Colorado lawmakers plan to introduce a bill this week giving more than 100,000 people living in mobile home parks across the state more protection from unregulated rent hikes.
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The Mobile Home Park Residents Protection Act would cap lot rent increases each year and keep them in check with the consumer price index, mirroring that seen in fixed-income adjustments, such as in Social Security.
State Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, talked details with a gathering of Golden Hills Mobile Home Park residents on Sunday, Feb. 27. He said the bill builds on existing state legislation and is based on the real-life experiences of mobile home park residents.
“Colorado is quickly becoming one of the most expensive places to live in the country,” said State Rep. Monica Duran, D-Wheat Ridge, who co-sponsors the bill with Boesenecker. "Wages aren’t keeping up with the cost of living; people are still recovering from the pandemic. So keeping a roof over your head is one of the most critical aspects of a family’s stability.”
Mobile home parks are among the last sources of unsubsidized, affordable housing, with many residents being working-class and immigrant families, veterans, seniors on fixed incomes and those with disabilities.
Current state law does not regulate how much a park owner may increase the lot rents.
Heather Malone, a 10-year resident of Golden Hills Mobile Home Park and vice president of the community’s co-op, said that within weeks of purchasing the park by California-based Harmony Communities, her lot rent went from $550 a month to $795.
“Lot rent increases need to be maintained and stabilized where park owners can receive a fair return on their investment,” Boesenecker said. “There is no problem with someone receiving a return on their investment, but it should not come at the expense of making people houseless.”
Increasing financial help
Colorado’s Opportunity to Purchase Act, signed into law in 2020, requires park owners to notify residents of any intent to sell, creating an opportunity for residents to make an offer.
Information provided by the Representatives’ office said that 43 mobile home parks have been sold in Colorado since the law’s passage, yet residents have purchased only two.
Golden Hills has tried three times to purchase their 38-unit mobile home park.
Brosenecker says part of that challenge is that residents can’t access financing fast enough.
The new bill would create a $50 million revolving loan program from federal COVID relief funds to put residents in a better position to purchase their park without additional debt.
Broesenecker said the fund would offer low-interest loans and provide financing that moves at the speed of the market.
“That’s something that’s not happening at present,” he explained. “There are funds available, but you can’t get into them until a year down the road. We aim to fix that.”
First right of refusal for public entities
Even when residents want to buy their community, sometimes circumstances are not ideal.
The new bill would ensure residents have ample opportunity to coordinate and secure funding, increasing the statutory time limit from 90 days to 180 days.
Broesenecker thinks public entities should also have a say in protecting affordable housing if a mobile home community is unable or does not want to purchase their park.
He said residents could assign their purchase right to a public entity, such as a city.
The city would then make the first offer and have the first right of refusal.
“We think that is a huge win for residents who maybe don’t have the financial resources to pull together a multi-million transaction,” Boesenecker said.
More protection for residents
Boesenecker said 20 parks have sold since the beginning of the state’s mobile home park oversight program without any notice to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, local jurisdictions or residents.
If passed, the bill would restrict a mobile home park from being titled if the park seller and buyer have not complied with state statutes in terms of that purchase, he said.
Other pieces of the bill would place “backstops” on park rules, regulations, and costly fees for residents, as well as threatening eviction for events that do not qualify for removal.
“If you come to Colorado to do business, you need to follow the rules and do business in the way the state statute says you need to,” Boesenecker said. “Residents have rights here.”
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