Local First Foundation announces $535,000 support for Westside Mobile Home Park

Residents and community groups have raised thousands to support a second offer for the Durango property.

Originally published in Durango Herald, March 24th, 2022. Written by

Residents of Westside Mobile Home Park have rallied the Durango community as they attempt to save their homes and the park.

Local First Foundation announced Wednesday that residents of Westside Mobile Home Park will be the first recipients of its new La Plata Impact Fund, which takes contributions from La Plata County businesses and puts the money toward long-term investments to address issues like affordable housing and social equity.

The donation from Local First Foundation will support the purchase of the park, compounding efforts by La Plata County, Elevation Community Land Trust and the Westside Mobile Home Park community’s own fundraising efforts after the owner of the park turned down residents’ first offer.

“It’s shocking. I have no words,” said Alejandra Chavez, a Westside Mobile Home Park resident and the president of the community’s cooperative.

Local First Foundation will contribute $535,000 to residents of Westside Mobile Home Park from the La Plata Impact Fund to help their purchase of the park.

In its first year, participating businesses pledge 1% of their gross revenues to the La Plata Impact Fund, which then reinvests in the community. Local First Foundation’s 2022 goal was to raise $1 million to support affordable and workforce housing and address social equity.

Donors in 2022 include 2nd Ave Sports, Durango Land and Homes, Durango Organics, El Rancho Tavern, Live Creative Studio, Ore House, Pine Needle Mountaineering, San Juan Hand Therapy, Shaw Solar, Sage Farm Fresh Eats, Table to Farm Compost, Tafoya Barrett and Associates, Tailwind Nutrition, Wheeler Consulting, and Zia Taqueria.

“Our tagline (for the fund) is Locals Helping Locals,” said Jonny Radding, co-owner of Durango Organics, in a news release. “What better way could we do that then to support our friends and neighbors at the Westside Mobile Home Park?”

The Westside Mobile Home Park community has been fundraising and rallying the Durango community since the park’s first offer was rejected.

Residents aimed to raise $500,000 in roughly one week to supplement the funding that the community’s partners Elevation Community Land Trust has secured and the $1.5 million loan La Plata County has also contributed, Chavez said last week.

Residents started a GoFundMe page on Saturday that had raised more than $24,000 as of Thursday morning. On Wednesday, residents held a homemade food drive at Westside Mobile Home Park with donations going toward the purchase of the park.

The Hive has partnered with the Westside Mobile Home Park community to also host a fundraiser for the park at 6:30 p.m. Friday with live music and food.

Durango’s support for Westside Mobile Home Park has been overwhelming, Chavez said.

“People are reaching out to us (and) it’s really amazing that everyone is coming together,” Chavez said. “We never thought we were going to get support or anybody was going to hear us. I’m really happy.”

IQ Mobile Home Parks, the owner of Westside Mobile Home Park, notified residents that the company intended to sell the property Dec. 20. Under Colorado law, homeowners in a mobile park have the right to offer to buy the park, but they must make an offer within a 90-day period.

Residents of Westside Mobile Home Park have been working with Elevation Community Land Trust to make an offer, but their initial $5.46 million offer was rejected March 18.

In their letter to Elevation Community Land Trust’s CEO Stefka Fanchi, lawyers for IQ Mobile Home Parks cited another offer the company has received that is cash with an earlier closing date and no financial or appraisal contingencies.

Residents and Benjamin Waddell, an associate professor of sociology at Fort Lewis College who has worked closely with the Westside Mobile Home Park community, have said California-based Harmony Communities, a mobile home real estate company, has submitted the other offer.

Harmony Communities, which owns and operates more than 30 mobile home parks across the western U.S., has a history of hiking rents. The company purchased Golden Hills, a mobile home park in Golden, in November 2021 and soon increased rents by as much as 50%, according to The Denver Post.

After the company purchased Golden Hills, the company turned around and offered to sell the park to residents, who had previously made two offers for the park at or above asking price before its sale to Harmony Communities, but at a significantly higher price.

Westside Mobile Home Park residents and Elevation Community Land Trust have until Sunday to formulate a second offer that matches IQ Mobile Home Parks’ other offer, according to the rejection letter.

Fanchi said Wednesday that Elevation Community Land Trust plans to submit a second offer by Friday. The organization has been working with financial and community organizations and leaders both locally and across Colorado to make an offer that meets the demands of IQ Mobile Home Parks.

“It is our hope that the seller will give weight to the substantial community support behind this offer, which is otherwise equal to the competing offer in every way,” Fanchi said in a news release.

In addition to the challenge of securing funds within one week, Westside Mobile Home Park residents have also faced hurdles fundraising.

Chavez said the manager of the park presented residents with a letter during their food drive Wednesday that argued they were not following the park’s rules and asking them to stop fundraising on the property.

“My neighbors got scared yesterday because (of what) our manager said with that letter, but he’s not going to make us weak. He’s making us stronger,” Chavez said.

Residents continued selling their food amid concerns that the manager was going to call the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.

If residents’ bid for the park is unsuccessful, all money raised will be used to subsidize potential rent increases under new ownership, Chavez said.

As the deadline for a second offer nears, residents of Westside Mobile Home Park remain energized and resolved to save their homes.

“We still stand together and we’re going to stay strong,” Chavez said.

Westside Mobile Home Park’s GoFundMe page can be found on the site by searching “Westside necesita un milagro! We need a miracle!