Mobile home parks
Business to becoming a corporate venture. DENVER (AP), — Petra Bennett was repeatedly evicted from the Aurora Mobile Home Parks, where she had lived for 16 years. The notices were for unauthorised guests, insufficient insurance, and late rent. These were false threats to make the single mother move. She did.
Karla Lyons, a waitress in Federal Heights, is paid a steady stream of home and garden repairs by her park manager. This included the removal of a huge maple tree that had fallen on her patio roof, and it was crushed. If she could afford it, she would move.
While on duty at a 1950s-era mobile park, Greg Gustin in Boulder carries a knife in his pocket while on duty. This is one of the most dangerous spots in Boulder. Gustin pulled surveillance footage to defend himself against a resident who was accused of strangling and killing his wife. This business model, in which homeowners pay a lot of rent to place their homes on another’s land, exposes the economic vulnerability and immobility of tenants who cannot afford to move.
The largest unsubsidized and affordable stock of mobile homes is found in the United States. However, many were originally built as RV parks in the 1960s and 1970s. Many are now outdated with rundown electric and water systems, and trailers that have not been “mobile” in decades.
Along with over a dozen other news agencies across Colorado, The Colorado Sun spent the summer visiting mobile home parks to get feedback from owners, managers, and residents. According to the project, the number of parks is decreasing and ownership is consolidating as mom and pop parks sell to large investors. This can lead to displacement and redevelopment, and for many residents, an imbalance in power that could threaten their low-cost lifestyle.
Colorado has more than 900 parks, home to over 100,000 people. These residents include many working poor people and undocumented immigrants. These residents have been ignored for many decades.
Esther Sullivan, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver who is also the author of a book about mobile homes called “Manufactured Insecurity”, said that mobile home parks have been “relegated to a corner of American imagination”.
“We have media representations of those who live there and stereotypical views of those who live there that are completely false. This is the majority of our workforce. This is how our working households can achieve the American dream of homeownership. Today, mobile homes account for 70% of all homes under $125,000.
Sullivan says mobile homes are the biggest source of affordable, “naturally occurring” housing. This organic solution is not provided by housing assistance or public policy. Mobile home residents are often invisible and isolated from traditional housing. Their median income was $39,000 in 2015.
She stated that “we could lose this vital source of affordable housing” and “low-income home ownership” which would “exacerbate the affordable housing crisis.”
Even today, the declining number of mobile homes is the best chance for any semblance of home ownership.
It’s like living half of the American dream,” Fort Collins City Council Member Emily Gorgol said to The Coloradoan. She is an advocate for mobile home parks and stated that “because you own your house but not the land beneath your feet,”
Colorado’s economic, political, and social forces came together to bring about the first significant changes to the law governing mobile home parks in many years. This gave momentum to homeowners and set the stage for more reforms in 2020.
Residents were upset that park owners could expel them without notice for 48 hours. Many spoke of a homeowner-versus-park-owner drama that has residents fixing up their homes or lawns to meet park owners’ demands. Residents may spend tens to thousands of dollars, either out of choice or fear of being evicted, on a mobile home that is unlikely to be moved from its original hookup. Mobile homes constructed before 1976 are not allowed to move. Since then, they have been called “manufactured homes”.
Since the 1985 Mobile Home Park Act was passed in Colorado, mobile home parks have been subject to regulation. Enforcement has been a different matter. Without a dispute resolution mechanism, disputes were left to courts. This was a costly proposition that almost always favours park owners.
With both the state legislature chambers and the governor’s offices ruled by Democrats this year, the law was amended with bipartisan support. There are no longer strict deadlines for late rent payments to be cured and in the case of eviction, selling homes or moving have been allowed. Now, counties have the power and authority to adopt ordinances that govern mobile home parks located in unincorporated areas. Stakeholders are currently working on rules to create a dispute resolution system that will be in place by May.
Economic shifts in the industry were a part of the driving force behind the changes.
The unusual housing market has been highlighted by institutional and corporate investors. These acquisitions have increased in recent years.
According to the Manufactured Homes Institute, today’s top 50 mobile home park owners have 680,000 homes in America. This is 26% more than 2016 and 2018. According to a report by three housing advocacy groups, more than 150,000 manufactured homes are owned by private equity and investors.
Kingsley Management Corp. is based in Utah and has seven parks on Colorado’s Front Range.
An estimated 20 million Americans reside in mobile home parks across the country. The institute estimated that nearly 10% of the country’s housing stock is manufactured houses, with a total population of 8.5 million.
Residents pay rent to park owners for the land on which their unit is located. For decades, the park owners have benefited from this tangle of rights. However, the power dynamics of power may be changing as mobile home owners and the housing shortage become more severe.
Residents of Denver Meadows Mobile and RV Park, which covers 60 lots, were asked to leave last summer after the owner announced plans for the sale. The park, which covers 20 acres, is located near the University of Colorado Anschutz Hospital and has easy access to a new light rail line. Residents stood up to the turmoil and many were granted financial assistance based upon the value of their trailers.