When RoNisha Rogers and her family moved into the Heart Village Mobile Home Park about two years ago, she was encouraged their rent-to-own program would help her become a homeowner in a relatively short time.
“I want to own my own home – I have too many kids to continue renting,” said the mother of seven. “That’s what I thought I was doing here, that I was going to pay this trailer off and move it somewhere else on a plot of land.”
But since Heart Village Mobile Home Park, located at 7000 E. 40 Highway, sold their land to Jackson County to build a new jail, Rogers’ dreams of owning her own home might be put on hold again.
“So now, it just changes what I was trying to do, because I don’t have the money to try and start over again,” Rogers said, adding that many of the renters were left in the dark about the decision until July.
After searching for a new site to replace the overcrowded and outdated 40-year-old jail since 2017, in July, Jackson County bought the 107-acre mobile home park for $7 million. They settled on the Heart Village location because it’s on the bus route and has easy access to highways for transporting inmates to courthouses.
The new jail will cost more than $200 million and is estimated to be complete in 2024. Construction will begin next spring.
County officials plan to take control of the mobile home park in mid-August and hope to have all 100 residents moved out in the next six months.
In a town hall forum after Jackson County bought the property, County Administrator Troy Schulte told the residents they would receive $5,000 for relocation costs, but tenants like Rogers say it’s not enough and they are demanding much more.
“The county failed to make any real attempt to engage us until the town hall forum,” shared residents from Heart Village in a written statement. “We were told that they would provide meager rental assistance to compensate for our trouble. That is not good enough.”
Now, the residents are demanding Jackson County Executive Frank White, Schulte and county legislators meet with residents again, before the end of August, to discuss another plan for restitution.
The residents are demanding the county give each household a cash payment of at least $10,000, cancel rent, compensate residents for the full cost of their trailers if they cannot be moved, compensate residents in rent-to-own agreements and pay the full cost of moving trailers.
“I feel like the decision is already made and at this point, I just want our demands to be met,” Rogers said. “I want for them to take the time out to actually listen to us.”
“It’s kind of hard to just up and leave. It was already hard enough finding this place and rental prices are skyrocketing,” Rogers said. “I feel targeted and this specific targeting of impoverished residences has been happening long before this.”
Rogers believes the city needs a new jail, but she also believes there are other places for the jail that would not displace residents, especially low-income residents.
Jackson County officials said they will keep in touch with the residents to make sure their move is successful. A report will be released to the county legislature to show how they were able to help the residents once everyone is moved out.