The Eagle River Village mobile home park in Edwards is less than 10 miles from world-class skiing at Beaver Creek Resort and represents one of the last bastions of affordable housing in the area. 

The Colorado House advanced a bill Monday that seeks to expand the rights of mobile home residents, but sponsors said they were forced to remove the most important part of the bill due to “threats” from Gov. Jared Polis.

As introduced, House Bill 1287, would have capped lot rent increases in mobile home parks to 3% annually or the local rate of inflation. But lawmakers took this portion of the bill out via an amendment approved on Friday.

Rep. Andrew Boesenecker, D-Fort Collins, one of the bill's sponsors, said the measure had enough votes to pass the House and the Senate, but said Polis threatened to veto the bill if it included what's been described as "rent stabilization" requirements.

“This is the last amendment I wanted to offer, but we cannot have this bill vetoed,” Boesenecker said. “There are so many good things in this bill that will protect residents.”

What remains of the bill would 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.

But without the rent stabilization, Boesenecker said many Coloradans living in mobile homes will be forced onto the streets. He said he knows of 12 people in his district alone that would be evicted if the rent keeps going up.

During a public hearing for the bill, dozens of mobile home residents said lot rents in their parks have increased dramatically in recent years. Some residents said their rent increased by 39% in less than two years or by 67% in less than four, with some rent spikes occurring every six months.

In a statement, Polis’s spokesperson said the governor's position to veto the bill if it arrived on his desk in its introduced form was due to the fear that "rent stabilization" would result in mobile home parks shutting down.

"The governor believes that prefab modular homes and mobile homes are an important part of the housing solution for our state and supports mobile home reforms as long as they won’t lead to the closure or abandonment of mobile home communities,” the spokesperson said.

Mobile home park owners raised the same argument during the public testimony. Owners described the bill as a “small business killer” that would force them to close their parks as they face increasing operating costs. These rising costs, they said, have led many mom-and-pop mobile home park owners to sell out to larger companies in recent years.

Of Colorado’s 734 registered mobile home parks, 66% are controlled by corporate or multi-state owners, said Boesenecker, who pointed to large owners as 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 make money" in the mobile home parks business. The course openly directs owners to “relentlessly” increase rents and cut amenities because residents can’t afford to leave.

Supporters of the bill said this is common 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. Though they own their mobile homes, they do not own the land they sit on.

“They call it shooting fish in a barrel because they can prey on poor people,” said Rep. Cathy Kipp, D-Fort Collins, who was in tears while reacting to Friday’s amendment. “I am extremely disappointed in the governor’s threat to veto this bill that is causing the most important portion of this bill to be removed.”

Other Democrat lawmakers expressed similar sentiments.

Rep. Brianna Titone of Arvada called it “disheartening,” while Rep. Edie Hooton of Boulder described it as “an affront to a state that says that their No. 1 priority is affordable housing.”

Over 130,000 Coloradans live in mobile homes, most of whom are elderly or low-income, according to state data.

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, who studies manufactured housing at the University of Colorado.

While some Democrats balked at the governor's veto threat, Republican Reps. Dan Woog of Erie and Kevin Van Winkle of Highlands Ranch applauded Polis's position.

"If we held it where the landlord can only raise the rent a certain amount every so often, what that landlord is going to do is, either before the tenant moves in or in between, they’re going to jack that rent way up,” Woog said. “With property tax right now and insurance, that’s the main reason these rents go up. Everything else is going up.”

The House passed the amended bill in a 41-24 vote along party lines on Monday, with all Democrats in support and all Republicans in opposition. The bill will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

Though "rent stabilization" for mobile homes is lost, Boesenecker said he will continue to look for a solution and urged Polis to do the same.

“We’re going to come back for this,” Boesenecker said. “Residents spoke clearly about the need for this policy, about the vulnerable place they continue to be placed in and we have heard them.”

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