A nonprofit has officially taken over management of a Manassas mobile home park once slated for closure, marking the official end to a two-year saga that left 58 families living on the property wondering if they would lose their homes.
Dumfries-based Catholics for Housing completed its purchase of the East End Mobile Home Park on Jan. 11, closing on a $1.4-million deal to buy the property and keep it open, according to Manassas officials and an attorney for its former owner.
From April 2016 through last October, the city had planned to step in and buy the property, after years of working to convince the owner (a trust controlled by Helen Loretta Clarke) to fix a sewage system that regularly spewed its contents all over the park. The fix would have involved evicting every one of the park’s hundreds of residents, many of whom are Latino and don’t have the money to afford the exorbitant rent prices in the area.
But East End’s residents banded together to block that plan, eventually enticing Catholics for Housing to offer to take over the property and repair the sewer system. The Manassas City Council voted to abandon its plans to buy the park on Oct. 16, 2017, and the charity has been working ever since with Clarke’s representatives to finalize the complex deal.
“We are looking forward to the reconstruction of the sewer and water facilities, which will become part of the city’s municipal system,” Manassas city manager Patrick Pate wrote in a statement. “We hope that under the management of Catholics for Housing we will see the continued revitalization of this neighborhood.”
Representatives for Catholics for Housing didn’t immediately return requests for comment. But Charlie Einsmann, vice president of the group’s governing body, previously said he had hoped to finalize the sale as soon as a few weeks after the city council’s vote.
Those plans didn’t come to fruition, however, as the city continued to press the charity for assurances about how it will maintain the property. The group’s deal with Clarke’s representatives includes a promise for the group to fix the sewer system within the next four months, a hard-won concession to city officials anxious to stop the flow of raw sewage on the property — in all, they expect that process to cost as much as $1.5 million.
But as long as those repairs go off without any problems, the charity would then transfer ownership of the sewer infrastructure to the city.
Because the sewer system was once held by the park’s former owner, the city had to resort to using code enforcement measures to compel action on the matter. When that failed, the city turned to buying the property.
Yet all of those machinations feel very much in the rearview mirror for the park’s residents, who can now rest assured that they won’t be going anywhere.
In fact, Helen Sorto, a woman who has spent the last few years advocating on the residents’ behalf, said the park is already “busy celebrating.”