Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Steamboat Springs The preceding five years have persuaded us that it is easier to conserve the existing stock of community housing than it is to create new entry level homes.
It is with that belief in mind that we welcomed the news this week that the Yampa Valley Housing Authority has contracted to purchase the eight-acre Fish Creek Mobile Home Park from Bob and Audrey Enever.
Should the sale go through, it would represent long-term security for 68 households in the exclusively owner-occupied mobile home park.
This newspaper consistently editorialized for the past two years in support of the right of the owner of the downtown Westland Mobile Home Park to pursue redevelopment of his land. We continue to stand on that principle. But that doesn't mean we didn't share a little of the pain resulting from that loss of community housing. Nor does it mean we don't look forward to celebrating the Fish Creek deal.
It would be difficult to place a dollar value on the emotional security the residents of the trailer park would enjoy should the deal be finalized. For the first time in several years, they can look forward to a future in the neighborhood bounded by Fish Creek, the Yampa River and the botanic park. They can invest in home improvements that will improve their quality of life, and they can feel secure in the knowledge they have a place where they can nurture a family.
The Enevers say they had their tenants in mind when they decided not to seek to maximize the return on the investment they made when they purchased the mobile home park in 1975. They gave the housing authority first crack at the property.
"We meet these folks every day," Bob Enever said of his tenants. "We see them at the grocery story. Many have become friends. Audrey and I feel an obligation to help them continue in the place they have lived in. We're aware of how traumatic it would be to move."
Asked if the pending contract represents an act of philanthropy, Enever said it's difficult to be certain without having fully explored the market.
Housing Authority Executive Director Elizabeth Black would not discuss the amount of the contract, except to say that it was based on an appraisal and her agency's fiscal constraints. She said the housing authority has much work to do in order to secure financing for the purchase and it will be a stretch to afford, even with the lot rent it will collect from owners.
"It will be years before we see (positive cash flow) and we have no intention of funding the authority on the backs of the hard-working residents," she said.
Enever said individual lot rents vary from lot to lot based on the desirability of their location. However, the average of the total is $386 a month. That's about $150 less than what the market will bear, he added.
Black promised the authority would strive to make the ownership transition financially neutral to the homeowners.
The acquisition of the trailer park is particularly important she said because at this point in the valley's history, the pressures of the real estate market are being exerted on properties that make good candidates for redevelopment.
We hope that a variety of government agencies and lending institutions will do what they can to help the housing authority close on this worthwhile transaction.