GOLDEN, Colo. — When Sarah Clement moved to the Golden Hills mobile home park two years ago, she felt like she had won the lottery. After years of squeezing into one-bedroom apartments with her, her 7-year-old son finally settled into his own bedroom, his toys splayed out in the yard and his school just at the edge of the park.
Ms. Clement loved the friendliness of her neighbors and getting to watch the sun rise over the scrubby mesa to her east and set behind the foothills of the Rocky Mountains to the west. And living there was affordable on her salary as an athletic trainer: After purchasing the manufactured home, the rent for the plot it sits on was just $625 a month.
But just six months after she moved in, the plot of land and all of the stability and comfort that came with it seemed suddenly ripped out from under her.
The Colorado couple that owned the park for years had put it up for sale. Ms. Clement and her neighbors knew that if the park was taken over by one of the big manufactured-housing operators who were buying up parks all over the state, the rents would dramatically increase.
“It was like this deflated feeling of, oh my god, I thought we had it — I thought this was where our roots were going to be,” Ms. Clement said.
Across the country, manufactured-housing park residents like Ms. Clement are finding their homes at the center of a bull’s-eye, as a deluge of investment companies expand their mobile-home park portfolios at a breakneck pace, threatening the stability of one of the nation’s few remaining sources of affordable housing.
Residents of Golden Hills quickly got organized. They formed a cooperative to offer to buy the park themselves and were on track to obtain financing from ROC USA Capital, which supports resident-owned communities across the country.
For months, they were full of hope. The three-block stretch of beige single- and double-wide homes bustled with community meetings; residents distributed fliers and newsletters. Local politicians rallied around them, and the city voted to zone the park for manufactured-home use only.
But to no avail: In July, the owners rejected their initial offer and a higher one a few months later, and sold the park instead to Harmony Communities, a manufactured-home operator with 5,000 residents in 33 parks across the western United States. The company quickly proved the Golden Hills …….