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Longmont Could See First Resident-owned Mobile Home Park in Boulder County

August 25, 2018

Patricia Padilla works in her yard outside her mobile home on Friday. Padilla has lived in her mobile home since 2005. Plans are underway to turn her mobile home park, at 15th Avenue and Kimbark Street into a co-op.

The owner of a Longmont mobile home park intends to sell his 36-lot property to its residents, which would make it the city’s and Boulder County’s first tenant-owned mobile home neighborhood.

If the deal goes through, residents of Longmont Mobile Homes at the southeast corner of 15th Avenue and Kimbark Street would form an association to own the park collectively and create a new set of community rules, protecting tenants from being displaced by a buyer with plans to redevelop the area.

The prospect has city officials hopeful the ownership model could spread elsewhere and buoy the conditions of the city’s affordable dwellings.

“This is an exciting concept that we would love to see explored as an option to maintain, and perhaps improve, the quality and affordability of mobile homes in our community,” Longmont Housing and Community Investment Manager Kathy Fedler said in an email.

But Mary Duvall, director of the Boulder-based affordable housing nonprofit Thistle Communities, which is facilitating the potential sale, said she has tried soliciting other mobile home park owners in Boulder County to consider a sale of their properties to tenants and none have bitten.

“In Boulder County, it’s a little difficult. The owners are interested in retaining their ownership,” Duvall said.

Thistle is working with one other mobile home park owner in Cañon City to transfer ownership to residents, though, Duvall said, she is unaware of any resident-owned mobile home parks in the state currently.

Paul Bliss, owner of the Longmont Mobile Homes property since 2010, is under a contract with Thistle to explore selling to his tenants, who will be presented with financial figures in the next two to three months showing how their lot rents would be impacted by making the property resident-owned, Duvall said.

Residents will then vote on whether to accept the sale, which would be completed with a loan identified by Thistle affiliate Resident Owned Communities USA, a New Hampshire-based national network of 223 resident-owned mobile home parks.

Bliss in an interview declined to disclose the sale price, but a letter sent by him Wednesday shared with the Times-Call by a resident of the mobile home park said the deal would be worth approximately $3.2 million.

He said he has received offers to buy the lot for a similar amount from multiple developers, but passed on those in favor of striking a deal that would let the property’s current residents remain there indefinitely.

“The (developers) wanted to put in what they were calling affordable housing, but I didn’t want to displace all those residents. Where would they go? ... This option allows the tenants to control what happens to that lot,” Bliss said.

Mike Bullard, a spokesman for ROC USA, which selects loans for resident takeovers of mobile home parks, said rents for keeping mobile homes on newly resident-owned lots generally increase at first, but stabilize thereafter and remain at or below market rate.

Most Longmont Mobile Homes residents own their trailers, and only pay rent to keep them on the lot, but Diana Prado said her lot rent has doubled over the last nine years from $325 monthly to $650, and there haven’t been any amenities added.

“It’ll increase with no explanation,” Prado said.

Rental rates could fall after 10 years, Bullard said, when ROC USA tries to identify a way to refinance the loan to the resident ownership association after it has built a decade of equity.

“The fact that (current ownership) raises rent every year I don’t think is appropriate. A lot of people who live here, like myself, I’m on disability, I can’t afford to go anywhere else and I can’t afford to move this old thing,” Longmont Mobile Homes resident Patricia Padilla said.

Resident-landlord disputes could also be eliminated under the proposed cooperative ownership, allowing tenants to modify the lot as allowed by the bylaws forged by the resident association instead of having to gain landlord permission.

“What excites me is that it’s going to be my lot, and that way I can put in new grass, I don’t have to ask the manager,” Reyna Aguilar said. “If everybody owns their trailer, why not come through and own the land? ... When it’s paid, it’s yours, and you get to live here forever.”

Thistle would stay involved with the ownership board, if residents go through with the purchase, as a consultant in forming new neighborhood bylaws to govern the mobile home park.

“We provide coaching for the new board, in terms of community organizing and board development,” Duvall said. ”... I can’t say that every resident will be happy with the decisions that the board makes, but the residents elect the board. ... Generally, this level of interaction can create a much more cohesive community.”

Sam Lounsberry: 303-473-1322, slounsberry@prairiemountainmedia.com and twitter.com/samlounz .

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