DENVER — There are only five mobile home parks left in Denver. For many, it's the only option for affordable housing.
These parks are at risk of being bought out by developers and displacing residents.
People in Westwood hope to create a cooperative that would put the ownership of the park in the hands of the people who live there.
"We want to continue living in this area for many years," said Eduardo Castañeda, who lives at the Capitol City mobile home park in Westwood.
No one should have to worry about losing their home or their community being ripped apart.
"This community is positive," Castañeda said. "99% of the people are people who work that add a boost to the county of Denver."
He has lived at Capitol City mobile home park for 16 years. It's the last park still remaining in Westwood.
Castañeda is helping to lead the effort to make the park he lives in into a cooperative, which would make him and other residents co-owners of the land their homes sit on.
"One of the residents mentioned how this is a historical moment and it is because this could impact the other four existing parks in the city," said Andrea Chiriboga-Flor, Colorado state director with 9to5 Colorado. “Mobile home parks are one of the last unsubsidized sources of affordable housing in the whole country and Colorado has a lot, especially in the metro area.”
She said that sometimes creating a co-op or community land trust is the only opportunity to create permanent, affordable housing.
"We're in this unique situation where for once, the park owner really wants to work with residents to make sure that they can stay in their homes and create a community-owned cooperative," said Chiriboga-Flor. "It's really like the stars are aligning for once."
She said if the co-op doesn't happen, residents could be forced to move with really no other affordable housing available.
"If these parks disappear, we won't have a workforce in a lot of these places," Chiriboga-Flor said. “We really treat housing as a commodity and something to be profited off of. It’s not seen as a human right.”
It's why Castañeda and Chiriboga-Flor are working hard to fight off gentrification and give residents the power to manage their own community. So far, they have the support of about 75 residents.
"The entire community is excited that we are participating to have this land for which we have been paying little by little to make community partners for that purpose," said Castañeda.
There are a few contingencies left to turn this mobile home park into a co-op.
Chiriboga-Flor said the loan to purchase went under contract for $11.5 million dollars.
“To subsidize it, we would need at least a few million dollars to make sure residents aren’t paying more or too much more than what they’re paying right now," she said. “To do that, we really are counting on big foundations to pitch in and really see this as an opportunity to create permanent, affordable housing in Denver proper.”
There are also zoning issues that need to be resolved.
Chiriboga-Flor said a zoning code passed in 2016 does not allow mobile homes to be replaced. For example, if one were to burn down, another unit could not be added back into the park.
“Denver’s actually one of the most hostile cities towards mobile homes in Colorado," she said.
Chiriboga-Flor said she's hopeful the zoning code change will happen sometime in March, with the support of city councilmembers Jamie Torres and Candi CdeBaca.
If everything from there goes the right way, residents hope to have the co-op created by May of next year.
“The more that this happens, the more that cities across the state and counties are seeing that this is possible, that they can really invest in this type of community-owned model," said Chiriboga-Flor. "I think the more it’s going to happen, the more viable it will be.”
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