The atmosphere at Whitehaven Mobile Home Park was grim in August when residents learned someone had made an offer on the land below their homes.
“Everyone was scared because there was nowhere to live in Steamboat,” said Whitehaven resident Jose Lopez.
Many Whitehaven residents feared the worst: the unknown buyer would raise lot fees or redevelop the land, displacing the approximately 70 people who live there.
But at a special meeting on Thursday, September 22, Yampa Valley Housing Authority board members agreed to offer $3.125 million — matching the previous offer, plus $1 — to buy the Whitehaven. Mobile Home Park on behalf of park residents.
If the purchase is successful, the Housing Authority will serve as the park’s interim steward while working with residents to improve the park’s infrastructure and eventually transform it into a resident-owned co-op.
The money was raised through a mix of low-interest loans and donations, large and small, to the Yampa Valley Community Foundation’s Routt County Workforce Housing Preservation Fund.which has so far raised $750,000.
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority plans to maintain the park’s lot fees while balancing its own finances, similar to how the authority has operated the Fish Creek mobile home park since its purchase in 2007.
“The big picture is that we are able to pay for operations, maintenance and debt service without increasing rents,” said Jason Peasley, director of the housing authority.
He also encouraged the Steamboat community to continue to be generous.
“There is still a need for philanthropy in this space,” Peasley said. “There is still a very significant infrastructure investment that needs to be made on this property.”
Additionally, the Workforce Housing Preservation Fund is still accepting donations, which can help pay for improvements to Whitehaven’s infrastructure or even help other communities in similar situations in Whitehaven.
Connecting Whitehaven to the city’s water supply is one of the biggest infrastructure projects the community needs. The aging pipes that supply Whitehaven with well water have long been a problem.
“The water pressure is intermittent,” said fellow Whitehaven resident Brad Leister. “I certainly don’t drink the water. It tastes funny.
Leister was in the process of rebuilding part of his house when he was informed that he could potentially lose it. Now, as he nears the completion of thousands of dollars worth of renovations, Thursday’s news brings him some comfort.
“Everyone seems relaxed,” Leister said.
Due to the Colorado Mobile Home Park Act, residents of Whitehaven had 90 days to make a competing offer after being notified of the potential sale.
The community quickly mobilized, and with the help of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority, Integrated Community, and the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, they were able to raise funds and vigorously defend their homes.
For most mobile home parks, including Whitehaven, the land and the homes are owned separately. In many cases, when the land is sold, the owners of the mobile homes are informed that they must vacate the property. However, as many homes in Whitehaven are decades old, towing them is not an option and the units should probably be confiscated.
“To go from the potential of losing our homes 45 days ago to knowing that we can keep our homes and have a future in Steamboat is indescribable,” said Jake Dombrowski, a Whitehaven resident who, along with his girlfriend Kim Osterhout, has instrumental in organizing help for their neighborhood.
“Words cannot describe how grateful we are,” Dombrowski said.
The housing authority intends to reach an agreement soon with the owner of the lot, but in the event of a higher offer, the housing authority officials believe that they will be able to exercise a right of first refusal which will be provided by an amendment. to the Mobile Home Park Act which will come into force on October 1st.
“We can go through all the gyrations that we would need to go through on October 1,” Peasley said. “But if we can just come to an agreement with the landowner in the next few days, that will make the process much easier for everyone.”
For Patty Johnson, who has lived in Whitehaven for around 30 years, the good news caps what has been a difficult time.
Johnson was in Denver caring for his sick mother for about seven months. After her mother died a few weeks ago, Johnson said she returned home and familiarized herself with the situation in her community.
“I missed a lot,” Johnson said.
She said the housing authority’s decision is a relief and hopes to make improvements to her home now that she is more confident she can keep it.
“I was sweating that,” Johnson said.
To reach Spencer Powell, call 970-871-4229 or email him at [email protected]