PI Editorial: Recent, proposed Colorado laws just a start for creating housing stability for mobile home residents

Post Independent Editorial Board

For decades, mobile home parks have been touted as a free-market solution to providing lower-cost housing stock in communities nationwide.

Yet mobile homes are not immune to the rising housing costs we are experiencing throughout Garfield County. And as property values rise, it becomes more and more likely we will see more and more of our residents priced out and pushed out.

It’s a problem that disproportionately affects our Latino community members as well — in a column published last month in the Post Independent, Alex Sánchez writes that Latinos make up nearly a third of all mobile home residents statewide.

“In the 73 parks in our service area of Garfield, Pitkin, Eagle, Lake and Summit counties, the percentage is higher, because mobile homes are among the only remaining affordable-housing options,” Sanchez writes.

And no matter how one feels about development, the truth is there is currently no housing under development that offers enough units at a similar level of affordability to replace mobile home parks.

The good news is that many lawmakers throughout the state recognize the need to preserve mobile home parks as a more affordable housing option for Colorado residents.

House Bill 1287 would cap annual rent increases at 3%, with some flexibility to account for inflation.

But what seems like a good idea could end up backfiring and prompting property owners to exit out of the mobile home park business altogether. The city of St. Paul, Minnesota has seen property sales and rent increases rise dramatically since voters passed rent control in fall 2020. It won’t be clear what the overall impacts are if the bill passes and takes effect later this year, but it’s a worrying sign that property owners might be tempted to take their ball and go home when faced with a government mandate on their profits.

What about enabling mobile home owners to have the right of first refusal in the event the property owner wishes to sell off a park? Such a law passed in 2021, but its effectiveness is questionable when mobile home parks are selling for tens of millions of dollars. For example, Apple Tree near New Castle sold last year for over $23 million. That’s a significant amount for the residents of less than 300 mobile homes to come up with.

So, while the intentions of such laws are good and wise, we don’ think they’ll do enough to bring about true housing stability for mobile home residents — or many other residents who don’t own their home for that matter. At the end of the day, Colorado simply needs to create a robust public housing program.

The good news is that locally, we’re starting to see the groundwork laid for such a possibility. As we wrote last weekend, the Greater Roaring Fork Valley Housing Coalition could be the first time we’ve seen all our community stakeholders talking at the same table about housing solutions. And while we still think the state will have to take action on public housing sometime soon, that doesn’t mean we can’t start sooner and do the best we can for our residents whose attainable housing options are currently far too few.

The Post Independent editorial board members are Editor Peter Baumann, Managing Editor/Senior Reporter John Stroud, and community representatives Mark Fishbein and Danielle Becker.

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