(Colorado News Connection) A bill before the General Assembly would put safeguards in place to promote accountability and affordability in mobile home parks.
More than 100,000 Coloradans live in mobile home communities, but investment funds and developers have been buying up parks and hiking up the rent, sometimes by double.
Cesiah Guadarrama Trejo, associate state director for Colorado 9to5, said rent increases are the number one concern for residents. She explained the term "mobile home" is in some ways a misnomer, because they can cost thousands of dollars to move, may be too old to survive a move, and it may be difficult to find another nearby site.
"If I live in Adams County, and I have to move my home, if the closest option to me is Grand Junction, that's not where my job is," Trejo pointed out. "That's not maybe like where your children are going to school. And so honestly, those options are very, very limited."
Colorado law allows rents to be increased once a year with 60-day notice. Trejo noted the bill would cap increases at three percent or 100 percent of inflation, whichever is greater in a 12-month period. She emphasized it accounts for landlords making returns on their investments, while also letting families know what they can expect to pay.
Trejo added the affordable-housing crisis is not just an urban issue, but affects residents across the state. She observed many of those who live in mobile-home communities are immigrant families, households with children, veterans, seniors and people with disabilities.
"We're talking about the most vulnerable populations and about working-class folks," Trejo stressed. "There's a lot of stigma still, in miseducation about who lives in these parks oftentimes because of what they look like on the outside."
She explained park owners are responsible for common areas and park infrastructure, while residents are responsible for their homes and anything inside.
Currently, homeowners have the option of an offer to purchase a park when it goes up for sale, if they can get 51 percent support among all park residents and finance the sale within 90 days. The bill would extend the timeline to 180 days, and put safeguards in place for if parks do close, landlords would be responsible for paying to move residents' mobile homes up to 100 miles, paying fair market value for the homes, or paying relocation assistance.
Jason Legg, attorney at Cadiz law and a tenants rights advocate working in partnership with Colorado 9to5, said without changes, landlords will continue to squeeze homeowners as hard as they can.
"The Mobile Home Park Act is a great law, relatively speaking, to other tenant-protection regimes that are out there," Legg asserted. "And the opportunity to purchase even is great. But so long as rent can be increased exponentially, like it has been, it swallows everything else."