The Colorado Sun assembled a coalition of more than a dozen Colorado newsrooms — newspapers, public radio, TV and digital — to produce a collaborative project that would have been unthinkable in the old days of cutthroat competition. Journalists fanned out across the state to look at what for many is the last form of affordable housing: mobile homes.
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The Colorado Sun
The Aspen Times
The Colorado Independent
Fort Collins Coloradoan
Montrose Daily Press
Ouray County Plaindealer
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Among the findings:
- More than 100,000 people live in more than 900 mobile home parks across Colorado. But the number of parks is declining and ownership is consolidating as mom-and-pop operations sell out to large investors, sometimes leading to displacement and redevelopment.
- In Adams County, which has the state’s largest concentration of mobile homes, the number of both homes and parks has dropped to 11,300 homes in 66 parks today, from more than 13,000 mobile homes in 71 parks 20 years ago, according to assessor records.
- About a third of Weld County’s mobile homes were built from 1960 to 1979, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. That means many homes don’t meet modern safety standards. Some homes continue to have aluminum wiring, which increases the fire hazard.
- About 1,300 households live in 45 mobile home parks across La Plata County, and residents in the Durango area say they have seen lot rents increase by 50% to 100% in parks owned by corporations.
- The 2013 floods continue to reverberate for many mobile home residents in northern Colorado. In just three communities — Lyons, Evans and Milliken — researchers tracked the destruction of 273 mobile homes, most of which were not rebuilt or replaced because parks failed to reopen.
- Aspen first took steps in the early 1980s to preserve a mobile home park in the middle of town that still exists today as a cherished affordable housing neighborhood. Pitkin County has since bought or helped preserve four more mobile home parks in the upper Roaring Fork Valley for affordable housing.
- In Telluride, the last nearby mobile home park — in unincorporated San Miguel County — closed in the early 1990s.
- In Ouray, one woman discovered how her investment in a single-wide for her aging mother quickly turned into a near-total loss for her as a result of park rules that demanded the unit be moved if it changed hands.
- In Steamboat Springs, developers had designs on the attractive real estate where a mobile home park sat, but once residents moved and the recession hit, the land remained vacant for years. And in the last decade, the number of mobile home units in Routt County has been reduced nearly by half.
- Not far from Greeley, the Hill-N-Park community provided a low-cost option where you could invest in a mobile home and actually own the land beneath it. But now, the once-promising place feels abandoned by Weld County officials, “like the red-headed stepchild,” in the words of one resident.
- The Aspens Mobile Home Village in Avon is home for many workers in the hospitality, service and construction industries — an economic necessity in a notoriously pricey area. It’s also a home-away-from-home for the many immigrants who fill those jobs.
- More than a year ago, Aurora seemed poised to become a national model with its moratorium on redeveloping mobile home parks. But since then it has struggled like many areas to address parks’ role in providing affordable housing.
- Even Durango’s middle class is finding mobile homes — the “affordable” option — too pricey in a town where the median home goes for $500,000. So they’re moving.
- In Fort Collins, the city council has put a moratorium on redevelopment of mobile home parks until August 2020. The city is considering increasing the current six months’ notice for redevelopment of a mobile home park and giving residents or nonprofits the option to buy the land if it goes up for sale.
- An Adams County mobile home park is among the latest to shut down due to redevelopment. The Crestville Mobile Home Park, near Federal Boulevard and West 56th Avenue, is filled with abandoned homes and at times, neighbors say, animals and vagrants. The owner would not say what’s next for the property.
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Support Collaborative Journalism
Each of the newsrooms involved in this project put some of their limited time and resources to helping cover this important topic. Local journalism needs the support of readers more than ever. Please financially support as much journalism as you can.
Below are links to show your support to the newsrooms involved.
- The Colorado Sun
- The Aspen Times
- Aurora Sentinel
- Colorado Independent
- Cortez Journal
- Delta County Independent
- Durango Herald
- Fort Collins Coloradoan
- Grand Junction Daily Sentinel
- Greeley Tribune
- Montrose Daily Press
- Ouray County Plaindealer
- Steamboat Pilot & Today
This reporting is made possible by our members. You can directly support independent watchdog journalism in Colorado for as little as $5 a month. Start here: coloradosun.com/join