Sunday, November 4, 2007

Mobile homes enjoy new stature
By Tom Ross
Sunday, November 4, 2007

Steamboat Springs — Residents of two Steamboat Springs neighborhoods are translating mobile homes into newfound security and upward mobility.

Permanent structures are beginning to replace trailer homes at Hilltop Homes in Old Town Steamboat. And a couple of miles away at the Fish Creek Mobile Home Park, residents are investing in substantial remodels of longstanding mobile homes. At Fish Creek, the catalyst for such investment was the recent purchase of the park by the Yampa Valley Housing Authority.
For 20-year Steamboat resident and professional fishing guide Keith Hale, the change in ownership means an opportunity to own his first home.
“It’s not a great mobile home, but it’s that or keep on renting,” Hale said. “And it’s on a great lot. It’s exactly 68 steps to the river.”

Mobile-home parks are achieving new stature in mountain towns, where the price of entry-level housing is skyrocketing. At Smuggler Park, in the heart of Aspen, aluminum mobile homes from the 1980s are being sold for as much as $600,000. And ambitious homeowners who build small footprint frame homes on Smuggler Park lots can see their property values crest $1 million.
Residents of Fish Creek Mobile Home Park are beginning to feel secure enough to sink five figures into improving their homes. The change has come about since early September, when the Yampa Valley Housing Authority closed on the purchase of the mobile-home park from Bob and Audrey Enever for $3.2 million. That milestone ensures the park won’t be sold to a developer who could evict the trailer owners in favor of building luxury housing.
“That’s the only reason I decided to buy there,” Hale said.

Hale is one of the fortunate ones — two other mobile-home parks, Westland and Trailer Haven, have disappeared in the past five years in favor of redevelopment. Mobile homes (where the owners do not own the lots) are sold like motor vehicles, he explained.

The Hilltop Homes owners are five years ahead of the process under way at Fish Creek. The 17 owners collectively purchased land in their neighborhood from their landlords with the help of the old Regional Affordable Living Foundation in June 2000. They won city approval to subdivide the land in June 2002. That was the key step that led to individual ownership of the building lots. Today, a few residents are either constructing stick-built homes or have brought in modular structures to replace old mobile homes.

At Fish Creek, the Housing Authority has formed a committee to oversee the park’s operations and explore the possibility of converting the park to ownership units for homeowners who desire that option.