Montopolis Trailer Park Faces Uncertainty as Development Looms

Apr 12, 2016

As more and more new development comes to East Austin, some longtime residents at the Cactus Rose Mobile Home Park are facing an uncertain future.


The Sarellano family has lived in a mobile home in this park for more than 30 years, but now they’re at risk of being forced out, along with about 50 other families. The trailer park’s owner has applied for a zoning change with the City of Austin. If the change were approved, it would allow for new residential and commercial development to go up in place of the mobile homes. Ruby Sarellano says she’s worried about where her parents would go.

As developer Oden Hughes vies the Austin City Council for a zoning change for the land on which Cactus Rose sits, longtime residents prepare for a potential move.
Credit Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

“They’ve lived here since they bought this mobile home,” Sarellano says. “It’s all I’ve ever known – they’ve ever known – and it’s just really sad and hard, you know? They’re elderly, and this is the time when they’re getting ready to retire.”

The park sits on a 23-acre site in the Montopolis neighborhood of East Austin, directly off U.S. 183. It’s a convenient place for families like the Sarellanos, who rely on the bus to get around, but it’s also an attractive destination for new development.

“This is like prime property, prime land for redevelopment, and because you have the most vulnerable, working-class people there, it’s easy to displace people,” says Susana Almanza of the nonprofit PODER.

The group is asking the Austin City Council to provide some assistance for Cactus Rose residents.

“We’re saying, if they cannot stay here on the property, let's put them on some other city property, land. There’s plenty of land that the city owns, and make that possible so that they can stay together as a community,” she says.

Almanza says the developer has offered each family about $3,000 to help relocate, but that doesn’t come close to covering moving costs.

“Most of these trailers cannot be relocated, so we’re not just talking about a relocation, we’re actually talking about a buyout of the people who are living here, and buying new trailers and making a new place for them,” Almanza says.

Credit Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT

The developer, Oden Hughes, says it's offering more than just a buyout.

In an email, the Austin-based firm’s managing director Mac McElwrath said they’ve been in communication with residents since last year.

He said they’ll be given ample time to relocate, significant financial assistance and professional bilingual support.

McElwrath says he’s confident they can arrive at a relocation plan that’s fair for the tenants.

The Austin City Council has yet to take up the developer’s request for a zoning change.