April 8, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Lorelei Smillie | Illustration by Iris Guo

Since the onset of the pandemic, Colorado has been facing a massive housing crisis. The crisis was brought on by an influx of people moving into the cities seeking less density and more opportunity in the outdoors. With this shift has come a large increase in rent, as demand for housing has skyrocketed over the past two years. Now, one of the last pockets of affordable housing is threatened: the mobile home community.

An often overlooked sector of the real estate market, mobile homes offer affordable housing for nearly 20 million people in the United States. A manufactured home costs around $90,000, plus rent for the plot of land costs around $500 per month.

The U.S. Office of Policy Development and Research states that “in 2015, the median income for occupants of mobile home was approximately 60 percent of the statewide median income.” This leaves tenants especially vulnerable to shifts in housing restrictions from their landlords.

Mobile home communities in Colorado have been facing soaring rents as private equity firms are swooping in and buying the land previously owned by small families. It’s easy revenue for these companies– the residents own their homes but not the land they live on, and relocation is nearly impossible due to the expenses and legal ramifications. This locks tenants into their property and forces them to pay whatever the companies ask.

As these corporate owners take control, they have increased rent by as much as 50% and established new housing regulations. These regulations can be exclusively aesthetic modifications such as building porches or awnings, and do not contribute to essential safety. Some developers have also demanded that art and sculptures be removed from people’s yards, attempting to create a “cleaner” feel to their property in order to resell the land and make even more money.

These expenses have led to many families being displaced by the new ownership. There’s a large demand for the homes, and residents are quickly replaced if they can’t pay the rent increase or afford renovations.

Several people who live in mobile homes in Colorado Springs echoed this sentiment of loss. Someone I spoke to recently about their experience post-buyout told me that with this switch came financial hardship and a real loss of community.

Original owners were often families who maintained close relationships with their tenants, and they’ve been replaced with large companies who are eager to make money. Families who have established roots and people who existed as pillars in the community get forced out. Rapid turnover in tenants prevents the sense of community which is necessary to effectively mobilize change. It’s hard to plan to secure housing rights when you’re struggling to pay the month’s rent.

Two weeks ago, a Democrat-backed bill to cap rent in Colorado’s mobile home parks passed through the House Transportation and Local Government committee. This bill would limit rent increase at three percent per year, as well as increase the time residents have to bid on their park if it goes up for sale.

More regulation like this could ensure people’s rights to their homes and end a long period of fear and instability for many Colorado residents.

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