News Release

Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists

JOSEPH BULLINGTON, joseph@inthesetimes.com
Bullington is rural editor for In These Times. His most recent piece is “Trailer Park Residents Take on Venture Capitalists — and Win.”

He writes from Colorado: “Alejandra Chavez, 30, moved to the area 18 years ago to join her parents, who fled economic desolation in Mexico and found work in Durango. In 2008, the family bought their trailer in Westside Mobile Home Park for $12,000. It was in rough shape, but Chavez’s father, who owns a construction company, spent years and some $20,000 renovating it into a comfortable home. Westside, Chavez says, has been a good place to live – a neighborhood where Latino, Native American and white families raise their kids together.

“As is common in trailer parks, however, the Chavezes and most of their neighbors own their homes but not the land beneath them. In December 2021, they received notice that the park was for sale. Chavez pictured their homes being torn down to make way for a hotel, a gas station or some other amenity for ski resort-goers. Or their homes might simply become unaffordable: In recent years, an inrush of tourists, remote workers and investors has driven land and housing prices out of control in Durango and across the West. The park’s prospective buyer, Harmony Communities, raised lot rents by 50 percent when it bought a trailer park in Golden, Colo., in 2021.

“Chavez and the other Westside residents saw one other option – one way to turn private tragedy into collective victory. On Jan. 14, residents formed a cooperative, elected representatives (including Chavez to the role of vice president), and voted to try to buy the park themselves.

“The $5.46 million asking price was daunting, but residents knew the cost of failure. Chavez has friends who pile in six to a car and drive 2.5‑hour commutes to Durango from cheaper towns in New Mexico, casualties of this new, outdoorsy form of gentrification.

“The land rush has not spared mobile home parks, which speculators buy up as investment properties. Two such investors even started ‘Mobile Home University’ (MHU) to sell online courses in how to do it. In a blog post titled ‘How to Make Huge Returns on Mobile Home Parks,’ MHU co-founder Frank Rolfe sums up the strategy: ‘It costs $3,000 to move a mobile home. … As a result, tenants cannot leave when you raise their rents.'”