From tenants to owners: Trailer owners take control, and take pride |

From tenants to owners: Trailer owners take control, and take pride

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

In a land of stratospheric real estate prices, where the potential for profit can make a landowner giddy, life for a trailer park tenant can be a precarious one.

But some Roaring Fork Valley trailer dwellers have found a way to secure their tenuous existence on valuable terra firma. They’ve taken the mobility out of the mobile home and put down roots on their own piece of ground.

In the process, they’ve secured a future for some of the upper valley’s most vibrant neighborhoods ” places where working families raise children, longtime residents retire and the lights are on because somebody’s home. The vacant second home is not in evidence.

The Smuggler Mobile Home Park on Aspen’s east end paved the way back in the 1980s, when residents purchased and subdivided the land so residents could buy their own individual lots.

Since then, the 150-lot Aspen Village, just a 10-minute drive from Aspen, and the 101-lot Lazy Glen, located about 2.5 miles east of Basalt, have done the same. Residents at the Woody Creek Mobile Home Park have long hoped to join the ranks of tenants-turned-homeowners. For them, a two-decade dream may become a reality next year.

In each case, tenants waded through the complexities of a purchase deal and then the subdivision of a park into multiple lots. Each group has also worked out deed restrictions with the Aspen-Pitkin County Housing Authority that ensure the parks will continue to house the valley’s work force. The regulations that govern the parks are often less strict than at other housing complexes, since no government subsidies were required to secure the homes.

County Commissioner Patti Clapper, in office when Lazy Glen won subdivision approval last year, knows how residents of the trailer park feel about owning their land. Her family has owned a home at Smuggler since 1987, shortly after that trailer park was subdivided.

“You know, the key, I think, is the insecurity you live with as a renter ” never knowing if your landlord will continue to lease your mobile home space and if you have to leave, where do you go?” Clapper said.

Trailer park residents have often invested goodly sums to own a trailer, but never know when the space they rent will disappear. To complicate matters, many older mobile homes cannot be moved, even if there’s a new place to put them.

“If you buy a condo, it’s not like you’ll get thrown off your land,” Clapper said.

Tenants at Lazy Glen banded together to purchase the park in 1990 from former owner Terry Kirk for about $2.8 million. They had to match the offer from another buyer, said Tom Parry, secretary/treasurer of the homeowner’s association.

It was a complex deal, and the association recently refinanced a bridge loan for about 30 homeowners who have not yet purchased their individual lots, but a new pride of ownership is evident there, residents report.

“Bo” Bokenko has replaced his mobile home with a modular house on a foundation, doubling the size of his abode.

“I’ve got a hell of a lot nicer home ” with insulation,” he said. “Now, I dictate my own fate here. It’s up to me.”

“What has been happening is everyone is sprucing up their properties,” agreed Lazy Glen homeowner Lou Hayes. “I’m probably the exception to the rule ” I still have my ’72 trailer.

“But, it’s definitely an incentive, now that the land is mine. You want to do landscaping ” the whole nine yards,” he said.

Aspen Village has experienced much the same trend, as homeowners replace mobile homes with stick-built or modular houses.

“There’s a pretty aggressive changeover going on. Something like 10 converted over last summer,” said Chris Hoofnagle, president of the homeowner’s association.

The Aspen Village homeowners subdivided their land in 1996. The cost of buying the land, subdivision expenses and start-up reserves totaled $4.8 million; the average lot price for individual buyers was about $33,000.

Aspen Village has seen five to seven new homes built every year since then, estimates homeowner Judy Hill. Some boast full basements.

“Certainly as renters, we could never have taken the risk of investing in permanent structures,” she said. “These old trailers would have continued to be patched together till they literally fell down.

“As the old trailers are replaced by beautiful homes, we see families become more and more involved in the management of the community assets and protective of our neighborhood,” she added.

Just last month, residents voted to form a metropolitan district to collect taxes for maintenance of the subdivision.

The association has already constructed a new playground, improved its swimming pool, resurfaced the streets, installed new streetlights and, in cooperation with local utilities, replaced what were shallow, buried gas and electrical lines, said Hill, a former president of the association.

Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is

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