Sierra Vista, Ariz.—Staring down the possibility of homelessness, three Sierra Vista residents ordered to move their RV homes sued the city today. The suit comes just days after the city council chose to enforce eviction orders initially issued in 2020. The Institute for Justice (IJ), which has been working with the homeowners since last summer, filed the lawsuit to protect the homeowners’ property rights under the Arizona Constitution.
“No one should be made homeless in the name of zoning,” said Paul Avelar, managing attorney of IJ’s Arizona office. “There is no health or safety reason for kicking our clients out of their homes. The city’s eviction orders are senseless and cruel and come in the middle of a pandemic.”
Amanda Root and Georgia and Grandy Montgomery live in the Cloud 9 neighborhood. For years they have lived in trailer homes the city deems RVs that are on property that they respectively own and rent. The neighborhood is dotted with derelict mobile homes, yet the city is seeking to evict well-maintained RV homes. Living in RVs is not illegal in the Cloud 9 neighborhood, just on the certain properties – including those occupied by Root and the Montgomerys.
Amanda Root has lived in Sierra Vista for 26 years and owned her property in Cloud 9 for 21 years. Unfortunately, Amanda’s manufactured home was lost to fire in 2016. Without insurance, she was not sure whether she would be able to afford another. Fortunately, friends donated the trailer she lives in now.
“I’m suing Sierra Vista because their order would make me homeless,” said Amanda. “I love my home, I take good care of my property and I shouldn’t have to move. It’s frustrating because I’m surrounded by houses that are falling apart and the city is doing nothing about them. I own this land, why should I have to go somewhere else?”
In July 2020, Cloud 9 residents received notices ordering them to move their homes within 30 days. The orders came without hearings, a procedure for appeal, or any court approvals. The city does not maintain that the homes are unsafe for their residents or a danger for the neighborhood. The lawsuit asserts that abusive zoning laws and failure to provide residents with due process before taking away their property rights are violations of the Arizona Constitution.
More broadly, restrictive zoning makes it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for people of modest means to live in modest homes. Amanda, Georgia and Grandy have affordable housing that allows them to live on their fixed incomes. The city is asking them to leave simply because it says so and without regard to the fact that the residents do not have clear options for other housing.
“Homelessness is a serious and growing problem and there’s broad agreement that restrictive zoning makes it nearly impossible for many Americans to find affordable housing,” said IJ Constitutional Law Fellow John Wrench. “Eviction should be a tool of last resort and should only come after homeowners have a chance to contest the order. Your property rights don’t depend on whether you live in a castle or RV.”
The Institute for Justice defends property rights nationwide. IJ successfully defended a neighborhood targeted with abusive fines in fees in Charlestown, Indiana. In Dunedin, Florida, IJ is defending a homeowner facing foreclosure over fines for tall grass. And in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, IJ is helping a homeless shelter that was denied a permit despite meeting all of the city’s zoning requirements.