Colorado will help residents of mobile home parks purchase their parks — and a new agency will help protect their right to do so — under new laws Governor Jared Polis signed on Tuesday.
The new loan program, established when SB22-160 was signed, is intended to provide leverage to Coloradans who historically faced a unique disadvantage among homeowners: they typically own the structure they live in, but not the land on which it stands.
This can lead to problems when parks are put up for sale, either to be redeveloped for other purposes or for businesses to fear raising rents because residents cannot easily move out. Proponents say it jeopardizes a rare source of unsubsidized affordable housing in a state that badly needs it.
“Resident-owned communities are really one of the primary ways to provide affordability within the mobile home park space,” said state Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, a Democrat from Fort Collins.
The state will also partner with an outside organization to help with financing and help tenants through the process, as required by law. These administrators will also bring money to the table, helping the state loan go further, Boesenecker said.
Boesenecker sponsored the bill in the Legislative Assembly with senses. Julie Gonzales of Denver and Nick Hinrichsen of Pueblo and Rep. Mandy Lindsay of Aurora. All are Democrats. The fund passed a party vote in both houses, with Republicans saying the state should not compete with private companies and issue loans.
Polis signed the bill at Parklane Mobile Home Park just outside of Fort Collins. There, park residents have banded together to form a non-profit organization called United Neighbors/Vecinos Unidos which is contracted to buy the park. They were able to secure financing and about $1 million of Larimer County’s U.S. bailout money, and hope to complete the $6.8 million purchase in July.
Sabrina Montoya, a park resident who helped organize the nonprofit, said the purchase will help keep their lots’ rents stable and allow residents to maintain and improve their community. More than that, she hopes it will serve as an example to residents of other parks.
“This law is a legacy for new generations to struggle through the process of buying a mobile home park like we did at Parklane,” Montoya said. “We want our story to inspire other residents of the Mobile Home Park to buy, preserve and improve their community.”
There are over 700 mobile home parks in Colorado and over 46,000 mobile homes. They have received significant attention in the legislature as lawmakers seek to preserve housing options during a nationwide trend of big business buying them up and raising rents.
In 2020, Polis signed a law allowing residents to buy their parks when they come up for sale, but only a handful have managed to navigate a process where competing entities can have millions in cash to deposit.
During this time, Polis also signed HB22-1082, which establishes the Fair Housing Unit under the office of the Colorado Attorney General. This allows the office to prosecute people who flout housing laws. This includes mobile home rules, protections for immigrant tenants, rent increases and security deposits.
While the scope is broader than mobile homes, sponsor rep Edie Hooton, a Democrat from Boulder, said it was particularly boosted when she learned that more than 30 mobile home park owners had no not inform residents of their intention 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 barriers tenants may face, including time, language and expertise. Under the law, the Attorney General will be able to enforce civil and criminal laws.
“If there are bad actors, it will help ensure they are brought to justice,” Polis said. “If there are landlords disobeying Colorado laws, their tenants will have the support and defense they need to assert their rights.”