ALAMOSA – The clock is ticking on the Nov. 1 deadline by which time a bid has to be on the table to buy Century Mobile Home Park, should the 104 homeowners residing there – many who have lived in the park for years – vote to take their future in their own hands.
After getting blindsided by the news in July that the property is being sold for the stunning price of $6.8 million cash, homeowners have discussed which of three options they should take in response – options legally available to them by Colorado state law.
They can opt do nothing, let the $6.8 million sale go through and hope for the best. They can form a Resident Owned Community (ROC) where they vote on who among them will comprise the board that governs the park, establish rules under which the park will operate, and obtain $6.8 million financing to buy the park themselves. Or they can vote to have a non-profit – in this case, SLV Housing Coalition (SLVHC) – purchase the park and then provide ongoing, on-site management.
A fourth option – where the government purchases the park – has been presented to the homeowners but has not been discussed much since then, largely due to a collective lack of interest.
A minimum of 51% – or 53 of the 104 people who own homes (renters are not included) – have to agree on the path going forward.
SLVHC, who has vowed to support whatever the homeowners decide, has facilitated three meetings with homeowners so far, informing them of their rights in the situation, keeping them updated on developments in the situation and answering the myriad of questions homeowners have with answers provided in three languages.
SLVHC has also been tallying homeowners’ votes on which path forward they want to take.
According to Dawn Melgares, the SLVHC executive director who has been facilitating the meetings, 47 households have cast their vote. Of those 47 who have voted, 35 voted for the non-profit purchasing the park, 11 voted for forming an ROC where homeowners own and operate the park themselves and one person voted to let the government buy it.
Melgares told homeowners at Wednesday night’s meeting that, due to the amount of work that has to be done before a bid can be placed on Nov.1, the final vote will be at the next meeting on Sept. 21.
However, one time clock has already expired.
The current owners of the park were prohibited by law from contacting homeowners for 30 days after notice of the park sale went out. That 30-day-period has expired, opening the door to the owners and their manager on site to contact homeowners and, potentially, convince them to agree to the owners selling with no further action taken.
For that reason, a large message was written on the whiteboards of the classrooms in Boyd School where homeowners met. The message read “do not sign anything about the sale from management.”
“Signing that agreement removes their neighbors from having a say in what happens with the park,” Melgares said. “If the homeowners decide to let the sale go through, that’s their right. But we want to make sure all of the homeowners have a say in what happens, as the law allows them to do.”
Melgares also shared key information with the homeowners.
The law allows the seller to not disclose the name of the buyer, leaving homeowners wondering what the buyer’s intention was – whether it was to continue operation as a park or be closed with residents and homeowners forced to move and the land developed for some other purpose.
After pursuing different leads, Melgares was able to inform homeowners that a company known as Living Well Communities, LLC., (LWC) had submitted the offer to buy.
Located in San Clemente, California, LWC is the same entity that recently purchased Town and Country MHP, one of only dozens of parks the company owns in various states.
Since their purchase of Town and Country, Melgares has had frequent contact with LWC, largely advocating on behalf of the residents there. Upon learning they were the buyers, she reached out to them for information.
Melgares was told by LWC it is clearly their intention to keep the property operating as a mobile home park. They plan to fix the sewer system – a long-time, ongoing problem that, in the past, has resulted in raw sewage overflowing near people’s homes and in their yards. They also plan to re-open the playground and clean up the grounds that, up to now, have been kept in less than desirable conditions for an extended period.
LWC rules it plans to roll out
LWC also plans to institute the same rules as its other Colorado parks.
No more than two pets allowed per household and an additional fee will be charged for each pet on residents’ lot. No on-site maintenance of vehicles – such as changing oil – will be allowed. There could also be a separate fee for trash removal.
Rent payments will only be accepted through receiving a check in the mail or an electronic third-party payment system, such as is offered at City Market and WalMart.
When asked if LWC would raise the rent, Melgares reminded homeowners that LWC is a for-profit company and making a profit is their goal. Based on steps they have taken at Town and Country, those living in Century MHP should anticipate lot rent will be raised to – her best guess – around $500 to $600 per month, utilities not included, over the next few years to get the park to market rate, although LWC has not confirmed this amount.
When asked to compare LWC to SLVHC, Melgares said that her organization is a non-profit whose mission is to provide affordable housing. She cannot guarantee that lot rent would not be increased under SLVHC, but the amount of increase would be directly proportionate to, for example, making payments on the loan to purchase the property. She also pledged 100% transparency if an increase were needed, reminding homeowners that, in the other properties under SLVHC’s management rent was raised one property for the first time in more than 10 years and that increase was about $50. On another property, rent has been raised twice in about twenty years.
She said SLVHC is committed to fixing the sewer system and cleaning up the grounds.
By law, LWC is allowed to raise the rent only once every 12 months, but there is no limit on how much that increase can be. Since rent was just raised in April, LWC will not be able to raise rent again until April of 2023 with 60 days written notice.
The next meeting of homeowners is scheduled to be held at Boyd School at 6 p.m. Sept. 21. At that time, homeowners will make the final decision on the course they want to take.
“We (SLVHC) support you in whatever you decide,” she said. “If you decide to just let the sale go through, we will be here to advocate for you from now and into the future. If you choose to become an ROC, we support you in that and will help however we can. And if you go with the non-profit, we’re right here.
“We’ve been here for 30 years and we’re going to be here for a long time.”