Hilltop victory gives RALF credibility

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A small, but wonderful slice of the pie that makes up the Steamboat Springs community is well on its way to being saved. Last week, 17 homeowners who live in Hilltop trailer park, led by representatives of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation, made a successful bid to purchase the land beneath their dwellings from its owner, Leland Harmes.

It hardly seems possible that less than a month ago, these homeowners faced serious financial difficulty upon receiving notice that Harmes was having the land upon which their trailers sit appraised for a possible sale. Several aspects of this success story are worth noting.

First, the quick action of Rob Dick of RALF and the trailer owners. The owners received a letter on June 7 announcing Harmes' intent to sell. Dick contacted Harmes and began negotiations the following morning.

Second, the solution did nothing to restrict the rights of the landowner. Harmes, as Hilltop residents will attest, was a kind, fair landlord for many years. He deserved to be allowed to peacefully, without community criticism, sell his land to recoup his investment as he prepared for retirement.

Third, despite its importance, the issue of affordable housing in Steamboat Springs has been the subject of more dialog than action. This successful deal, that now hinges only on securing financing which we're told won't be problematic, has put RALF on the map in Steamboat Springs. RALF played a key role in developing a solution that worked for the landowner, preserved 17 homes for local families and didn't cost taxpayers a penny. This success story should open doors for RALF to be able to continue it mission.

One of the keys to making sure there is an adequate level of affordable housing is not to lose the affordable homes we already have. Two steps forward and two steps backward will get us nowhere. Protecting the Hilltop homes means where we go from here will be forward.

By all standards, Hilltop was a sweet victory, one that will be savored by those residents for many years to come. But we urge RALF to take the momentum gained from the first real success and be visionary, not reactionary. Hilltop was not the first trailer park with a threatened future. And it won't be the last. RALF should unite homeowners of the other Steamboat Springs trailer parks and together they should work to protect their investments and secure their futures as resident homeowners of Steamboat Springs.

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