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Support for resident-owned mobile home parks grow

Colorado is seeing a movement of residents organizing to purchase their mobile home parks. (Journal file)
Cortez City Council hears presentation by Durango cooperative that successfully purchased park

Mobile home park residents can organize to own their park when it comes up for sale if they act fast and are prepared, advocates say.

Members of the Animas View MHP Co-op gave an hourlong presentation on the process during a Cortez City Council workshop Dec. 13.

Information was provided by co-op board members Karen Pontius, Dan Hunt, Lindie Hunt of Durango and affordable housing advocate George Cheney of Cortez.

Residents of Animas View mobile home park organized financing to purchase their mobile home park for $14 million in 2020. It started a trend, and two others trailer parks in Durango — Westside and Triangle — followed suit and residents organized to buy their parks.

Mobile home parks are critical for workforce housing and low income residents, Cheney said. Parks owned by residents, or controlled by community agencies, enjoy more stable rent costs and improved infrastructure maintenance.

“Exciting things are happening in Colorado to provide protections for mobile home parks including support to purchase them when they come up for sale,” Cheney said.

The model can be resident owned or by a community agency dedicated to providing low-income housing.

There are 27 mobile home parks in Montezuma County, and three recently went up for sale: Vista Verde Village, Sikis Village Mobile Home Park and 7th Street Mobile Home Park, according to the Colorado Mobile Home Park Oversight Program.

In La Plata County, there are 60 mobile home parks. A mobile park has five or more units. If a park has fewer than five units, it does not fall under the oversight program and is not counted in the number of parks in an area.

The presenters informed city council the key for success is preparation and resident collaboration beforehand, along with professional expertise.

The regulatory time-frame is 120 days to make the purchase, organize a cooperative or assign rights to another entity, and obtain finance commitments and contracts. Then an additional 120 days is allowed for the final closing.

“We’re on a mission to inform people around the state about this opportunity,” said Lindie Hunt.

Animas View worked with Thistle Resident Owned Communities (ROC), a nonprofit that helps residents purchase mobile home parks.

An update to the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act gives governments, nonprofits, and housing authorities right of first refusal when parks go up for sale.

The 120-resident Animas View park formed a cooperative and had 90 days to get the majority of residents to join. They found loan commitments and grants, and submitted an offer to the corporate owner that was accepted. The statutory time limit has since been increased to 120 days.

“We signed five mortgages, and the park is ours,” Pontius said.

Before the purchase, lot rent had more than doubled in the last five years, a financial struggle for the park residents. At least 80% of residents are low income.

To pull off the financing for the purchase, residents agreed to a $80 increase in lot fees, but the benefit is the security of no additional fee increases. Resident rates for Animas View will stabilize at $755 per month.

Owning a park also gives residents more control of park maintenance, especially water and sewer lines. Too often, corporate owners stall on upgrades and repairs, Pontius said.

She said a study for Animas View showed they have $3 million in needed repairs, and the cooperative is working to obtain grants are available to cover 75% of the cost.

“There is so much excitement that these parks feel with they have the opportunity to buy it in a way that is stabilizing, they no longer have to live in fear” frequent lot rate increase, Pontius said.

There are various models for residents to own or control their mobile home parks, including forming cooperatives, and partnering with governments, land trusts, nonprofits and housing authorities.

Technical expertise is critical, said Dan Hunt, who has a background in property management and business. For example, Thistle ROC has a step-by-step process assisting the park. The model can include no-down payment and 110% financing that includes closing costs and reserve accounts.

First Southwest Bank in Colorado is developing a department specifically related to the purchase and infrastructure financing for mobile and manufactured home parks.

Once the purchase is made, more work is ahead, Dan Hunt said. Cooperative boards need to assign duties to help manage the park and have regular meetings. Grants need to be applied for to reduce financing costs, and park management and maintenance contracts must be secured.

“Assign a person in your organization to know what to do when a park comes up for sale, someone familiar with funding sources and who keeps a list of consultants and contractors ready to handle due diligence,” Dan Hunt said. “This is doable, there is more money available and more coming. More and more people are working on this. Every park that cannot be purchased now will cost more the next time it is up for sale, leading to higher rents and increased threats to displacement.”

It’s beneficial to create block captains who are there to inform residents, field questions, and organize social events.

Government support

There are ways towns and counties can support affordable housing including resident owned trailer parks. It is to their benefit to help secure low-income workforce housing critical for the economy.

Without affordable homes, lower-wage industries such retail stores and restaurants struggle to hire and keep employees and either cut hours or close, Hunt said.

Some cities, including Durango, incorporate so-called fair share funds that require housing developments to have a certain percentage of low-income units. Often developers choose to pay the fine instead and the revenue gained by the city is earmarked to support low-income housing projects.

The Colorado Mobile Home Park Oversight Program requires city and county governments to be notified when mobile home parks go up for sale. The site includes lists of mobile home parks by county and identifies those up for sale.

American Rescue Plan Act funding can be used to support loans for resident-owned trailer parks in the name of economic development.

Funding opportunities are also available from Colorado Department of Health and Environment, USDA, Department of Local Affairs, Colorado Health Foundation and housing authorities.

Also development fees and taxes could be waived by government to support low-income housing projects.

City or county can assign a committee or working group to help coordinate planning and support for mobile home park residents interested in trying to purchase their park.

“The resident owned community we now live in was a neighborhood and now is a community,” Dan Hunt said. “Life is so much richer now with the new friends we have. We now have a voice in what we do as a community.”

City council members expressed interest in the topic and asked questions.

“Its an important story to share with council and the community to let them know there are options to take control of their future and potentially own their mobile home park,” said Cortez Mayor Rachel Medina. “This type of housing is an essential part of our housing inventory and we need to have all options.”


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