Dotsero Mobile Home Park will sell to an outside buyer
The residents of the Dotsero Mobile Home Park had 90 days to rally together and make a multi-million dollar bid to purchase the park they call home. That effort came to a disappointing end last week when landowner Jim Condit rejected their $5.8 million offer in favor of an all-cash offer from an unidentified outside buyer.
The community had been racing to take advantage of the 2020 “Opportunity to Purchase” law, which guarantees mobile home residents 90 days to make a competitive offer on a listed property before the landowner can sell to an outside buyer. Though the law gives residents time to secure the necessary financing, it does not require landowners to sell to them once an offer is made. If they favor another offer, they are free to choose the outside buyer when the 90-day clock runs out.
In the case of the Dotsero Mobile Home Park, that is exactly what happened. Kyleigh Morales is the president of the residents’ Volcanic View Cooperative and has been leading the effort to purchase the park. She said that the cooperative was able to raise over $8,000 in community donations on GoFundMe, $235 commitments from each of the 84 homes in the park, and over $8,000 from the Vail Board of Realtors, securing the financial backing needed to make an offer and safely start the contracting process.
Andy Kadlec is the program director of the nonprofit Thistle, which has been advising and working closely with the residents throughout the process. Kadlec said that it was the support from the community that allowed the residents to get to the bidding table.
“You don’t want to go into a contract until you’re sure you can take those next steps, which are paying for an attorney, paying for an appraisal, paying for a survey, and paying for the engineering work to really get a good idea of what the true interest rate looks like,” Kadlec said. “So having the community reach out and provide risk-free money to help the residents be able to take care of that and get that research and evaluation done, they gave us confidence that we can go ahead and submit an offer and say we have the money backed up.”
In the first week of June, residents offered Condit the full asking price of $5.8 million, an offer that by necessity relied on loans and contingencies. It was the best that they could do, but it could not match the all-cash offer that the landowner had already received from an outside buyer. The 90-day clock ran out on June 23, and the owner informed the residents that he is accepting the other offer.
“I understand it from the seller’s point: You want the money upfront right away, and people who are getting it financed, it can take a little longer, but at the same point, it’s just really frustrating,” Morales said. “No matter what we did, he was not going to accept our offer.”
The Vail Daily reached out to Condit’s attorney for comment but has not received a response.
Kadlec has been involved in dozens of attempted resident-owned communities and said that he has seen this same situation play out with private equity groups and impact investors across Colorado.
“They say we’ll buy the park, we’re not going to do an appraisal, we’re not going to have engineering be a contingency of it, we’re going to pay you this money for it, and we have the money in hand,” Kadlec said. “Obviously, having that much money is a lot of power. Resident organizations like this just simply don’t have it. Us as a nonprofit, and our lenders, don’t have millions of dollars in hand that we can just put on offers at a risk. It’s a clear difference in how residents are able to purchase a park, and oftentimes it’s really unfortunate that that can be a deciding factor in considering offers.”
Another unfortunate reality is that if this sale had taken place just six months later, the residents would have had a much better chance of success. The state Legislature passed a new law this year that expands the opportunity to purchase rights for mobile home residents and addresses many of the roadblocks that the Dotsero community has faced along the way, but it does not go into effect until Oct. 1.
HB22-1287, “Protections For Mobile Home Park Residents,” expands the bidding period from 90 to 120 days, and allows time period extensions for completing necessary steps that are outside of the community’s control. For example, if a community needs an engineering appraisal in order to solidify its bid, and it cannot schedule the survey within the designated time period or the survey is delayed, the 120-day clock will pause so that an external setback does not derail the entire bidding process.
Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, a Democrat from Fort Collins, is one of the prime sponsors of HB22-1287.
“90 days is just an incredibly difficult and prohibitive time frame to be able to organize a park purchase,” Boesenecker said. “Imagine in your neighborhood, that if somebody told you, ‘OK, you have 90 days from now to organize a multi-million dollar transaction with your neighbors, and go.’ I mean, the clock is working against folks, let alone the power imbalance, so we worked to bump up that window.”
Another significant development is a strengthening of the “negotiate in good faith” clause. The original Opportunity to Purchase bill requires the landowner to “negotiate in good faith” with residents but does not provide a clear definition of what this means. Morales said that having gone through the process, the community feels that Condit did not fulfill this requirement.
“He knew that us as a community could not come up with $5.8 million in cash from the very beginning,” Morales said. “We offered the $5.8 million, and he still denied it. He made everybody put in long hours, hard work, with every intention of denying the sale. That’s where we’re like, you’re not really doing it in good faith.”
Subsection 5b of HB22-1287 now provides a clarified definition of what “negotiate in good faith” means, and it directly addresses the concerns that Morales expressed: “Negotiating in good faith includes, but is not limited to, evaluating an offer to purchase from a group of homeowners or their assignees without consideration of the time period for closing, the type of financing or payment method, whether or not the offer is contingent on financing or payment method, or whether or not the offer is contingent on financing, an appraisal, or title work.”
