Guest opinion: Step up for our mobile-home park residents before it’s too late
One of the last remaining affordable housing options for our working-class families is becoming more expensive — and more scarce — as mobile home parks are increasingly swept up in Colorado’s real-estate boom.
In the best of circumstances, residents struggle with hikes in fees and lot rental and, in the worst, they grapple with eviction and even homelessness.
In Basalt, hundreds of residents of the Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park were forced to move as part of a city redevelopment project. Basalt’s two remaining mobile parks have been purchased multiple times in the past two years and, not surprisingly, residents have been subjected to multiple rent and fee increases as a result. The same story has played out in the Apple Tree Mobile Home Park in New Castle and the King’s Crown Mobile Home Park in Rifle.
Residents of the Westside Mobile Home Park in Durango are working to enhance a deal they cobbled together with Elevation Community Land Trust for their park, after their initial $5.46 million offer was rejected — reportedly in favor of one from a California-based real estate company.
In Silverthorne, residents of the D&D and Cottonwood mobile home parks are being forced to relocate this summer because their park is going to be developed to make way for houses. The lack of affordable housing is reaching crisis levels in our mountain communities. Displacing mobile home residents to make room for other residents does little to solve the problem.
Mobile home parks are increasingly eyed as targets for purchase or redevelopment because they deliver a strong return on investment (in the form of higher rents and fees) or can be redeveloped to deliver higher returns.
And working-class — often Latino — families pay the price.
Latinos make up nearly a third of mobile-home park residents in Colorado, according to Root Policy Research. In the 73 parks in our service area of Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties, the percentage is higher because mobile homes are among the only remaining affordable-housing options. Root Research also found average annual lot rent and fees associated with mobile homeownership increased statewide by 71% between 2003 and 2019. In resort communities of the Roaring Fork Valley and the I-70 corridor, the monthly rent for a lot in some mobile home parks has skyrocketed to as much as $1,300.
Relief is in sight via House Bill 1287, the Mobile Home Park Resident Protection Act sponsored by Reps. Andrew Boesenecker and Edie Hooton, and Sen. Faith Winter; and Senate Bill 160, which establishes programs to assist mobile homeowners seeking to purchase their communities, sponsored by Sens. Julie Gonzales and Nick Hinrichsen.
The latter measure was recommended by the Legislative Affordable Housing Task Force to help residents with the technical assistance and financing they need to have a shot at purchasing their parks.
Of particular interest for communities desperate for more affordable housing is a provision allowing residents to assign their right to purchase the park to a public entity. That is not an unheard-of arrangement — having been accomplished in Aspen and Steamboat — but the bill would make that outcome a priority option if residents are not able to purchase the park themselves.
A provision of HB1287 would help keep mobile homes affordable by establishing lot rent stabilization — which would be calculated by the State Department of Local Affairs — to ensure residents can stay in their homes and a fair return for park owners. It also would give the attorney general the ability to investigate and bring legal action for violations of mobile home park protections, ensuring that vulnerable residents have a voice.
As housing options for our working class diminish, there is hope in the two pieces of legislation working their way through the Capitol. Together, they can increase stability for residents, protect housing affordability and create greater accountability in the last segment of affordable housing left in the market.
Let’s protect affordable housing and put basic resident protections in place before more Coloradans are uprooted from the homes they’ve built their lives — and communities — around.
Alex Sánchez is the president and CEO of Voces Unidas de las Montañas and Voces Unidas Action Fund, two Latino-created, Latino-led advocacy organizations working in Summit, Lake, Eagle, Pitkin and Garfield counties.
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