Several families face eviction from Puyallup over plans for new apartment complex

Dozens of families are facing eviction at Meridian Mobile Estates in Puyallup to make room for the development of more than 200 new apartments.

The mobile home park will close in October and construction of the new site is estimated to finish in 2025.

For so many of the families that live at Meridian Mobile Estates, buying a home there was a dream they could afford. Of the 42 homes on the property, 31 are still occupied, because people just don’t know where they can afford to move next. This includes Rigoberto Ruvalcaba, who has lived at Meridian for the last nine years.

It’s where he bought his first home to raise a family in a neighborhood that felt like family.

"Anybody needs help with anything, we’re always right here next to one another for any inconveniences, anything we can help each other out with. But now with having to move out, we’re going to have to lose that. And then moving into a new community where you don’t know anybody, and you have to start all over again," said Ruvalcaba.

By October, every family must move their mobile home or leave the property and find their new start somewhere else. Timberlane Partners, a Seattle-based development company, bought the property from the previous owner to build about 230 apartments.

Ruvalcaba said it was a shock to those who already called the park home.

"I was a bit surprised, scared, because we just had a daughter a year ago. So, it’s like, where am I going to go now?" said Ruvalcaba.

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The City of Puyallup said the homeowners received notice from the developers about the closure in Sep. 2021. Though the families own their mobile homes, they don’t own the land.

"At the end of the day, this is a private land transaction between a buyer and seller. So, as a city we cannot intervene in that; but, we also understand that this is a special situation in that we have a lot of residents that could be displaced by this," said Eric Johnson, the city’s public affairs officer.

To help the families transition to a new home, the city hired two bilingual case managers. 

"We have created a grant program with cash assistance to help these residents, and we’ve also partnered with the state Department of Commerce, who also has their own grant assistance program. And we’ve also partnered with Pierce County Housing Authority who offers Section 8 voucher housing," said Johnson.

Timberlane Partners said it has been actively working to help the homeowners relocate. This includes creating an on-site office and holding 150 individual meetings with the homeowners since Sep. 2021. The company further explained the several steps taken to offer relocation assistance to the residents:

  • Per state law, Washington State provides $17,000 for a doublewide mobile home and $11,000 for a single-wide mobile home to eligible owners.
  • The State of Washington’s Office of Manufactured/Mobile Home Relocation Assistance also recently determined that residents can sell their homes and still receive State relocation assistance.
  • In addition, the company will voluntarily offer each household an additional $5,000 to help with their move, along with the City of Puyallup. This totals an additional $10,000 for each household.
  • Should residents choose to move prior to the move-out deadline of Oct. 1, 2022, the company created a voluntary ‘rent rebate’ that provides a payment equal to their monthly rent for each month they move early. So far, roughly one-third of the 42 total residents have taken advantage of the rebate.
  • If a mobile home is deemed non-movable due to age or condition, the State of Washington provides demolition funding, available at no cost to homeowners.

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Ruvalcaba said he paid around $20,000 for his two-bedroom house and pays over $700 a month to live at the mobile home park. In today’s competitive housing market, Ruvalcaba said he doesn’t know what he can afford to raise his family in next.

"Currently I’m just searching, applying at apartments, at least just to be able to have somewhere to go, so we’re not struggling. That’s probably the bare minimum we can do right now, because everything else is so expensive to actually be able to purchase a home," said Ruvalcaba.