The Parked series of articles produced by a variety of Colorado news media, including the Herald, which appeared in print and online in the Herald last week, were devoted to the pressures that mobile home park residents have felt for years. They include increasing space rents, management demands that are difficult to challenge, aging infrastructure and, overall, the uncertainty of whether the park property will be redeveloped and renters left with limited options.
Mobile homes are not mobile, and similar low-cost housing is unavailable.
And where parks years ago might have had local ownership, more sensitive to their renters’ situations, today, parks are a big business. Companies own hundreds of parks across the country and have lawyers to match.
In many new housing buildings today, developers are obligated to provide a few units at lower rents. In more situations, the federal government supplements what a renter is charged.
Mobile home parks do not fit those programs.
Instead, as the reporting series showed, cities and counties in Colorado – and very likely in other states – have stepped in to protect renters’ ability to stay where they are and not see rates soar. If a park comes up for sale, the residents are given an opportunity to match the price; or a category of zoning is applied which may make it more difficult for a park owner to redevelop the property for another purpose, for example, in Steamboat Springs.
But more imaginatively, counties and their housing authorities have purchased parks and made it possible for their residents to purchase the small tract under their trailers. The organization can be a co-op with a homeowners association that provides leadership and coordination.
There are national park residents’ advocacy organizations that assist with purchase and organizational options and may be able to assist with funding.
Pitkin County, and its major city, Aspen, have done just that with four parks, and a fifth is in process. Residents must qualify financially and work full time in the county. “No flipping,” as the reporter wrote.
So, too, in Routt County and its Steamboat Springs.
There are 45 mobile home parks in Durango and La Plata County, with approximately 1,300 homes, according to the Herald’s contribution to the series. Some are small.
Across the state, there are an estimated 900 parks housing 100,000 people.
Even when given permanence by a housing authority, a park’s future is uncertain. Most parks contain older trailers, and newer replacements – wider and longer and more expensive – likely will not allow the favorable economics to continue.
Boulder has addressed the challenge of an aging park it owns by including Habitat for Humanity’s home building program, and by building small, two-level stick-built homes for those who want them. All optional. Those steps will obviously transition the park away from trailers.
Mobile home parks provide an important slice of the low-wage housing challenge. Is that slice as healthy for residents as it can be in La Plata County, and what is its future?