The Lowry Grove Manufactured Home Park in St. Anthony Village, Minnesota, is something of a rarity. This 95 home community of mostly lower income residents, many of them Latino, is an example of very affordable housing without any public subsidy. It also happens to be located in an affluent inner ring suburb with an excellent school system, just the kind of place where more affordable housing ought to be located. But now Lowry Grove is threatened with closure.
The park owner provided notice to the residents in April 2016 that the park was to be sold and eventually to be closed. The residents then turned to a rarely used state law which enables manufactured home park residents to match the purchase price when their community is being sold, and purchase the park to preserve it. Affordable housing developer Aeon stepped up to rescue the residents, and on the last day, submitted an offer on the residents’ behalf to match the price and buy the park for the residents. Unfortunately, the owner-seller rejected Aeon’s offer, claiming it did not comply with the statute. The seller and buyer then immediately closed on the sale. Aeon and the residents (represented by HJC) then filed suit shortly thereafter challenging the owner’s rejection of their offer. The plaintiffs argue that they still have the right to purchase the park despite defendants’ best efforts to frustrate that right. At issue in the case is how to interpret the very complex and ambiguous Minnesota law that gives the residents the right of first refusal to purchase the park. Both sides are asking the court to interpret the law with a hearing scheduled for Hennepin County District Court for August 26, 2016.
Much is at stake with this ruling, not just for Lowry Grove residents but for residents in many other metro area manufactured home communities, which are often located in suburban markets with strong markets for redevelopment.