Fresh start for family after Pan and Fork
One of the residents removed from a Basalt mobile home park said he wanted to fight eviction but ultimately decided it was better to secure permanent housing for his family.
Juan Alvarado said he lived at the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park for more than 17 years when Basalt town officials informed him in the summer his family had to leave. He was among the first seven households that were relocated last summer so Basalt could start a project intended to ease the flooding threat of the Roaring Fork River and restore riverbanks.
Alvarado initially told town officials he would pitch a tent and stay on the property to protest their actions. He changed his mind, he said, because the uncertainty of where they would live was too unsettling for his daughter, a fourth-grader at Basalt Elementary School. “She was crying herself to sleep every night,” he said.
So he and his wife, Maria, searched for alternative housing where they could move with their three children — a 10th-grader, a fourth-grader and a preschooler.
Affordability was their top priority; remaining in the Basalt school district was a close second, he said.
The first step was reaching a financial settlement with the town. Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park was acquired in August 2011 by the town and a nonprofit partner, Roaring Fork Community Development Corp. The nonprofit’s initial plan was to acquire land where residents could relocate into units of a similar size at a similar price. Town government officials weren’t convinced Community Development Corp. could pull it off so it took over the relocation effort.
The town is using the same formula with all residents to determine its financial settlement offer. It provides $100 for each year of residency in the park; $500 per family member up to $3,000; one year of rent at $7,800 and $5,000 for deposits; and for owners, it provides $7,500 if they remove the residence.
Alvarado said he paid $37,000 in 1998 for the Pan and Fork trailer where his family lived. The town paid him $24,400, he said.
Alvarado said the town provided him with flyers of places for sale in the Roaring Fork Valley, but offered little other help finding a place to buy.
“Everything was more than $130,000,” he said.
He and his wife vowed to buy a place where they also acquired the land — so they would avoid a repeat of the scenario at Pan and Fork. They finally found a trailer at Lazy Glen that was on the market for $110,000 but was in rough shape. The heat wasn’t working. The roof had holes. There were no appliances. The windows didn’t fit right and leaked air. There was general neglect for years of rentals followed by two years of abandonment.
Alvarado said they knew it was a lot to pay for a place in bad shape, but they had so few options.
They used $10,000 in savings and proceeds of the sale of land in Mexico to raise $50,000 for a down payment, he said, and they approached two banks for a loan. Legal status wasn’t an issue for Juan, so that removed one major hurdle facing many Pan and Fork residents in need of a loan. However, they had no credit history. One bank never got back to him.
Another bank lent the Alvarados $60,000 after Juan’s employer, Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork, helped by backing the loan. “Alpine Bank stepped up,” said Scott Gilbert, president of the Habitat chapter.
Gilbert said he was willing to help because Juan is an excellent, industrious employee and his wife also is a hard worker in housekeeping at a Snowmass Village property.
Gilbert credited the Alvarados with “stepping up” to get out of their predicament and securing a future in Basalt for their three kids. They moved to their new home in November.
Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon said the town gave the Alvarado family significant help. He said they helped find the Lazy Glen trailer and hooked Juan up with his lender. The town also paid to “abate” the high level of asbestos in the Alvarado trailer to make it safe for Juan to work in there to remove items.
Alvarado salvaged the appliances, cabinets and other furnishings out of his old trailer. He worked for a month to make the new trailer habitable. His daughter still cries a lot despite the secure housing, he said. They moved out of their neighborhood and away from her friends. She used to walk to school, now she rides the bus. Nevertheless, Alvarado is thankful they found what they did. Lazy Glen is about 3 miles east of Basalt.
“I’m feeling good. I’m in a house now,” Alvarado said. Their plan is to save enough money to put a foundation under a new home, either a doublewide trailer or modular. They also plan to pay off their $60,000 in five years.
Alvarado has a wry sense of humor, which he flashed numerous times during a one-hour conservation with a reporter. However, his mood became somber when asked to assess the Pan and Fork situation.
“I’m feeling good over here and I don’t want to talk about the Pan and Fork and the people over there (at Town Hall). It’s frustrating,” he said. “We lived there for many years, and now it’s gone.”
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Kevin Warner started his career with the U.S. Forest Service as a wilderness ranger in 2001. Now he’s taking over the key position as Aspen-Sopris District Ranger.