While the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage and California’s housing shortage crisis fuels chronic homelessness throughout the state, 18 Coachella Valley families caught a much-needed break this week.
The families, many of whom work in the agriculture and the service industries, received the keys for their newly constructed homes in the Mountain View Estates mobile home park in Oasis, an agricultural community in the eastern Coachella Valley.
The homes are among about 110 that Desert Empire Homes, based in Thermal, are adding to the Mountain View Estates, which will have about 400 units when construction is finished this summer.
On Saturday, Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chairman V. Manuel Perez, who represents the Coachella Valley, toured the mobile home park as several of the families moved into their new units.
“What a way to start the New Year,” Perez said with a smile, adding that this day had been “a long time coming.”
Perez said the new homes are essential for families who previously had to live in the area’s “substandard or dilapidated mobile homes and unpermitted mobile home parks lacking basic infrastructure.”
“This is a major victory and it is life changing for farmworker and service worker families to be able to move from unsafe conditions into a beautiful mobile home and have decent housing and a better quality of life,” said Perez. “Dilapidated and substandard housing conditions has been an issue for many years in the eastern Coachella Valley. Today is a bright spot in our county’s efforts and partnerships towards developing quality, affordable and safe housing.”
Area residents have indeed struggled to find affordable and safe housing, one beleaguered park is just 2½ miles from the Mountain Development. The Desert Sun reported in September that the Oasis Mobile Home Park was notified it had dangerous levels of arsenic in its drinking water. The EPA has since stepped in to provide bottled water for residents and now requires the park’s management to fix the problem.
Javier Reynoso moved into his unit on Friday. He works as a landscaper and previously lived a short distance away. Over the summer the unpermitted mobile home park he had been living in blew an electrical breaker and his unit, among many others, lost power.
As the summer heat reached a sweltering 120 degrees, he was among some of the park’s residents who were able to secure county housing until the opportunity at Mountain View became available.
When asked through a translator what his favorite part of the new unit was, he responded with a smile: “The whole thing.”
“There’s more room for the kids and we’re getting to know the neighbors pretty quickly,” Reynoso said. “It’s beautiful and I’m happy with it.”
The homes were constructed with funding provided, in part, by the state and federal government, which was made available for housing insecurity during the coronavirus pandemic. The county received $10.5 million from the state’s Project Homekey to use for housing projects, but the money needed to be spent by the end of 2020.
Riverside County Department of Housing Director Heidi Marshall was also at the mobile home park on Saturday while families were moving in.
When a previous plan to use $8.5 million in Project Homekey money to develop 81 affordable housing units in Palm Springs fell apart in December, Marshall helped Perez develop the plan to divert some of the funds to provide the Mountain View units for these families — an effort Perez said was made possible by the support of the other supervisors who voted for it unanimously on Dec. 15.
Liliana Ibarra said her two daughters and two sons hardly slept Friday night because they were so excited to move in Saturday morning. Usually getting them up early for school is a struggle, Ibarra said, but this morning they were up nearly before she was.
When she got the keys to her family’s unit, the kids rushed in to pick their rooms. By noon her two daughters were napping inside after spending the morning unpacking and organizing their things. One of her sons rode his bike up and down his new street.
“It’s marvelous,” Ibarra said of her family’s new unit. “And it’s such a drastic change for us, it’s hard to believe it’s real.”
This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: Coachella Valley families get keys to new mobile homes at Oasis Mountain View Estates