Residents of the Palo Mobile Estates mobile home park in East Palo Alto may have the opportunity this summer to purchase the lots they are currently renting.

The City of East Palo Alto plans to help them do so.

The City Council last week voted to loan $2 million from its affordable housing fund to help residents, who are mostly low-income, purchase their lot and stay housed at the park.

Palo Mobile Estates Associates, which currently owns the park located at 1885 East Bayshore Road, is in the process of applying for a subdivision, which means turning the park into independent sellable units. This means that residents occupying spots at the park can choose to purchase their lot.

However, the lots could be valued at $260,000 for individual lots to $325,000 for double-wide lots, according to a staff report. A resident survey showed that most residents are interested in purchasing their lot but would require financial assistance, about $100,000 per family, to do so.

The City Council’s $2 million loan would go to two community housing organizations: East Palo Alto Community Alliance and Neighborhood Development Organization (EPACANDO) and Preserving Affordable Housing Assets Longterm, Inc. (PAHALI).

EPACANDO is a nonprofit affordable housing developer and PAHALI is a community land trust. Both organizations will use the funding to help residents successfully purchase their lots.

A way to attract more assistance

Assistant City Manager Patrick Heisinger said the $2 million loan will help leverage other funding to help more families.

“Funders really want to see a commitment from the city to know that folks are at the table and ready to help,” Heisinger said. “If we can get more funders at the table, we could help either provide more assistance to bring their housing cost ratio down or help more households.”

Heisinger also said there is a pressing timeline to help residents, as they would have to submit an offer to purchase their lot by early August and would then have 60 days to complete the sale.

“For many of the residents out there, that can be a pretty intimidating process,” Heisinger said, adding that it would require a lot of case management.

“I’m hoping very much that EPACANDO and this city can go out and turn that $2 million into $19 million.”

Mayor Carlos Romero

Before funds can be given out, city staff will prepare a grant agreement indicating how EPACANDO and PAHALI will identify families for assistance and spend the money. Heisinger said they plan to return with a full grant agreement in July.

Mayor Carlos Romero said that he plans to scrutinize the grant agreement and looks forward to securing other funding.

“I’m hoping very much that EPACANDO and this city can go out and turn that $2 million into $19 million,” Romero said. The ”$2 million is good faith money from the city. It’s significant. It’s not our largest investment. We’ve made much larger housing investments than this but it is pretty significant in terms of jumpstarting this engine.”

On Tuesday night, the City Council also voted to monitor several homeless camps that have been reported in recent months, such as at Bell Street Park, where there are 11 to 13 people experiencing homelessness.

Instead of creating a “sanctioned” encampment — which is a designated area for homeless people to stay overnight — the city plans to monitor the encampments and provide mobile bathrooms, handwashing facilities and trash pick-up services.

The city also plans to work with the county to help people at the camps access hotel or motel rooms for shelter. These are rooms that have been converted to interim housing during the COVID-19 pandemic through the state’s Project Roomkey and Project Homekey initiatives.

More information on Tuesday’s meeting can be found on the city’s website.