Potential to recruit new drivers too
By Katherine Nettles
On the heels of a recent notification that some residents will be displaced from a mobile home park in Gunnison while the park undergoes renovations and has new mobile homes installed, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) board of directors agreed last week to temporarily offer several vacant units it has available in Gunnison for workforce housing to alleviate the sudden housing crunch.
The small mobile home park, Frontier Lands, is located in Gunnison city limits, has 12 lots and approximately 40 to 50 residents. The park went up for sale in late 2022, and the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA) set its sights on purchasing the park to no avail. After learning of the evictions to replace old mobile home structures, GVRHA executive director Andy Kadlec then approached the RTA board at their regular meeting on August 11 asking them to consider offering the RTA’s vacant units on a temporary rental basis.
The RTA board agreed unanimously to do so after a discussion of the potential RTA and displaced resident needs, rental duration and management of a master lease through the Housing Authority.
The GVRHA board had gotten involved with potentially purchasing the mobile home park this spring, and Kadlec reported working with the park’s owner on a contract and exploring what grant funding might be available to the GVRHA in conjunction with the city of Gunnison.
Ultimately, Kadlec said the Housing Authority had to step away from that contract, and on July 25 the park owner gave termination notices to all residents of the park and said that they had to be out of their units on or before August 31, 2023. “Which is about 28 days from today,” said Kadlec.
With that notice the owner did provide information about his intent to improve the community, which includes removing all the dated trailers on the site, making necessary infrastructure improvements and working with a local contractor to bring in new mobile homes.
“He does intend to offer these new homes to the residents on a first right/opportunity to purchase and own these homes on the site,” explained Kadlec. The residents currently all rent their units, and this would present the opportunity to “create some equity and own a piece of this property that is brand new and a lot more efficient and safer and more healthy than what they are in now.”
The price point of the new homes is projected to start at $95,000 but the ability of the current tenants to afford them remains to be seen.
“Of course, the struggle here is now we have 12 homes that will be displaced for an indeterminate amount of time, and the Housing Authority is in kind of an emergency response mode right now trying to find opportunities for these households,” Kadlec told the RTA board on Friday.
He said that those opportunities could be temporary housing for residents or searching for something more permanent. Kadlec said that there was a community meeting the night before on Thursday, August 10, during which every single household within the park showed up. “In total we have around 45 to 50 people living in this 12-unit park, and 20 of them are 18 or under, so we have a significant number of kids that are getting ready to go back to school.”
Kadlec described this looming instability as “sort of a dire situation for the residents of Frontier Lands” and the need to find secure housing in the interim, for a few months and potentially even evaluating a job with the RTA.
Kadlec said he had reached out to RTA executive director Scott Truex last week, having read in the newspaper about the RTA having some vacant units at the Lazy K development and their need for more bus drivers. He said they asked residents during the community meeting the night before, as they were evaluating their circumstances, “’Would you be interested in working for the RTA?’ And we had four out of 12 households say that they would be interested in evaluating that.” He noted he was not in a position to evaluate qualifications, but said he would refer those interested to apply with the RTA, and the RTA auspiciously has a commercial driver licensing (CDL) class coming up in a couple weeks.
“We do have the capacity to do this,” Truex told the board. He said doing a master lease with the GVRHA might be the best way, so as not to put the burden on Alpine Express to manage it. The two-bedroom units would be $1,000 per month as for RTA/Alpine Express employees, which is more than the residents of Frontier Lands are currently paying but, as Kadlec acknowledged, is still one of the most affordable rents in the valley and for brand new units.
Truex suggested making up to five of seven vacant units available while cautioning that they do still need to recruit seven drivers for this winter.
“The idea would be that we could probably do this for the months of September and October for the five units, with the possibility that if any of these folks actually ended up driving for the RTA that would be great. And they could stay,” he said.
The Frontier Lands park owner has said he expects the new mobile homes to be ready sometime in November after infrastructure and utility work is complete.
RTA board member Jason McMillan asked how the GVRHA would prioritize which residents to locate at the Lazy K units since there aren’t enough for everyone. Kadlec said they would like to prioritize the families with kids in nearby schools, and they are working with some other housing possibilities in Crested Butte and other locations within the valley.
“I see the RTA as being able to fill this very unique need,” said board member Liz Smith. All other board members were in support of the short-term arrangement, and unanimously passed a resolution authorizing the deal.
Kadlec said he can’t be sure they will need all the units, but thanked them for their help and said he expects they might use at least some.
Truex said he would begin working with Alpine Express on the paperwork and said on Tuesday that they were working with an attorney to come up with a lease for the housing agreement.