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Hickory Village Mobile Home Park Is For Sale, And Its Residents Are Making A Bid

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Alana Schreiber
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KUNC
Residents at Hickory Village Mobile Home Park gather for a community meeting about their progress in becoming a resident-owned community.

Residents of Hickory Village Mobile Home Park in Fort Collins have long voiced concerns over infrastructure problems in their community. Now that the park is for sale, they're vying for a chance to own it.

In June, two mobile home parks, one in Durango and one in Boulder, officially became resident-owned communities, or ROCs. That gives residents ownership rights, and leaves them in charge of maintenance, upkeep and regulations for their community.

And though those two communities have been successful in their endeavors, residents of another park in Fort Collins are running into roadblocks with their work to become an ROC. Colorado Edition’s Alana Schreiber spoke with residents at Hickory Village to learn how they are rallying to reimagine their community.

Interviews in this story have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Alana Schreiber: It's a windy Tuesday evening at the beginning of June, and residents of the Hickory Village Mobile Home Park in Fort Collins are gathering for a community meeting. Back in May, the owner of Hickory Village decided to sell the park. And the residents:

Diane Maes: We want to buy this as a community so that we have control over repairs and have clean and safe environment for the children and the elderly.

Schreiber: Diane Maes has lived at Hickory Village since 2006, and she's been frustrated with the ownership for the last few years. So when the owner issued a statement intending to sell the park, she helped organize residents who knew they wanted to put in an offer. She serves as president of the board of directors for Hickory Community Cooperative.

Maes: Most people that live in a mobile home park are low-income families, single parents, elderly and disabled people. As a community, we can take all, take care of each other and take care of the community. But we've had to go to outside sources to get things done.

Schreiber: The main outside source, the man who's running tonight's meeting, is Andy Kadlec, the program director for Thistle ROC, a nonprofit that helps residents of mobile home parks to become resident own communities.

Andy Kadlec: A resident-owned community, or a ROC, is essentially a cooperative where the residents who live in the manufactured park are the true owners of the community. Normally, residents who live in the homes own their homes, but they rent the land underneath the homes. What we're doing is really kind of shifting that ownership model so that residents control how that park is operated, managed, and what sort of rules and regulations they choose to enforce themselves.

Schreiber: But even if the residents can buy the park, that doesn't guarantee the owner will sell to them.

Kadlec: Hickory Village was noticed a few months ago under a new law in the state of Colorado called Opportunity to Purchase, which essentially gives the right to residents in manufactured housing parks statewide to be noticed and given 90 days to decide whether they want to try to buy the park. So this OTP law is unique in the way that residents do not have a right to purchase the park, they only have an opportunity. There's never a guarantee that the owner will accept the offer. The owner must only negotiate in good faith.

Schreiber: But so far, the residents haven't even been able to negotiate, even though their offer is actually competitive.

Maes: We got an offer made up that we were going to present to the owner. The other offer was $23 million and we offered $100,000 more. We got it to him in time, and he never responded back with us. He just ignored us. So we had to get an attorney and the attorney got it to where we get a new 90 day notice, because it has to be a proper notice.

Schreiber: Last Friday, the owner did reissue that notice, which reset the clock on the 90 days, giving residents more time to resubmit, negotiate and fundraise. We reached out to the owner for comment, but never heard back. And while the residents wait for their response, many are worried.

Maggie Garza: I was so stressed that I had to get medication because I was worried they were just going to boot us out.

Schreiber: Maggie Garza has lived in the park since 1988. For her, becoming an ROC isn't just about ownership rights. It's about finally fixing all of the problems she's been voicing for years with little or no response.

Garza: My tree has raised my trailer. What are they going to do about that? If there's a fire in my house, I won't be able to get out. The back door is raised and lodged, and I can't get out of it.

Schreiber: For many, becoming an ROC means that the owners will actually have a vested interest in maintaining their homes. That’s what Jennifer Garza, Maggie’s daughter and former resident, believes.

Jennifer Garza: I think that if they become a resident-owned community, since they are actually living in the community, they know what the needs are for the community. Someone that lives out of state doesn't know what's going on. For example, if I tell you that something's wrong with my mobile home, you're going to see me. So there's more accountability. I think it'll be good for them.

Schreiber: But if they don't become an ROC, some are worried about becoming homeless, including Teresa Cruz.

Teresa Cruz: Where are we going to go? It’s hard for us to start over again because we're alone. I'm on a fixed income because when my husband died, he was a veteran. But I don't get any VA benefits, so I don't know what's going to happen.

Schreiber: A few weeks ago, Bill Fulbright, a longtime resident of Hickory Village, spoke up about the need to become an ROC at the Fort Collins City Council meeting. And he convinced the council to pledge $200,000 to the cause.

Bill Fulbright: Some of these homes are in very poor condition. I had one lady tell me she's probably going to have to move out of her home because it's breaking in two, and she doesn't have enough money to get it rechecked. Well, maybe we can get people to help her because we should be a community. We can put out fliers that say, “Hey, so-and-so needs a little help. Can you guys give us five hours on the weekend? We'll crawl around under the home.”

Schreiber: For residents like Bill, an ROC isn't hard to imagine, but it's still unclear what might happen in the next 90 days. Until then, the residents are left to hope and envision the Hickory Village that they would like to live in.

Fulbright: In a park that's owned by an owner, you're just a resident. But once you help own the park, you now become a community. We are working together to improve the quality and value of our homes.

This story is part of KUNC’s Colorado Edition for June 30. You can find the full episode here.

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