Some trailer park residents unsure of where they can afford to move
The co-owners of the Pan and Fork mobile home park in downtown Basalt may soon be relieved of their commitment to build replacement housing for the 38 families who live there, and who would be displaced by a proposed redevelopment project.
At a work session on Tuesday night, members of the Basalt Town Council and the planning commission seemed largely supportive of a proposed change to the town code that would remove the requirement that 100 percent of affordable housing units displaced by redevelopment projects must be rebuilt elsewhere.
Under the proposed change, a developer would simply be required to help relocate displaced residents into pre-existing affordable units, rather than building them new ones. That assistance could come through cash payments, moving assistance or help searching for other housing.
The relocation requirement would kick in for projects that displace at least four affordable housing units.
Under a separate code amendment that the council is also considering, developers that were unwilling or unable to give their displaced tenants relocation assistance would only be required to replace 45 percent of the affordable housing lost to redevelopment, rather than 100 percent as the current code requires.
The reduction, according to Basalt assistant planning director James Lindt, was based on a survey finding that 45 percent of Basalt residents are classified as low income, meaning they make less than 80 percent of the area median income.
“Therefore, we thought that 45 percent was a reasonable and justifiable replacement requirement,” Lindt said.
“This makes a lot more sense to me, because now we are actually looking after the humans that are being displaced,” said Basalt Mayor Jacque Whitsitt.
The existing 100 percent replacement requirement, Whitsitt said, discourages redevelopment by making it too expensive, and doesn’t result in the construction of new affordable units.
But Emma resident Charlie Cole asked how replacement housing would be divvied up to displaced residents forced by redevelopment to move. He used the case of the Pan and Fork mobile home park as an example.
“What 45 percent of the Pan and Fork 38 units get replacement assistance, and which ones don’t, and who determines that?” he asked.
The council is set to vote on the proposed code changes at the end of August, and they would have a direct impact on the fates of an estimated 122 residents now living in the Pan and Fork mobile home park.
The town of Basalt co-owns the park and surrounding property together with the Roaring Fork Community Development Corporation (RFCDC).
The proposed redevelopment plan for the site calls for Basalt to build a town park along the river, while the RFCDC sells its portion of the parcel to a developer interested in building a hotel, and retail and office space for local nonprofit organizations or other businesses.
But proceeding with the project requires moving the park’s current residents, and the RFCDC’s original plan was to sell the parcel to a developer and put the proceeds toward building replacement housing for the residents.
Yet according to Basalt Town Manager Mike Scanlon, no developer will touch the parcel until the residents are moved. As a result, town officials are changing the rules in part to make the process of moving them cheaper.
At a meeting on Monday night with eight Pan and Fork families that the town hopes to relocate first, Scanlon offered the first glimpse of what the town might offer as compensation for having to move.
“They gave us three options: They would give us $7,500 for our trailers, give us one year of free rent in our new place, or pay to move our trailer if it can be moved,” said one Pan and Fork resident who attended the meeting.
The resident said that none of those options seemed attractive to him; he purchased his trailer, he said, in 1997 for $37,000, so a payment of $7,500 didn’t seem fair.
The resident showed a reporter several listings for trailers in El Jebel selling for $125,000, which he said he couldn’t afford.
“I have three kids, and my wife and I make maybe $40,000 a year,” he said. “Before, the town told us that they were going to take our rent money and put it toward buying a piece of property where we could all move,” the man said.
Although Scanlon did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday, he told the town council Tuesday night for many of the Pan and Fork residents, buying a house could be a stretch. Still, he said he’s confident that the eight families can be relocated into rentals in the Basalt or El Jebel area.
“When it comes to permanent financing [to buy a house] that could be difficult. But in the interim we think we can get them into housing in almost every case better than what they have now,” said Scanlon.
He noted, though, that moving the residents was all dependent on the outcome of the Nov. 5 election, when the town plans to ask Basalt voters to underwrite $5 million in bonds to help with moving expenses and improvements to the river near the trailer park.