The owners of the Houston Trailer Park want the property rezoned but council is refusing. (Houston Today photo)

Trailer court owners seek rezoning

They cite the need for affordable housing

The owners of the Houston Trailer Park say they’ve asked the provincial Ombudsperson to intervene in a dispute with the District of Houston over how the land on which the development sits should be used.

Two months ago the District council rejected a bid to rezone the two pieces of property on which the park is located to a zone specifically for a park for manufactured homes.

One property is now zoned as ‘core commercial’ and the other piece as ‘multi family residential’.

Rezoning would have matched the properties with the right zone of how they are being used now but would have gone against the District’s intention within its official community plan of how the properties should actually be developed.

One of the park’s principals appealed to council at its April 20 meeting to reconsider the decision but has yet to hear back.

“We’re disappointed,” said Arvind Patel, who spoke as a delegation regarding council’s original decision, following the April 20 meeting.

He said he and two business partners believe the property should be rezoned to bring its existing use into conformity so that they could properly add to the inventory of manufactured homes.

“Houston needs more affordable housing,” said Patel in citing the need to add to and modernize the District’s existing housing supply.

He said he and his partners own other housing stock in Houston and know full well the challenges of finding affordable housing in good condition.

“On Facebook you will see people talk about the rents,” Patel added.

Houston, he said, offered investors a stable market in which to provide affordable housing options to renters.

Through a series of email and other exchanges from last fall, District staffers suggested he and his two business partners could apply for the rezoning to allow for a manufactured home park but did note that the official community plan indicated the properties should have other uses.

The application was made earlier this year with the owners citing the long-standing use of the properties as a mobile home park despite that use not fitting zoning.

“[The properties] were always a mobile home park. Since the incorporation [of the District] in 1957 or perhaps even longer no structures or businesses have ever taken place which conforms to the current C1 zoning,” one portion of the rezoning application reads.

Council considered the application at its March 16 meeting but dismissed it without moving to a bylaw preparation stage, something which could have lead to a public hearing on the matter.

A memo prepared for council by District chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck and presented March 16 did indicate that a 2019 District housing needs assessment “appears to lend support towards the application.”

“Manufactured homes offer a relatively affordable method of housing in comparison to single detached dwellings and other structures while also increasing population density due to setback requirements.”

But Pinchbeck noted the District had a “long-standing land use objective to increase the availability of commercial property through the phasing out of non-commercial uses.”

In this situation, that would be keeping one property as commercial and the other as multi-family residential as laid out in the District’s official community plan.

As such, Pinchbeck recommended against preparing bylaws.

Patel said the disappointment of himself and his partners extends to not hearing more from council following his appearance at the April 20 meeting.

He said he and his partners had also been relying on communications between the District and the park’s former owners as to what would be allowed given the District’s knowledge of its non-conforming use.

“Everything the District has asked, we have done,” said Patel.

It’s not yet known when council might respond to Patel’s appeal for reconsideration or when the Ombudsperson will respond to the complaint filed by himself and his partners.

That appeal extends to waiving two fines levied by the District. The District says two manufactured homes were moved to the location without a permit in March.

Another one of the partners, Supun Sigera, said he, Patel and the other partner could make use of the multi-family residential zoning of one of the properties and build a residential complex although the financial viability of such a project would need to be examined closely.

“But would that be affordable. There’s an affordable housing crisis here. What would happen if we went ahead to the people who live there now. They would have to move [to allow for construction] and where would they go and could they afford that,” he said.

Another alternative would be to take the money the partners had wanted to invest and use it in another community.

“But we don’t want to go down that route,” said Sigera.