Mountaire, mobile home residents clash over evictions

BY CASEY MANN, News + Record Staff
Posted 1/3/19

Residents of the former Johnson Mobile Home Park in Siler City clashed in 2018 with Mountaire over eviction notices they received because of the development and expansion of the company’s …

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Mountaire, mobile home residents clash over evictions

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Posted

Residents of the former Johnson Mobile Home Park in Siler City clashed in 2018 with Mountaire over eviction notices they received because of the development and expansion of the company’s poultry processing plant.

In March, residents of the mobile home park, in conjunction with the Hispanic Liaison’s office, held a press conference and spoke with the Siler City Board of Commissioners seeking assistance.

In November 2017, the property that housed Johnson’s Mobile Home Park was purchased by Mountaire to make way for a staging area for the plant. Soon after the purchase, residents received notice that their leases would not be extended past May 7.

More than 100 residents lived in 28 homes at Johnson’s Mobile Home Park. Many of the residents, though they owned their homes, did not own the land on which they stood. To make matters worse, most of the homes were built in the 1970’s and did not carry a certification from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development and therefore could not be moved.

The residents, through the Hispanic Liaison, began negotiations with Mountaire to discuss a compensation package. At the time, the Executive Director of The Hispanic Liaison, Ilana Dubester, said that the homes were purchased for about $4,000 each. Because of the condition of the older homes, many residents invested about $6,000 to renovate them.

According to a letter from The Hispanic Liaison to Mountaire in January, the residents were asking for the company to stop collecting rent during the transition period and pay the amount of $46,000 per mobile home for replacement costs, moving expenses, and fees associated with moving into a new place.

According to Mark Reif, Community Relations Director for North Carolina for Mountaire, at the time the company had agreed to allow the residents to live there five months rent-free. In addition, the company offered to provide $5,000 per unit in relocation assistance and extended the deadline to relocate to June 30.

The residents returned with an offer asking for $8,300 plus rent abatement from Mountaire.

In March, the residents brought their plight to the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. At that discussion, Reif responded that the company would be willing to extend the eviction deadline to July 31 if all residents agreed to relocate by that date. The board asked the county manager to work with the residents and Mountaire to see if a deal could be reached.

Late in March, the two groups reached a deal. Mountaire agreed to pay each resident $8,300. In addition, the company, which had not asked for rent since acquiring the property, agreed to a July 31 relocation date.

The company, which paid the residents in installments, eventually paid residents around $232,000 in relocation costs. The first $2,500 would be received after release agreements were signed May 15. The second $2,500 would be received after the family vacated the land. And the final $3,300 would be received once all 28 residents had moved out.

According to estimates, between the payments and the rent abatement, each resident received approximately $10,200 per unit.

In June, 11 families had abandoned their mobile homes at the Johnson Mobile Home Park and moved out as part of a settlement between the residents of the community and Mountaire.

As the eight remaining families searched for either a location to transport their mobile home or another rental property, Dubester complained that many of the residents had not received their checks. The problem around the delay was rooted in requirements for additional paperwork and signatures from all adults living in the home.

After further negotiations and efforts by the Hispanic Liaison, the families met for a final meal at the end of June. After the meal, residents shared words of gratitude for their neighbors, for the help they received from The Hispanic Liaison, and for the outpouring of support from local leaders and the larger community.

In August, all the residents from the Johnson Mobile Home Park had moved out and received their final compensation checks from Mountaire.

The final payments were issued to 28 families that were forced to leave their homes when the land their mobile homes stood on were purchased to make way for an expansion of the Mountaire poultry processing plant in Siler City.

Twenty-one families were able to find a place to live in Chatham County while seven moved to Randolph County. Three families moved their mobile homes, seven purchased used mobile homes, one purchased a home, and 17 are renting houses or mobile homes.

“We are incredibly thankful for the community support for the residents’ cause, in particular, the attorneys from the NC Justice Center who worked very hard on our behalf,” Dubester said. “We are grateful to Mark Reif, Community Relations Manager for Mountaire Farms, who was kind and respectful throughout the entire negotiation process. It is a great relief that the families found places to live and to have this crisis behind us."

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