Summit County Commissioners meet with Boulder-based nonprofit after Silverthorne Mobile Home Parks were sold to developer

Kingdom Park in Breckenridge is pictured Wednesday, July 28, 2021. Summit County is exploring a variety of strategies to help alleviate the widespread housing problem, one of which is discovering the work of Thistle, a nonprofit based in Boulder.
Michael Yearout / For the Daily News Summit

When the Silverthorne Cottonwood Court and D&D mobile home parks were sold to Riverthorne LLC, many community members expressed concern for the residents who lived in both parks, and residents worried about whether or not they could stay in the county. from Summit.

Earlier this year, the developer and the residents reached a confidential agreement that would have been satisfactory to each of the residents. But the events of what happened have still shaken some community leaders, given that there are a few other mobile home parks located within the county limits: Swan Meadow Village, Kingdom Park and Farmers Korner.

“We are deeply troubled by what happened in Silverthorne,” Summit County Commissioner Tamara Pogue said at a commissioners’ business meeting on Tuesday, May 3. “It seems a little frustrating, considering all of our efforts to create new affordable housing in Summit County, that we’ve lost some.

That’s why the Summit Board of County Commissioners heard a presentation from Thistle, a small Boulder-based nonprofit that works with Resident Owned Communities USA to help residents of mobile home parks buy their communities and maintain these units as affordable housing. Andy Kadlec, program director for the nonprofit, attended the meeting, along with Mountain Dreamers representatives Peter Bakken and Javier Pineda.

Bakken said in an email that there are currently no plans to purchase any of the county’s mobile home parks and that this presentation was to explain how the community could protect existing affordable housing.

During his presentation, Kadlec said Thistle and Resident Owned Communities USA helped residents purchase six different mobile home parks, including two in Canon City, one in Longmont, one in Durango, one in Boulder and one in Leadville.

Juan Carlos and Karla Gricelda stand outside their home in D&D Mobile Home Park, 780 Blue River Parkway, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022. Last year the park was sold to Riverthorne LLC which plans to develop the property. Park residents are due to move out by this summer.
Ashley Low / For the Daily News Summit

The goal is to transition these parks from private ownership to resident-owned communities. Residents who live in mobile home parks own their homes, but they do not own the land on which their homes sit. If the land is sold to a developer who otherwise wishes to remove the homes and use the land for a new project – as in the case of Silverthorne – residents who own their homes are forced to move.

Thistle’s role is to help residents of parks like these buy into their communities. It works like this: when a community comes up for sale, a Thistle representative contacts the seller and then contacts the residents of that park. From there, the representative helps residents form a co-op, elect an interim board of directors, review possible funding options — some of which are available through Resident Owned Communities USA — and help residents through the process. of the buying process.

After the purchase, the land operates as a cooperative society and each resident owner of his house has the right to be a member. Members continue to own their homes individually and each has an equal share of the land under the entire neighborhood. Thistle in turn maintains a 10-year agreement where its representatives help residents manage a budget and track various capital improvements.

“Really, residents don’t have the opportunity to sell the park and make money,” Kadlec said. “If for any reason they wish to sell the park, they are limited by their company’s articles and regulations to selling it to another non-profit or government entity that would maintain the use of the affordable housing stock of the community.”

Kadlec noted that this process essentially removes the mobile home park from the market permanently. Of the 291 resident-owned communities Resident Owned Communities USA has helped convert across the country, Kadlec said none have been seized or sold to a commercial operator.

Kadlec said this type of model has many advantages.

“Residents who live in mobile home parks have never had control or power. They are always under someone else, who decides the rent for the land, how the trees are pruned, how the rules are enforced in the community,” Kadlec said. “We’re really changing that and giving them the opportunity to create a community they want to live in.”

While that may be the case, Kadlec pointed to some reluctance his organization has encountered with private landlords. He noted that in one case, a park in Durango was sold in 2010 for $7 million, then again two years later for $9.5 million, then again three years later for $14 million. before residents finally buy it. Pogue noted that in recent years the county tried to buy one of the county’s parks and its offer was unsuccessful.

“The reality is investors are aware of the option here to make a lot of money and how lucrative it can be to buy these parks,” Kadlec said. “You get direct cash flow and you don’t have to invest much in the houses themselves or in managing the infrastructure of the land. You can keep them together with tape and tweezers for as long as you want and make a lot of money out of them.

Between Summit County’s three remaining mobile home parks, there are approximately 240 homes, all of which provide affordable housing for community members. Javier Pineda, community organizer for Mountain Dreamers, told the commissioners that finding out-of-the-box solutions to protect these homes is crucial for the community as a whole.

“We notice that there are a lot of families in these homes, and yes, there are a lot of projects in the county that. In a way, they kind of only serve singles and not really families,” Pineda said. “I think finding that balance between the different units, houses, apartments, is a very important aspect of that.”

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