A $5.46 million offer to purchase the Westside Mobile Home Park in Durango by residents and their partner, Elevation Community Land Trust, was rejected on Friday.
Westside Mobile Home Park residents rallied at the park Friday and sought new sources of funding as they continue to work with Elevation Community Land Trust to purchase the property and secure their homes.
“The last thing we want to do is abandon our homes,” said Alejandra Chavez, a Westside Mobile Home Park resident and the president of the community’s cooperative.
In a letter to Elevation Community Land Trust’s CEO Stefka Fanchi obtained by The Durango Herald, Benjamin Goldberg, an associate attorney with Bove Law Offices, rejected the community land trust’s bid citing another offer IQ Mobile Home Parks has received.
“Due to material differences between the offers, specifically financing and timelines, Westside cannot accept the residents’ offer,” Goldberg wrote.
He identified five differences between another offer IQ Mobile Home Parks has received and Elevation Community Land Trust’s bid. The other offer is cash with an earlier closing date, no financing contingency, no appraisal contingency and 15 fewer days for due diligence, according to the letter.
According to residents and Benjamin Waddell, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College who has worked closely with Westside Mobile Home Park residents in their attempt to purchase the property, California-based Harmony Communities, a mobile home real estate company, submitted the other offer.
Harmony Communities did not respond to requests for comment Friday. Neither Goldberg nor IQ Mobile Home Parks could be reached for comment.
Elevation Community Land Trust, which uses public and private funding to acquire residential properties and increase access to affordable homeownership, submitted an offer on behalf of Westside Mobile Home Park’s residents on March 15. The offer relied on private and government financing, according to Goldberg’s letter.
Fanchi said the organization felt like their initial offer was strong.
“We thought we had what was a really competitive offer to begin with,” she said. “But I understand that there’s certain things that come along with financing which from the seller’s perspective isn’t ideal.”
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.
IQ Mobile Home Parks notified residents that the company intended to sell the property Dec. 20, leaving Elevation Community Land Trust with a deadline of March 20 to submit an offer.
However, in Goldberg’s letter to Elevation Community Land Trust, he noted that the sellers and Bove Law Offices were extending the deadline for another week to March 27.
Elevation Community Land Trust plans to follow up with a second offer that will address the concerns raised by Goldberg.
“Our goal is to present a new offer to the seller that essentially matches if not exceeds all terms provided,” Fanchi said. “We will only be able to do that with even greater support from the broader community, not just local, but even statewide.”
Elevation Community Land Trust has been holding conversations with financial and community organizations and leaders locally and across Colorado to create an offer that is more competitive.
“We’ve been talking to foundations, community development financial institutions, the state, the county, the city,” Fanchi said. “All these folks are lining up shoulder to shoulder with us to create an offer that is cash (with) short timelines, and that allows us to gain site control so that we can start to work with the residents at Westside to make improvements to their lives and to give them a little bit of control over their own destiny.”
Since residents of Westside Mobile Home Park were first notified by IQ Mobile Home Parks of the company’s intent to sell, the community has rallied to keep their homes and purchase the park.
On Friday afternoon, more than 30 residents gathered at Westside Mobile Home Park with signs and balloons to rally and kickoff fundraising efforts.
Chavez said residents hope to raise $500,000 from the Durango community to support their purchase of the park. The community is starting a GoFundMe drive to help raise the money, Chavez said.
“We are working with good companies, so we’re wondering if our bosses or someone can donate the money to be able to help Elevation to gather all the money,” she said.
At Friday’s rally, Chavez said many residents may be displaced if they are unable to purchase the Westside Mobile Home Park property. She said many would be unable to afford the rent increase Harmony Communities would likely institute.
Chavez said Westside Mobile Home Park residents are concerned about their children and want to sustain their community.
“We want to keep our families together,” she said. “There’s about 72 kids in this area, just in this mobile home park. If we get displaced, where are we going to go? Where are those kids going to go?”
During the demonstration, she acknowledged $500,000 is a lot to ask for, but she said residents believed the broader Durango community could rally and support them.
“I know that it’s a lot, but it’s not impossible,” she said.
Westside Mobile Home Park residents and Elevation Community Land Trust received a boost on Tuesday when La Plata County commissioners unanimously approved a $1.5 million loan to aid in the purchase of the property.
The commissioners applauded efforts to prevent the displacement of Westside Mobile Home Park residents, many of whom are Hispanic and in a community in which 90% of residents live at or below 50% of the area median income.
“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 during the special business meeting.
Ted Holteen, spokesman for La Plata County, said the county was not involved in ongoing negotiations between IQ Mobile Home Parks and Elevation Community Land Trust. The $1.5 million loan was the extent to which the county could lend financial support to the purchase, he said.
As Elevation Community Land Trust pivots, Fanchi said the organization is confident it can produce a competitive second offer by March 27.
“I am very confident that we’re going to have some wonderful partners coming alongside us to make that a reality,” Fanchi said.
As Chavez spoke into a camera on Friday, she became emotional.
“It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “We stand together. We stand with Westside.”