You may have seen the recent series Parked: Half the American Dream the Herald has been running, about Colorado mobile home parks; it launched in the paper last Monday, and an even fuller version is online.
It explores the travails of the residents of these parks, some of whom fear they will be priced out of their communities, especially as corporations consolidate ownership of the land beneath them and raise their rents.
Here in La Plata County, for example, mobile homes are one of the last options for affordable housing, which is to say, the lowest-end housing.
If some of the mobile home park tenants can no longer manage rent, they will be forced to move to more affordable areas. One couple, a handyman and his wife, told the Herald they will go to Rifle – which is also where people move when they are priced out of Steamboat Springs.
The median home price in Durango in 2019 is $485,000; in Steamboat Springs, in 2018, it was $585,000; in Rifle, it was $277,000.
A former resident of the Animas View Drive mobile home park, at the north end of Durango, told the Herald he relocated to a place in Iowa where he purchased a stick-built home for $65,000.
Iowa has some lovely parts. They are often not the same places where homes cost just $65,000, but you never know. In Iowa City, for example, which is culturally rich, the median home value is now $224,600. Coming from Durango, that’s very affordable. If you work for wages, they will buy a lot more there. A public school teacher in Iowa City, for example, makes slightly more than a teacher in Durango based on starting pay. Durango has other draws.
The former resident of the Animas View Drive mobile home park, who is an electrician, told the Herald he liked Durango “but it’s not a town for working people.”
We do not know whether that is a mark of success. It certainly sounds good for Durango-area real estate agents. It is a good sign for some of the local economy, yet it also means there is less economic diversity, or that we are becoming just a little more like Aspen. In that sense, we are victims of our own success.
The Parked series marked an unprecedented collaboration between the Herald and other statewide news media, including The Colorado Sun, The Aspen Times, The Aurora Sentinel, The Colorado Independent, The Cortez Journal, The Fort Collins Coloradoan, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, The Greeley Tribune and The Steamboat Pilot.
The contraction of the print news business has affected all those partners, either by thinning newsroom ranks at many or by helping to launch others, such as the online Sun and the Independent.
The series was an experiment to see how resources could be combined to get a different result than going it alone, which is what we all almost always do.
That default is good, at least in theory. News consumers benefit from many competing outlets and we each ought to be relatively expert in our backyards.
We are, for example, running a syndicated column this week by The Washington Post’s Michael Gerson that takes some of the hide off The New York Times for its recent coverage of Brett Kavanaugh. The Times, for all its mea culpas, will never savage itself this way, nor should it, perhaps; but all readers should benefit from this kind of competition.
Collaboration is good and even great sometimes, and competition is almost always good. That is one more thing, like being victims of our own economic success, that we have to balance.