MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The pandemic has stretched many Minnesota families financially, as they cope with losing jobs and paychecks. The state has a moratorium on evictions. But struggling neighbors in one community learned there is no restriction on raising rent.

Cimarron Park is home to about 500 families. Those living there say the manufactured home community in Lake Elmo offers them an affordable way to own or rent. A home they now fear they can’t afford.

“There’s a lot in the community that are really hurting right now and we’re all trying to figure out how to get by and make ends meet,” resident Kim Phan said.

While most own, they still pay rent on the land. That’s going up by $30 a month at the beginning of the year.

“We all are trying to get our rent paid and our utilities taken care of and we want to make sure we have somewhere proud to go home to,” Phan said.

Residents that met with WCCO have each faced hardship during the pandemic. It’s forced some to rely on food shelves, others say they have filed for bankruptcy to get by. Tom Wilcken was a bus driver.

“So I was kind of forced into retirement, and that puts me on a fixed income. I need to decrease something. Maybe I decrease food or lower my heat or something,” Wilcken said.

They’re all worried.

“In a way, you kind of feel like, ‘Am I going to be homeless? Where am I going to end up?’” resident Nina Kieffer said.

A newly-formed residents association enlisted the help of Republican State Senator Karin Housley.

“To not be getting the services, and then raising the rent during a pandemic is a triple whammy,” Housley said.

She partnered with other elected officials to send a letter to Cimarron’s owner, ELS, out of Illinois.

“Hopefully getting their attention because the people have had the door slammed in their face,” Housley said.

These families say they’re desperate to save their safe space.

“I just wish people had more compassion and more understanding of each other,” Kieffer said.

And they hope their pleas will eventually be heard.

“I don’t care how you put it, it’s not right. And this is home, it’s not a trailer home, it’s home,” resident Bernadette Miron said.

Cimarron’s owner told WCCO:

“The satisfaction of our customers is very important to us, and we make it a priority to regularly meet with residents and discuss any issues they have, including rent increases.

“Rent levels at the property have increased an average of approximately 3.85% annually over the last five years. Increases and rent levels are in line with those of comparable communities in the area.

“In the past year, nearly 20 homes were purchased in Cimarron Park by customers who shopped in the area for their next home and chose Cimarron Park for its convenient location, resort-style amenities and the value they found here. Once they have chosen Cimarron Park, homeowners choose to live in the community for an average of ten years. The trend of new residents purchasing homes combined with Cimarron Park’s high occupancy rate indicates that the property is a popular choice for residents moving to the Lake Elmo area. Furthermore, over the last five years, nearly 20% of new residents were referred to us by existing residents.

“We are committed to maintaining Cimarron Park to the high standards our residents expect. We look forward to many more years of working together with the residents of Cimarron Park to ensure the community remains among the premiere manufactured housing communities in the area.”

Jennifer Mayerle