Fund created to help Whitehaven residents avoid displacement, but more work lies ahead
Residents at mobile home park are trying to buy the land under their homes
Residents of the Whitehaven Mobile Home Park were alerted on Aug. 9, they had 90 days to raise enough money to buy the land underneath their homes or risk an uncertain future.
Less than a month ago, the Whitehaven residents learned an unknown buyer had offered a little over $3 million for the park property, leading to fears the homeowners might be displaced or see their lot fees increase dramatically.
The Whitehaven residents — about 70 people across 27 homes — know there’s a lot of work for them ahead, but they want to prove they’re willing to meet the challenge. Still, $3 million dollars is a lot of money, and despite having confidence in their own work ethic, the residents know they need help.
According to Tim Wohlgenant, executive director for YVCF, the fund will assist Whitehaven residents with buying the property and becoming a resident-owned community, but in the event they are unable to meet the deadline, the funds could be used to help keep rents affordable.
“It wouldn’t be good for us as a community to have people displaced from all those homes out there,” Wohlgenant said. “We’re already so short of housing as it is.”
If donations exceed the amount needed to purchase the park, Wohlgenant envisions assisting other mobile home parks or low-income housing in Routt County that are in similar situations to Whitehaven.
Many Whitehaven residents own their units and have thousands of dollars invested in them. Some residents are still paying off their loans, and if they lose their property, they would still be on the hook.
Brad Leister, a technician who works several jobs across town, began work replacing a section of his Whitehaven unit with a leaky roof. It’s an ambitious and expensive project for Leister. He has to completely rebuild the room that contained his hot water heater and washer and dryer.
Just a couple of days after starting the reconstruction, Leister learned of the park’s potential sale. He said the plan now is to get everything enclosed and take his washer, dryer and hot water heater out of his kitchen where they’ve been stored and into the room he’s rebuilding.
Leister then plans to wait and see how everything plays out before hemorrhaging too much more money.
Leister has an 8-year-old daughter. He said Whitehaven is a great community for children, and lots of children play and ride bikes through the park.
“It’s happened to me twice now that I’ve been in an apartment and it got sold and I was kicked out,” Leister said. “It’s the third time this has happened to me in this town, and if it happens again, I don’t know if I can stay here.”
The YVCF has been successful in the past, having helped raise over $1 million dollars for the Yampa Valley RISE program, as well as being instrumental in procuring the gifts that led to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority purchasing the land for Brown Ranch.
Unlike Kickstarter and GoFundMe, the YVCF is a nonprofit that doesn’t take any percentage of donations, and all donations are tax deductible.
The fund will also assist with “emergency capital improvement projects,” which would have included a broken water line that deprived around half of Whitehaven residents of running water, but the community already fixed that problem thanks to Hector Lopez, a 25-year-old local who goes between living at his Whitehaven home and Fort Collins, where he works full-time as a foreman.
Lopez’s parents also live in Whitehaven, and they spent weeks gathering water for cooking and showers from a garden hose attached to the lot manager’s unit a few hundred feet away.
Port-a-potties were set up on the outskirts of the park for those without water, but many residents preferred using their own toilets using buckets of water and some ingenuity.
Lopez and other members of the community dug an eight-foot deep and two-foot wide trench to fix the break in the water line and install a new shutoff valve.
“We just like to help each other out,” Lopez said. “Right now, I’m actually using two of my neighbor’s wheelbarrows because I didn’t bring mine from Fort Collins, so I just asked next door.”
The residents of Whitehaven hope to connect to the city’s water, as the aging water pipes and the water well they’re connected to have caused problems for a long time.
City staff are still deliberating what options the city has to support Whitehaven, but should have direction within a week or two, according to City Manager Gary Suiter.
Those seeking to donate to the Routt County Workforce Housing Preservation Fund can go to their website at YVCF.org or send checks to YVCF-Workforce Housing Fund, PO Box 881869, Steamboat Springs, CO 80488.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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