More than 70 Steamboat residents fear displacement with pending sale of mobile home park
Community organizations are working to help the residents keep their homes
About two weeks ago, Kim Osterhout, Jake Dombrowski and their neighbors at the Whitehaven Mobile Home Park figuratively, and almost literally, had the rug pulled out from under them.
The residents of the mobile home park on the west side of Steamboat Springs received a notice of sale informing them the owner of the property had received an offer from an unnamed buyer to sell the land under their homes for a little over $3 million.
Now, the community has less than 90 days to match that $3 million offer or risk an uncertain future.
Osterhout and Dombrowski have lived together in Whitehaven for more than five years. They are two of about 70 residents who worry the potential buyer will redevelop the land and displace the occupants of 27 homes on the property.
“(Whitehaven Mobile Home Park) has been around for the past 35 years,” Osterhout wrote in an email. “Some of the residents have been a part of this community for a long time. We have people in our park that are the fourth generation in Steamboat, we have business owners, we have single-parent families and homes that have three generations living together.”
While the mobile homes at Whitehaven are individually owned, the lot they occupy is owned by Whitehaven LLC, which has a mailing address in Omaha, Nebraska, that belongs to the Omaha Paper Company. Attempts to contact Whitehaven LLC on Friday, Aug. 26, were unsuccessful.
After an amendment in 2020 to the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act, owners in such parks are given the ability to purchase the property when the landlord anticipates selling or changing the use of the land.
“We were given the letter technically two weeks ago, but half of the households are Spanish-speaking,” said Osterhout. “And there was no Spanish copy given until yesterday.”
Nelly Navarro, the executive director of Integrated Community, said Spanish-speaking residents of the Whitehaven community came to the organization with stacks of papers they needed translated.
While interpreting the letters, Navarro and her staff realized what was at stake. They reached out to the Yampa Valley Housing Authority to get help interpreting the documents and inform the residents of their options.
Because the letters were so long, it took Navarro’s office about a week to translate the letters and get them back to the community.
“Just reading the document was really shocking,” said Navarro. “There was just a lot of concern from residents to quickly gather and support each other.”
In a joint meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25, with Integrated Community and the housing authority, residents of Whitehaven were informed of their right to purchase the land.
Residents have expressed fears that a new owner might displace the homeowners, ramp up lot fees or potentially remove some of the older units. Most of the mobile homes at Whitehaven are too old to be moved, so the money invested in them could be lost if that happened.
Many Whitehaven residents also said they aren’t comfortable leaving things to chance and would rather band together to raise the money they need, even though that might still be out of reach.
Doing the math, each homeowner would need to contribute around $115,000 toward the purchase, Osterhout said, adding she believes that is unrealistic without help, which she hopes to find in the community through donations and grants.
Alyssa Cartmill, the regional property manager for the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, said she and other staff at the housing authority have been working to connect Whitehaven residents with resources and nonprofits such as Thistle, a Boulder-based group that has a successful track record of helping mobile home parks transition to “resident-owned communities.”
“It’s literally 100% local workforce people who live there,” said Jason Peasley, the executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
Joining the ranks with Integrated Community and the housing authority, Steamboat Planning and Community Development Director Rebecca Bessey is meeting with Jennifer Bock, the assistant city attorney, to see what role the city might play in aiding the Whitehaven residents.
Osterhout said purchasing the lot is the goal. She said more money would be needed to invest in infrastructure, as about half of the units in the park have been without running water for weeks.
She also said she has reached out to the landlord multiple times but has yet to communicate with them.
“It’s definitely a little stressful,” Osterhout said.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at spowell@SteamboatPilot.com
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