In other words, once the new law goes into effect in October, landowners will not legally be allowed to choose a cash offer over a financed one, as was done in the case of the Dotsero park.
Another way the bill addresses the threat of all-cash offers is by giving public authorities the option to buy the property on behalf of the residents, then sell it back to them on easier terms. The bill also gives public authorities the first right of refusal, meaning that if the public entity chooses to make a bid on the property, the landowner is required to sell it if the offer meets their specifications. If HB22-1287 was in effect today, Eagle County could have saved the park on behalf of the residents.
The state also created a $150 million revolving loan fund for affordable housing this year, which mobile home residents will be able to tap into for funding while going through the bidding process instead of relying exclusively on community donations.
All of these modifications are intended to level out what Boesenecker called the “sickening power imbalance” between mobile home residents, landowners and the developers that are coming in with cash in hand and will hopefully prevent what has happened to the Dotsero mobile home park from repeating around the state.
“What we have found is that as more and more parks are sold or redeveloped, that residents really lack protections, and communities lack the ability to protect affordable housing stock,” Boesenecker said. “So that’s really the impetus for 1287, is to build on that Opportunity to Purchase legislation and also to address not only problems that we’ve seen as residents try to either take ownership of their park or just live in their communities but also the affordability piece.”
Opportunity to Purchase laws are still new to Colorado, and legislators are building on the lessons learned as communities try and fail, or try and succeed, to buy their parks. Boesenecker said that he hopes to introduce legislation next year that will extend the right of first refusal to other affordable housing spaces while continuing to strengthen protections for mobile home residents. He and other legislators recognize mobile home parks as critical affordable housing resources and know that if they are not protected now, they will not exist for the populations that need them in the future.
“We knew it was always going to be a multi-year effort,” Boesenecker said. “It started with the concerns acutely coming from my district, and then once you open that can of worms, you realize it’s just happening everywhere. … If those homes go away, you’re never going to be able to afford to do it again, let alone find the land to do it on.”
What the future holds
With the rejection of their offer and the end of the 90-day period, the residents have accepted that they will not become a resident-owned community. At this stage, the only opportunity to change the outcome would be a lawsuit that charges the landlord with not adhering to the “negotiate in good faith” clause, but Morales said that legal advisors think winning the suit is a long shot. Even if a lawsuit was advisable, the community cannot afford the financial risk.
“There’s nothing legally that we can do, because if we take him to court and we lose, we will have to pay a really big fine that we don’t have the money for,” Morales said. “Since the law is so new, there’s a lot of gray area, so as of today we will not be purchasing the park.”
The identity of the new owner has not been disclosed to the residents, and will not become public information for another two to three months. The intentions for the park remain unknown, though Morales said that the information shared with them in recent meetings led her to believe that the owner likely intends to build townhouses on the property.
The new owner is required to keep the park as is for one year, after which he or she can give residents 90-day notice to move off of the property. While eviction is a clear concern, Morales said that even if they are not forced to move, they are now exposed to whatever rent hikes the owner chooses to impose.
“What everybody’s more nervous about is our rent going up,” Morales said. “A lot of people, they’re already working two to three jobs. Our rent is cheap, we know our rent is cheap, but I don’t know how much more people can pay.”
Moving forward, the residents plan to form a homeowners association, which will allow them to better advocate for the rights of the community and address issues on the property that could trigger threats of eviction.
“Our plan as a community, working with Eagle County, is we’re going to be forming an HOA to protect us — like, you can’t just kick us out, you need to communicate with us,” Morales said. “We’re going to have costs with that, we’re going to hire a lawyer to help us write our bylaws, but Eagle County is going to go step by step with us to make sure we’re protected.”
Faviola Alderete is a community health strategist for the county and has been working with the Volcanic View Cooperative since April. She said that the county plans to support the community by sponsoring training with 9to5, a nonprofit based in Denver that specializes in renter’s rights for mobile home owners, and will look for additional grant opportunities that can serve the community’s needs. She said that the basic principle of forming the homeowner’s association is that there is power in numbers.
“What I told them is, the more the merrier — the more you support this cause, the more difficult it will be for the new owner to start evicting people,” Alderete said. “If they want to preserve it, they definitely need to be there for each other, and we want to support that.”
County Commissioner Jeanne McQueeney also confirmed that Eagle County is committed to supporting the residents and will continue providing the programs that are currently in place at the park.
“Eagle County supported the efforts of residents in the Dotsero Mobile Home Park to become landowners,” McQueeney said. “Unfortunately, despite the passionate efforts of those families and all in the community who stood behind them, the property owner ultimately sold to a different buyer. The county will continue to support Dotsero, including with a recent broadband grant and the BEECH program.”
Morales said that the cooperative plans to use the momentum that was built during the bidding process to band the community together in an official capacity, and she will continue to lead as president as the new challenges of the upcoming year present themselves. Since the cooperative never had the opportunity to use the money raised in its GoFundMe campaign, she also said that they will be returning all of the donations that they received to the original donors in September, the earliest time that the website allows reimbursements.
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