AUSTIN, Texas - Roberto Sanchez and Gabby Garcia have hung up a banner reading "We Own It!" outside the front office of the North Lamar Community Mobile Home Park.
Sanchez has lived in the neighborhood for 20 years and in those 20 years, he’s seen wrongful evictions, rent hikes, and poor street and utility maintenance. Sanchez said for all those reasons, neighbors came together to work with nonprofits and legal aid to speak out against the park owners.
In 2015, the neighborhood created the “Asociación de Residentes North Lamar” ARNL or North Lamar Residents Association after the park was purchased by a large venture property firm.
Garcia, a tenant organizer with BASTA, said the owners were raising rent by more than 50% pushing longtime residents out of the community. Maintenance became a problem during the summer when a gas line was punctured and the dumpsters began to overflow.
Relief came in January when residents learned the land in which their homes stand on was for sale. The neighborhood association worked with various lenders, including the City of Austin who gave the community $2.5 million in loans from the housing bond to help families buy the land.
The pandemic did not slow this neighborhood down, by Saturday the North Lamar mobile home park celebrated the purchase of their land with a car parade.
“All of their hard work came to bear fruit. They are very excited and they are hoping that basically all of the problems that they have been struggling with are in their control now and they can make those changes,” said Garcia. “They are going to use this opportunity to invest into the community the way that it should be.”
Beaming with pride, Sanchez said the community is working on purchasing new street lights and repaving roads. He hopes his neighborhood triumph will inspire other working-class neighborhoods to come to unite and fight for affordable housing.