On a quiet day this spring, Alejandra Chavez walked into her office at Westside Mobile Home Park in Durango, Colorado. Residents were gathered in the community space, discussing their plans for the park’s future, some leaning on the kitchen’s baby-blue counters while others sat in plastic lawn chairs. A year ago, this building was owned by a New York corporation and was off-limits to residents. But now, residents use the space for yoga, child care and community events. That afternoon, there were piñatas in the corner, left over from a recent birthday party.
Not long ago, 63 families at Westside faced the threat of displacement. In early 2022, the park’s owner announced plans to sell the park to Harmony Communities, a California-based corporation with a reputation for raising mobile home rents by up to 50% and imposing strict rules. Wary of being at the mercy of institutional investors, Chavez and her neighbors organized to make a counteroffer and take control of their community.
After months of fundraising and working with the Denver-based nonprofit Elevation Community Land Trust, Westside made a successful offer and formed a housing co-operative. Now owned jointly by its residents and Elevation, the park operates as a community land trust, which removes land from the real estate market and transforms it into community-owned property. Two decades after she first arrived in Durango, Chavez, a DACA recipient, is now the park’s property manager and the co-op’s vice president.