By Owen Woods | email@example.com
CENTURY Mobile Home Park is under new management. This time, management has a different vision for the future of the park. This vision is one of sustainable, affordable housing and making sure it stays that way. This will take time and hard work from the new owners and the people who call 1700 State Avenue home.
The residents of the San Luis Valley’s largest mobile home park lived in uncertainty for months. The park was put up for sale in August of this year – with a price just over $6.8 million. The sale could have put Alamosa’s most vulnerable citizens in limbo, or worse. The community wasn’t about to let that happen.
Since Century Mobile was created, it has been a touchstone of affordable housing. Some stay for a year. Some have lived in the park for decades. It’s a tightly-knit piece of the community. When the residents were faced with rent hikes and a new, unfamiliar owner, the community around them made sure they wouldn’t face the future alone.
Dawn Melgares and her team at the non-profit San Luis Valley Housing Coalition have worked tirelessly overtime to help these residents. Melgares is the executive director of the coalition, for good reason. Her dedication to ensuring a habitable and sustainable future for her neighbors and community is what perhaps saved Century Mobile from uncertainty.
The coalition held a series of community meetings at Boyd School to inform residents of their rights, help them plan for the future, but also to hear from them. Each voice mattered. Each issue, no matter how minor or major, mattered to Melgares and her team. Melgares stood at the front of the room, meeting after meeting, and heard each issue and complaint in stride.
The residents had three feasible options: Form a resident-owned community, or ROC; let the SLVHC take over; or let the sale go through and hope for the best.
After the first few meetings, residents were given ballots to vote on next steps. The votes came back in favor of Melgares and the SLVHC taking over.
Abraham Arrigotti, owner of Living Well Communities, who was seemingly on a mobile home park buying spree, was the potential buyer of Century Mobile. In 2021, Arrigotti purchased Town and Country Mobile Home Park in Alamosa and Monte Vista’s Century Mobile Homes earlier this year. His intention was to run and improve the park, and he was up-front about increasing costs of living.
In late November, the SLVHC was able to gather funding to go into a purchase contract for the park. The sale date’s expected closing is at the end of this year.
So what’s next for Melgares and the residents of Century Mobile Home Park? Well, with the weight of the purchase lifted, the weight of the mobile home park’s significant maintenance and repair issues moved to the forefront. Even so, residents feel hopeful about the park’s new owners and the park’s future.
“I feel like they’re actually gonna get stuff done, and it’s not gonna be a screaming match,” one Century Mobile resident told Alamosa Citizen after the latest Boyd School meeting on Dec. 15. The meeting was held to let the residents know what’s coming.
Residents now can feel a sense of relief. Their housing is more secure than it was three months ago. The price of rent will stay the same for now. The new owners have the residents’ best interests at heart. Yet, there are problems that will take years to address and solve. The first and foremost of these is the failing sewer and water system.
The sewer system has plagued residents for years. Sewage has, time and time again, backed up into people’s homes and yards. The temporary solutions are wearing thin.
The sewer can get a $500,000 “band-aid,” said Melgares. “We don’t want to do that.”
The ballpark cost to replace the whole system is $1.5-$2 million. Melgares and her team at the housing coalition are applying for as many grants as they can. So far, Melgares said they have about 75 percent of the sewer replacement funding through grants. They plan on making sure it’s 100 percent funded through grants.
On the chance they have to take out loans, it would mean a rent hike for the residents – only by about $20, though.
Dilapidated and unsafe homes will need to be removed like cavities and replaced with new, more efficient units. SLVHC has a plan to replace 40 rental homes over the next several years, in phases of 10. They will replace five homes that are unsafe or inefficient and add five homes to vacant spots. The replacements will be done based on need.
The SLVHC hopes to start this process by summer, depending on when funding is available. They are applying for grants, which takes time, but Melgares said the grant funders are aware of the need for the funds.
“I can’t promise there won’t be bumps in the road,” she said, adding that she and her team won’t be deterred by them.
There are “still a lot of unknowns,” Melgares said. Throughout the latest meeting, she told residents the truth to some of their most difficult questions: “I don’t know right now.”
Melgares told everyone that there are “lots of irons in the fire.” Upgrades to daily living at the park are also at the top of the list – simple things like adding fences, playgrounds, steps and ramps to homes, cleaning up trash, dealing with loose and out-of-control animals, and enforcing rules that haven’t been enforced in a while.
A team of 15 or so residents will have to form on its own to act as the intermediary between the owners and the current residents. Melgares wants this team to hear from every park resident and form new rules and policies based on that feedback.
With a mountain of work yet ahead, the residents of Century Mobile Home Park can enjoy a holiday season without a looming shadow. The rest of the world can look at the sale as a win for affordable housing.
“We wanted to do this around Christmas,” Melgares told Alamosa Citizen.