Residents of Westside Mobile Home Park received a boost from La Plata County this week.
County commissioners unanimously approved a loan during a special business meeting Tuesday that will help residents of Westside Mobile Home Park and their partner, Elevation Community Land Trust, make an offer to purchase the park. Residents of Westside Mobile Home Park and La Plata County community members gave emotional testimony during the meeting, expressing a desire to keep the Westside community intact and support working families.
“There is a human angle to this. I don’t want to only put this in economic terms. These are people and these are families,” said Commissioner Marsha Porter-Norton.
Elevation Community Land Trust requested three actions from La Plata County to support the purchase of the approximately 60-lot park from current owner IQ Mobile Home Parks.
The first was a $100,000 short-term loan for a deposit in connection with Elevation’s offer to purchase the property. The community trust also requested a due diligence grant up to $100,000 to conduct surveys, inspections and appraisals of the park and the approximately 18 homes that are owned by IQ Mobile Home Parks.
Lastly, Elevation requested a $1.5 million loan to go toward the approximately $5.6 million purchase price of Westside Mobile Home Park to meet the necessary financing the trust needs to make an offer on the park.
All three commissioners were vocal in their support for Westside Mobile Home Park.
“This is economic development as well as protecting these people,” said Commissioner Clyde Church.
Commissioner Matt Salka added that the county had identified affordable housing as a key area to address with federal money from the American Rescue Plan Act.
“This is exactly our ARPA goal. It was workforce housing,” Salka said.
Westside Mobile Home Park community members have assigned their right to purchase to Elevation, which uses public and private funding to acquire residential properties and increase access to affordable homeownership.
Elevation now must submit an offer no later than March 20. The county’s loan will supplement another loan the community land trust has sought to purchase the property.
IQ Mobile Home Parks does not have to accept the offer, but under Colorado state statute the company must negotiate in good faith with Elevation.
If the offer is successful, Elevation will enter into an agreement with the county for the $1.5 million loan, which will be interest-free and due to the county within 24 months of closing once Elevation secures long-term funding. The short-term loan will also be interest free and must be paid within 130 days of the purchase of the park.
The purchase of the park will prevent the displacement of Westside Mobile Home Park residents, many of whom are Hispanic in a community in which 90% of residents live at or below 50% of the area median income. Elevation will support permanent affordable housing for the about 100 people who live in the park.
During the meeting, Elevation CEO Stefka Fanchi said the organization is considering redeveloping Westside Mobile Home Park to better serve the community if the purchase goes through.
“Our goal is to work with the residents to redesign and have modular units on permanent foundations, and have safe, decent and affordable options for Durango and La Plata workers,” Fanchi said. “This will really be a project that is catered to the needs of the residents and the community.”
IQ Mobile Home Parks notified residents Dec. 20 that the company intended to sell the property. Under Colorado law, homeowners in a mobile park have the right to offer to buy the park if the property owner intends to sell or change the land use. However, they must do so within a 90-day period.
Since residents of Westside Mobile Home Park community were first notified, the community has rallied to keep their homes, partnering with Elevation and working with other community organizations including Compañeros, a local immigrant advocacy and resource center, in their effort to purchase the park.
Westside Mobile Home Park residents spoke about their desire to stay in their homes and preserve their community at Tuesday’s meeting, as well as the impact that the sale of the park would have on their families.
“My house, my heart, my soul is in Westside,” said Alejandra Chavez, a resident who has lived in the park for more than 17 years. “... We have great neighbors (and) we’re very close to each other. It’s not just my neighbors, they are a part of my family.”
La Plata County community members joined residents of Westside Mobile Home Park, encouraging the commissioners to approve the loans.
“We’re here, we stand up and we want to work together with you,” said Beatriz Garcia, program manager for Compañeros, who has assisted the Westside Mobile Home Park residents in their efforts. “For us, it’s not $1.5 million. For us, it’s a community that really wants to be embraced.”
Residents of Animas View Mobile Home Park Co-op in north Durango, who themselves went through a similar process and purchased their park becoming a resident-owned community, empathized with residents of Westside Mobile Home Park and offered their support.
“When we found out about the sale of Westside Mobile Home Park, we more than others knew what would happen to the residents if they didn’t somehow buy their own land,” said Karen Pontius, a resident of Animas View Mobile Home Park. “... The residents are essential workers in our town. They deserve a place to live and raise their families that isn’t constantly threatened.”
As the meeting drew to a close, Porter-Norton teared up as the commissioners endorsed the efforts of the Westside Mobile Home Park community and Elevation.
“That was some of the most powerful testimony I have heard since I’ve been a commissioner,” she said. “... This is good government. This is what we were hired to do by the people (of La Plata County).”