Our View: Few options for mobile-home owners | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Few options for mobile-home owners

The scenario being played out at Westland Mobile Home Park underscores the need for the Yampa Valley Regional Housing Authority.

Routt County commissioners and the Steamboat Springs City Council will appoint 13 members to the new board today. Those individuals — along with Councilman Loui Antonucci and Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak, who also will serve on the board — should waste no time tackling the mobile-home issue, because what’s happening at Westland surely will happen again.

At Westland, 39 families are losing their homes. The land, listed for sale for more than a decade, is being sold to a developer who plans to build a mixture of residential and commercial units in the area. Many of the mobile-home owners who live in Westland cannot move their homes. Those who can, have no place to move them to.

Westland residents have appeared before the City Council to protest the development. But it is hard to blame either the developer or the landowner for this predicament.

Landowners should not be restricted in what they can do with their properties just because the properties served as mobile-home communities. And the developer should not be faulted for acquiring prime riverfront real estate for his plans.

The Steamboat Springs City Council has passed an ordinance requiring owners of mobile-home parks to present an impact report and to get a conditional use permit to change the property’s use before redevelopment. Developers are asked to make their best efforts to assist with relocating displaced mobile-home owners, including providing those owners with a list of available sites within a 50-mile radius.

But there is little more the city can or should do.

Rather, addressing the issue fits squarely into the housing authority’s mission — to plan, finance, construct and manage projects and programs that meet the housing needs of the Yampa Valley.

Our community needs mobile homes. There are 900 of them in Routt County and almost half of those are in Steamboat Springs. Mobile homes can be acquired for $50,000 or less, less than half of the cost of the next step in the local housing market: a low-end, two-bedroom condominium. In a tourism-driven, service-sector economy, such housing is critical to the hundreds of workers at the lower end of the wage scale.

But the future of mobile-home parks is in doubt. As the parks disappear, new communities are not being developed to replace them. The last time a mobile-home community was proposed was 1997, and that plan never materialized. For developers, the margin on mobile-home communities simply is not attractive when compared with other housing developments.

This is a void the housing authority can and should fill by identifying and proposing projects residents can support. Some options the new authority should consider:

n Acquiring and managing existing mobile-home communities likely to be targets of future redevelopment.

n Assisting mobile-home owners with acquiring loans to purchase the property their homes are on, much as Rob Dick did for the residents of the Hilltop mobile-home community when Dick was executive director of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation.

n Or identifying and acquiring property for the development of a new mobile-home community that would serve as an option for existing mobile-home owners when their properties are redeveloped.

The residents of Westland have few housing options, just as there were few options available to the residents of Trailer Haven, when their mobile-home community became tennis courts for the Health and Recreation Association in 2002. The new housing authority should make providing options to the next group of displaced homeowners one of its top priorities.

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