Efforts to better protect mobile-home owners' affordable housing options need more attention, county and city officials agreed Wednesday.
Routt County commissioners and Steamboat Springs City Council members said they are hesitant to establish laws that would protect existing mobile-home parks from converting into other uses. But they said that if mobile-home parks disappear, other affordable housing units should replace them.
The City Council and county commissioners met Wednesday to review their progress on action items from the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan. The group identified four items that needed more focus and work. In addition to better protecting mobile-home owners, other items identified included preparing a health and human services plan, amending an intergovernmental agreement between the two agencies and establishing a water quality baseline.
The mobile-home park item sparked the largest discussion during the meeting.
Commissioners and council members talked about the private property rights of the mobile-home park owners and their concern about infringing on those rights if they were to prohibit existing mobile-home parks from converting to other uses.
"It is not necessarily protecting existing mobile-home parks, but protecting the opportunity for existing mobile-home owners to have affordable units within the area where the renters are living (now) without infringing on the rights of mobile-home park owners. It is a real thin line that you walk," County Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak said.
Councilman Loui Antonucci said some of the issues of mobile-home parks converting into other uses are out of the government's control, and the government will not know about it until the deal is done.
"The homeowners don't know until they get the letter in the mail," he said.
Rather than looking at the loss of existing mobile homes, the goal, Councilwoman Kathy Connell said, should be to create affordable housing. The government should be seeing a net gain in affordable homes, she said.
"How do we help them purchase something to live in and own in and around Steamboat Springs? I think that is much more practical and noble," Connell said.
Council President Paul Strong said it could be possible for the city and county to enact the right of first refusal for mobile-home parks. The right of first refusal would allow mobile-home tenants the first opportunity to purchase the land their homes sit on if it were put up for sale. The property owners' rights would not be infringed upon because they would be getting the same price for their land, he said.
"That is something we can look at," Strong said.
The two groups also talked about improving the land-ownership process, making it easier for mobile-home owners to move from renting land to owning land. Each lot would be subdivided and then sold to individual owners.
Council members suggested the staff talk to those who were involved in converting the Hilltop Homes mobile-home park into 17 single-family lots.
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