Where do they expect us to go?
It’s a question Alex Monroy ponders as he looks at the playground toys scattered around the lawn in front of his trailer. His family has been residents of Leesburg Mobile Park for more than 20 years. Now, it’s just he and his wife living there after raising their now-grown children just outside of downtown Leesburg. They keep the playground toys for their grandchildren, who visit often from Ashburn.
But the future is uncertain this balmy August Monday, as Monroy holds in his hand a letter sent to residents of the mobile home park, 86 lots in total, that tells them an offer has been made to purchase the property—for a whopping $11 million, perhaps indicative of the property’s desirable location just outside the historic district. To comply with state code requirements, the letter also states that the mobile home park owner can and must consider any counteroffer from a group or entity representing at least 25% of the tenants with a valid lease in the park. However, according to the letter, the property owner intends to accept the $11 million offer, although a sale is not expected to close until closer to the end of the year, according to property manager Carol Konkel.
“How are we going to do that?” Monroy openly questions the notion of counteroffering. “Most of the residents here are low income.”
Many of the residents, like Monroy, have called Leesburg Mobile Park home for many years.
José M. Turcios, speaking through an interpreter, New Virginia Majority organizer Vanessa Prudencio, said he’s lived there more than 10 years, and has no idea where he’d go if the park closed, since rent is too expensive everywhere else. And, he said, it isn’t the best time to be kicking people out of their homes—with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, many people have seen their work hours cut back.
Maria Andino moved to the neighborhood in 2005 and raised both of her children there. They’ve expanded onto their trailer over the years. If they were forced to move, her son Jason Tobara said, they could use the money they have saved up to put down a deposit on an apartment. Others might not be so fortunate, he said.
“This feels like home to me,” their neighbor Linda Huffman said. If the property were sold, “I don’t have the faintest idea of where I would go.”
The location of the mobile home community is ideal for the five-year resident. Huffman’s adult son can walk to work, and living in the HUBZone is necessary for Huffman to continue at her job. She pays $550 monthly to rent her trailer and lot, and acknowledges that little, if anything, can be found in Loudoun County for that amount.
All of the neighbors surveyed had eagerly signed on to a petition put together by Monroy in an effort to unite the community, and call for a fair shot in their own future and, most of all, a desire to stay in their homes. While no communication has been made to residents that they will be asked to, or forced to, move, there was palpable worry in the air as residents confronted the fear of the unknown.
Acknowledging that fear and feeling of helplessness, the community reached out to the New Virginia Majority, an organization representing the rights of working class and marginalized communities, particularly communities of color. Locally, the group had previously called on the Board of Supervisors to fund an Unmet Housing Needs Strategic Plan. Now, it is organizing a march from the park to the County Government Center on Sept. 8, the day of the supervisors’ first meeting back on the dais after their August recess.
The “who” behind the potential purchase of the 60-plus-year-old mobile home community remained a bit of a mystery. Several sources linked Darius Saiedi, the son of local property owner and restaurateur Fabian Saiedi, to interest in the property. Saiedi grew up in Leesburg and is a 2010 graduate of Loudoun County High School. He is also a partner in DSP Real Estate Capital, an Ashburn-based firm, but fellow partner Stephen Karbelk has denied that DSP is behind the purchase. Saiedi did not return multiple calls requesting comment.
While Konkel declined to provide the name of the mobile home park’s current owner, Carol Nunez is listed as the authorized representative of the property and a number linked to Leesburg Mobile Home Park listed Nunez on its voicemail. Nunez also did not respond to calls for comment.
Konkel, the property manager for the past 13 years, said she did not know the identity of the potential purchaser. She said the current owners purchased the property in the 1960s and the sale was due to the owners preparing for retirement. She said her understanding is that the property would be sold as a mobile home park, and there have been no discussions that she’s been privy to that indicate it will be redeveloped. She said she hopes it remains as it is and pointed to the many residents that have called it home for so long.
But six-year resident Americo Lopez worries. He said with the rent people in the park play, it would take a buyer more than 20 years to make back an $11 million investment. That makes him doubtful the buyer intends to keep it as is.
He has seen kids grow up in the park who have never known another home. He recalled a neighbor who broke his arm and got laid off during the pandemic, and the community rallied around him, selling food to raise money to cover that person’s rent.
“That’s how we are here,” Lopez said. “Everybody takes care of each other.”
Many of the residents own their mobile homes and rent the land. But, Lopez said, after staying parked in one place for more than 20 years, it’s doubtful the homes are really mobile anymore. And he said everybody is in the same situation—“They don’t know what to do. This came out of nowhere. Nobody was ready for this.”
“There are so many ways to make money, but there’s only one way to keep families together, and it’s homes,” Lopez said.
There is worry in the town hall at what the fate of the mobile home park and its residents will be. Vice Mayor Marty Martinez spoke of the pending sale at a recent Town Council meeting, and said he is concerned that the sale would displace residents in need of affordable housing.
And New Virginia Majority organizers have helped write a letter to the current and future owners of the park. It asks that the residents be allowed to stay.
“The residents of the Leesburg Mobile Park are one large family: many have lived in the park for over twenty years, for over ten years, some 5 years, and also newer owners,” the letter reads. “We have watched each other’s children born and raised on the streets of the Leesburg Mobile Park and our school-aged children are registered to begin their first day of school this month. We are families who work hard to meet our obligations, bring food to our tables, and educate our children as best as possible—our families are the present and the future of Leesburg and of the United States.
Deputy Editor Renss Greene contributed to this report.