March 26, 2020
About the project
The City of Apache Junction (the City) has over one hundred mobile home and recreational vehicle parks and subdivisions within its city limits. Many of these parks were built in the 1950s, before the city was officially incorporated, and thus pre-date city code. As a result, many of the parks are now relatively outdated, and in some cases, have significant code violations that pose a safety and health risk to residents. Although the parks are an affordable option for low-income residents, they can be perceived as detrimental to the city’s image, as conditions and amenities can vary significantly from one place to another. Arizona State University’s master capstone student, Maggie Dellow, saw the need to establish a clear path forward for the out-of-code parks, without reducing affordable housing stock in the city. Her recommendations included solutions to define minimum standards and processes that would both allow for economic redevelopment and prevent low-income residents from losing access to housing. The work was recognized by the Arizona Planning Association for Arizona's Best Student Project Award, 2019. The work also received fourth place in the nation for Best Student Project, 2019 at the American Planning Association.
Capstone projects and the Project Cities model
Project Cities’ mission is to assist our community partners with the advancement of sustainability initiatives. Capstone projects (typically a culminating applied projectat the end of an educational program) represent a fantastic opportunity to apply the Project Cities model to enhance engagement between students and local communities. The win-win partnership benefits both the communities’ sustainability goals and the students’ educational experience. Project Cities’ staff support logistics and communication, and inject additional resources into the project, to facilitate success. Through this collaborative effort, Project Cities staff can free up the student’s attention to focus on a more in-depth analysis and providing higher quality final deliverables to the city.
About the summary report
With this project, the City sought to confront the issue of park nonconformance and poor housing quality that affects health and safety by focusing on preservation, improvement, and redevelopment of appropriate units. The report analyzes the issues that correlate to aging and noncompliant mobile home parks. It presents recommendations that satisfy Apache Junction’s goal to bring parks into conformance while keeping housing affordable.
Dellow conducted a literature review to collect information about the socioeconomic challenges for mobile home residents and case studies of solutions from around the nation. She then conducted a needs assessment that included surveys about park conditions; a geographic analysis using the US Census Bureau and Walk Score in order to assess the surrounding area and accessibility to services; and a demographic analysis that established statistical and socio-economic trends in data when compared to other properties in the area. Through the needs assessment, Dellow was able to identify a typology of park needs and rank the highest priority issues.
Interviews were also conducted with RV park owners and professionals in the housing development sector. One set of findings focused on the need for affordable housing stock in Apache and the opportunity of both rental and ownership. The second set of results focused on the challenges associated with developing affordable housing. Some problems include: the subsidization of developments, keeping costs low, and the problematic methods that builders pursue to create alternative housing types.
Key recommendations from the report
• Develop a strategy for preserving, improving and promoting redevelopment
• Support and invest in mobile home park and RV park owners
• Be proactive in attracting and incentivizing developers to pursue affordable and market-rate housing development in the city
• Create an affordable housing development overlay district
• Create an action protocol for mobile home and RV parks available for sale