Residents of Moab-owned trailer court are facing eviction

Insurance carrier drops coverage; city to meet with residents April 26.

(Doug McMurdo | Moab Times-Independent) For nearly six years, residents at the Walnut Lane trailer court have waited for the city to build affordable housing. On Monday, April 15, 2024, they learned they will have to vacate their homes, or move them if they own them, in the coming weeks.

Note: This report has been updated to reflect comments from Rhiana Medina of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center.

When the Moab City Council purchased for $2 million a Walnut Lane trailer court in 2018 in order to build affordable housing, one of the primary goals was to not displace the residents that inhabited the collection of aged singlewide trailers until the first phase was completed.

For nearly six years, residents at the Walnut Lane trailer court have waited for the city to build affordable housing. On Monday, they learned they will have to vacate their homes, or move them if they own them, in the coming weeks.

After nearly six years of stagnation, those residents have been informed their leases with the city will terminate because the city’s insurer, Utah Local Governments Trust, will no longer cover the property as of June 30. Some residents own their trailers; most rent from the city.

With the exception of barking dogs, Walnut Lane was quiet Wednesday morning, April 17. Most people seemed to be at work. One resident was clearing weeds from his yard.

“They don’t have nowhere to go,” said Raethan Tyler, who moved to Moab from Shiprock, New Mexico about nine months ago. His in-laws own the trailer, but they don’t have the means to relocate. “It sucks, man.”

There are roughly 25 trailers occupied at Walnut Lane, according to City of Moab spokesperson Lisa Church. A letter signed by acting City Manager David Everitt was provided to tenants on Monday, April 15.

An apologetic Everitt invited them, in Spanish and English, to attend a meeting that will be held twice, at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Grand Center. The letter states tenants will have their questions answered and the city will “provide you with additional details about the steps that will follow, and provide information regarding resources that may be available to help you with this unfortunate but necessary transition.”

Everitt in his letter explained the position of the insurance carrier as the impetus behind the termination of leases. “The main reason is, [Utah Local Government Trust] was never intended to be a long-term carrier,” he told The Times-Independent. “It was supposed to be bridge coverage while the city developed the project.”

Everitt noted the city’s efforts to collaborate with a developer have fallen through on at least two occasions, most recently when a Park City developer was engaged to build Walnut Lane. He also said the age and condition of the trailers on site might have played a role in the carrier’s decision. “I imagine that was a significant factor,” he said. “They don’t typically insure these types of things.”

Everitt said rumors that the city has either hired a developer or plans to sell the property to a developer are false. “There is no project with a developer,” he said. “I want to emphasize this. The city is at square one and we don’t know what the future use of this land will be.”

In his letter to tenants, Everitt said the city had no other choice.

“We have explored every possible option, but unfortunately, the loss of insurance coverage creates unacceptable risks for both Walnut Lane residents and the city,” wrote Everitt. “After reviewing all these considerations, the City of Moab has concluded that we can no longer continue this arrangement and must end your month-to-month rental agreement. We realize this situation is challenging, and we sincerely regret the difficulty of these circumstances.”

Rhiana Medina, executive director of the Moab Valley Multicultural Center, said in an email that she hopes to collaborate with others to find compassionate solutions.

“The Moab Valley Multicultural Center acknowledges the complexities surrounding the city’s decision to displace trailer park tenants living on Walnut Lane by July 1,” wrote Medina. “We are deeply saddened by the time constraints facing the occupants for rehousing, especially given the affordable housing inventory crisis in Moab. MVMC is committed to fostering constructive dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders to achieve compassionate solutions that uphold the dignity of our community members.”

Moab Valley Multicultural Center’s housing and homelessness services include, among other offerings, case management, application assistance, mail services, food pantry, advocacy and professional Spanish-English language interpretation. Call 435-259-5444 or visit www.moabmc.org for more information.

This story was first published by The Times-Independent.