A Democrat-backed bill to cap rent increases in mobile home parks passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday, receiving approval from a House panel.
If enacted, House Bill 1287 would limit rent increases to 3% annually or the local rate of inflation. The bill would also expand protections for mobile home residents when their parks are closed, requiring landlords to pay for the residents’ relocation costs or offer to purchase their mobile homes, and extending the time residents have to buy for-sale parks from 90 to 180 days.
“(The bill) will add stability and necessary guardrails to the state’s largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing,” said bill sponsor Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, calling the bill “commonsense” as housing is becoming less affordable throughout the state.
Between 2010 and 2019, Colorado lost 47% of its rental units that cost less than $600 per month, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy. In some Colorado cities, especially mountain towns, mobile homes account for up to 90% of affordable housing stock, said professor Esther Sullivan, studying manufactured housing at the University of Colorado.
Over 130,000 Coloradans live in mobile homes, most of whom are elderly or low-income. Though many own their mobile homes, they do not own the land they sit on.
Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, said he was inspired to pursue this bill when a mobile home park in his district raised lot rents by 39% in less than two years. Supporters of the bill said this is a common practice as, when lot rents increase, residents are often stuck because it costs thousands of dollars to relocate their mobile homes, if they are physically or legally able to move them at all.
“When these rent increases happen, we basically have a challenge whether we can provide for our children or whether we can still afford to live in our community,” said Bernardo Padilla, a resident of the Boulder Meadows mobile home park.
Padilla said he has lived in Boulder Meadows for 15 years, but lot rents have increased “aggressively” over the last four years, going from around $600 to nearly $1,000. Padilla said the rent increases occur every six months and residents are threatened with eviction if they don’t comply within 30 days.
During Wednesday’s meeting, over 100 community members testified on the bill for more than five hours, most of whom were mobile home park residents in support of the bill or mobile home park owners in opposition to it.
Owners described the bill as a “small business killer” that would force them to shut down their parks.
“Rent caps would kill affordable living,” said Jennifer Doser, the owner of a family-run mobile home park in Larkspur, arguing that rent is raised because the owner’s operating costs are also going up. “My costs have been rising every year, my property taxes alone went up 50% this year. My other costs continue to rise each year, utilities, sewer, water, trash, labor costs, snow plowing, just to mention a few.”
These rising costs have led to many mom-and-pop mobile home park owners selling out to larger companies in recent years. Of Colorado’s 734 registered mobile home parks, 66% are controlled by corporate or multi-state owners, Boesenecker said.
One of these companies is Investment Property Group, a Utah-based property management company that owns 10 mobile home parks in Colorado — the majority of which were purchased within the last five years. Andy Fritz, a spokesman for the company, said they are also in opposition to the bill.
“It threatens our ability to continue to maintain and operate safe, secure and affordable housing,” Fritz said. “By limiting our ability to moderately raise rents, we are unable to reinvest that income back into the needs of the community, which in many cases need infrastructure and utility repairs in order to keep communities operational.”
Boesenecker said these kinds of large owners are the prime culprits responsible for drastically increasing rents of mobile home parks.
David Reynolds and Frank Rolfe own more than a dozen mobile home parks in Colorado and hundreds throughout the country through RV Horizons-Impact Communities. The pair also run Mobile Home University, a Front Range training course on how to get rich through mobile home parks. The course openly directs owners to “relentlessly” increase rents and cut amenities because residents can’t afford to leave.
“My parents deserve the right to sleep at night without worrying about rent increases,” said Hunter Sales, whose family lives in a mobile home park in Rifle. “We have almost nowhere else to go. … We need protection.”
In the end, the bill passed the House Transportation and Local Government Committee in an 8-5 vote along party lines, with Republicans in opposition and Democrats in support. The bill will be sent to the House Appropriations Committee for consideration in the coming weeks.