Rents to jump 13.5 percent at El Jebel trailer park | AspenTimes.com

Rents to jump 13.5 percent at El Jebel trailer park

EL JEBEL – Rents at one of the largest free-market housing complexes in the Roaring Fork Valley will jump by 13.5 percent in August.

Crawford Properties LLC informed tenants at its El Jebel Mobile Home Park last week that it will raise the trailer-space base rent from $550 to $625 per month. It will affect 289 trailers and roughly 2,100 residents, according to Robert Hubbell, CEO of the Crawford family business.

The increase comes at a time when many residents of the blue-collar neighborhood are already struggling to make ends meet, according to a resident who spoke on condition of anonymity. Notice of the rent increases was delivered to the tenants of the mobile homes clustered along El Jebel Road and JW Drive on May 30. The tenant said the rent increase has been a hot topic among neighbors ever since.

“People are just frantic,” the tenant said. “They’re saying, ‘We’re barely making it.'”

Bob Guion, chairman of the board of directors of Crawford Properties LLC, said the decision was made after two independent studies looking at rents at mobile-home parks throughout the Roaring Fork Valley and western Colorado.

“We totally understand that it’s painful for some of our residents,” Guion said. But based on the study results, the board felt the rent of $550 per month “was substantially below market value,” Guion said. A study of rents at mobile-home parks by an independent firm recommended raising rents between $75 and $125. The board went with the lower end of the range, boosting the El Jebel rents to the middle of the pack among midvalley trailer parks.

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The board has a fiduciary duty to shareholders in the private business to be profitable, Guion said. It is not the company’s responsibility to “subsidize” rents, he said.

“We really are a for-profit business,” he said.

Hubbell noted the base rent includes road maintenance, snowplowing, sewer service and 8,000 gallons of water in summers and 4,000 gallons in winters. The rent increase is needed to “maintain the quality of our roads, sewer and water facilities, and many other community services that are part of the El Jebel Mobile Home Park,” said the letter notifying residents of the rent hike. The Crawford family also plowed funds into a new trail in the neighborhood as well as fences and bleachers at a ballfield in the heart of the area.

About 18 tons of asphalt are on order to patch the roads in the sprawling mobile-home park.

“Our costs haven’t gone down any because of the recession,” Guion said.

Floyd Crawford developed the trailer park when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation began construction of Ruedi Reservoir in the early 1960s. When the work ended, the trailer park thrived because of the need for affordable housing among workers in Aspen, said Hubbell, Crawford’s grandson. The mobile-home park developed into a community and is now affordable housing for a substantial Hispanic population.

The trailer park has remained in the family, but management of the family business was tweaked late last year. Guion said a board of directors was established that includes three members of the Crawford family and two members from outside the family.

Prior to creation of the board, rents were typically raised by $25, but that didn’t occur every year, Hubbell said. Guion said no effort was made in the past to tie the base rent to the market rate. The last rent hike of $25 was made 18 months ago.

The mobile-home park has full occupancy, and no spaces are available in any trailer court from Aspen to Apple Tree near New Castle, Hubbell said. People regularly ask the Crawfords if they have space or a trailer available.

With high demand and limited supply, raising the rent to a competitive rate seemed like a reasonable step for the board of directors, Guion said.

“It’s not out of line from a business perspective,” he said.

But the tenants’ perspective differs. The timing is poor because so many workers are heading into a short summer season, when they will be lucky to be fully employed through mid-August, the tenant said. Many El Jebel residents remain underemployed or unemployed during the slow recovery from recession, the source said. A better approach would have been a smaller increase in January, the tenant added.

Recruiting a roommate to help pay the bills is a limited option because the Crawfords charge $100 per roommate, the tenant said.

“That eats people up,” the person said.

There are rumors that a couple of petitions are being circulated by tenants to lobby the Crawfords to delay or decrease the rent hikes, according to the tenant.

“They’re going to have a mass move-out if they do this,” the tenant said in reference to the rent hike.

Hubbell said he’s “absolutely” heard from a lot of tenants about the rent hike. They were encouraged on the increase notice to call or email him.

“Some people are coming in saying, ‘We’re extremely upset,'” Hubbell said. “Others are saying they understand.”

He has met with several senior citizens living in the park and assured them that he will personally seek a way to assist them.

scondon@aspentimes.com