Colorado will help mobile home park residents buy their parks — and a new agency will help protect their right to do so — under new laws signed by Gov. Jared Polis Tuesday.
The new loan program, established in the signing of SB22-160, aims to give leverage to Coloradans who historically faced a unique disadvantage among homeowners: They typically own the structure they live in, but not the land it sits on.
That can lead to problems when the parks go up for sale, either for redevelopment into other use or to companies residents fear have an eye toward jacking up rents, since the residents can’t easily move. Advocates say this jeopardizes a rare source of unsubsidized affordable housing in a state with dire needs for it.
“Resident owned communities are really one of the key ways we can ensure affordability inside of the mobile home park space,” state Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, a Fort Collins Democrat said.
The state will also partner with outside organization to help with financing and to aid the tenants through the process, according to the law. Those administrators will also bring money to the table, helping the state’s loan reach further, Boesenecker said.
Boesenecker sponsored the bill in the legislature with Sens. Julie Gonzales, of Denver, and Nick Hinrichsen, of Pueblo, and Rep. Mandy Lindsay, of Aurora. All are Democrats. The fund passed on a party-line vote in both chambers, with Republicans arguing the state shouldn’t compete with private business and issue loans.
Polis signed the bill at Parklane Mobile Home Park just outside of Fort Collins. There, park residents banded together to form a nonprofit called United Neighbors/Vecinos Unidos that is under contract to buy the park. They were able to secure financing and about $1 million from Larimer County’s dole of American Rescue Plan money, and hope to finalize the $6.8 million purchase in July.
Sabrina Montoya, a park resident who helped organize the nonprofit, said the purchase will help keep their lot rents steady and empower residents to maintain and improve their community. More than that, she hopes it will serve as an example for residents of other parks.
“This law is a legacy to new generations to fight in the mobile home park purchase process like we did in Parklane,” Montoya said. “We want our story to inspire other mobile home park residents to buy, preserve and improve their community.”
There are more than 700 mobile home parks in Colorado and more than 46,000 mobile homes. They’ve been of special focus in the legislature as lawmakers seek to preserve the housing options during a national trend of large corporations buying them and jacking up rents.
In 2020, Polis signed a law to allow residents to buy their parks when they go up for sale, but only a handful have successfully navigated a process where competing entities can have millions in cash to drop.
Meanwhile, Polis also signed HB22-1082, which establishes the Fair Housing Unit under the Colorado Attorney General’s office. That empowers the office to go after people who flout housing laws. That includes rules around mobile homes, protections for immigrant tenants, rent increases and security deposits.
While the scope is broader than just mobile homes, sponsor Rep. Edie Hooton, a Boulder Democrat, said it was specifically spurred when she learned that more than 30 mobile home park owners had failed to notify residents about their intent to sell.
The news angered her, so she sought to give the law some teeth.
“Without enforcement, it’s just window dressing,” Hooton said.
Polis noted the barriers tenants can face, including time, language and expertise. Under the law, the Attorney General will be able to bring civil and criminal enforcement of the laws.
“If there are bad actors out there, this will help make sure they are brought to justice,” Polis said. “If there are landlords that disobey the laws of Colorado, that their tenants will have the support and advocacy they need to have their rights asserted.”
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