up the land after it’s been vacated by the former owner, or where moving costs have exceeded the amount allotted by the municipality.
The city had originally planned to build another mobile home park at East Hills Estates, but later decided to forego that plan while still closing down the long-established Midfield park.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said on Tuesday that some residents have not been “particularly interested” in receiving help from the city.
“We’ve had someone on site every week to work individually one on one with people to help them find accommodation that works for them. And well over 80 per cent of people have already found accommodation; more will find it over the next six weeks or so.
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Kok said residents have had to leave the city, with some moving to British Columbia or Saskatchewan and others heading to High River or Okotoks.
“You can’t get a plot in the city for your mobile home because the existing parks are full. If there is any land that does come up in those parks, there’s generally a list of people who are waiting to get in.”
Kok, who was a resident of Midfield park for 13 years, said she was able to sell her mobile home and used that money to pay off her mortgage. There was a little left over, she said, but not enough to buy a new home. She’s now renting.
“At this point in our life, where we were expected to be able to retire and live quietly in our own home and age dignified, and age in place in our own home, we are now renting an apartment.”
With the election looming, a mayoral candidate and other candidates for ward councillors have expressed similar outrage.
“Just imagine doing this to Inglewood: ‘OK, you know what, your houses are little war-time houses. You know what, we’re done. We’re just going to evict you because we’re going to build high-density housing there,’” Ward 9 council candidate Cheryl Link said. “This is what we’re doing to these people. There are giant mature trees there. People have raised their children there. It’s a neighbourhood.
“We are better as a city than this.”
Bill Smith, a candidate for mayor, said he agrees with the decision to close Midfield park but suggested the city made a promise to residents that they didn’t fulfill.
“They just left these guys hanging. I don’t think this is how you should treat people.”