Neil Backstrom outside his home at Ponderosa Mobile Home Park in Boulder. He stands next to a poster of his climbing hero, Cedar Wright. During Tuesday’s meeting, at which City Council approved annexation of the park, Backstrom asked asked to have the city repair a mobile home he formerly lived in before relocating to another trailer

Ponderosa Mobile Home Park is officially a part of Boulder.

City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an annexation agreement for the 6-plus-acre mobile home park on north Broadway that for decades was in an unincorporated enclave surrounded by Boulder proper.

The plan calls for the gradual replacement of Ponderosa’s 68 mobile homes with fixed-foundation single family homes, and some duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes over more than 10 years.

Officials are sticking to their promise not to displace any households as the property is redeveloped.

Residents of the neighborhood have the option to remain in their mobile homes as they are now, with guarantees provided at the meeting that any of them who would want to move into one of the new homes would qualify to do so affordably based on their incomes, and would be prioritized to enter the new homes before anyone from outside the park could.

But some residents continue to distrust the city, which purchased the mobile home park for more than $4 million in 2017 with intent to annex.

“Through some of the hard work that was put in by everyone at the city, staff especially, I think we can gain (your trust) back,” Councilwoman Mary Young said. “… This is the best possible thing that could have happened while not displacing people.”

Charissa Poteet is disappointed she and her neighbors cannot explore the open market to sell their mobile homes.

While Boulder has offered to buy mobile homes from Ponderosa residents who wish to leave at prices based on valuations performed by a city-hired assessor, and will allow sales to parties outside the park, the city will not issue new lot leases to anyone from outside the park wishing to buy a mobile home.

It effectively limits current residents to doing business with the city, since the cost of towing a mobile home from the park makes a deal with an outsider much less feasible.

“That doesn’t seem hardly American to me,” Poteet said, disagreeing with the city that she and other residents couldn’t get more than what it has offered for their homes. “… I’m sure I could get at least $50,000 for this trailer in this market. All the time people drive up and down here and ask if there’s any trailers for rent or sale. In this market, people would love to get in this spot.”

Boulder Director of Housing and Human Services Kurt Firnhaber said the average monthly housing costs for Ponderosa households are about $775, between lot rents that are $530 and the residents who have payments left on their mobile homes.

Officials have stood behind the valuations of the mobile homes, and stated the reasons no new leases can be offered for the mobile homes in their current states is because the redevelopment laid out in the annexation plan needs to move forward.

Mobile homes in many parts of the park, about two-thirds of it, according to Firnhaber, are too close together to comply with city codes meant to reduce fire risks.

“We need to move forward with the redevelopment for health and safety reasons, and (new leases) could be a hindrance,” Boulder spokesperson Zach McGee said. ” … The city has gone through a lot to make sure they are assessing the property and offering fair market rates and in some cases above fair market rates.”

But Firnhaber earlier this year lamented that 10 families have left the park, in part due to untrue rumors about the city discontinuing the option for residents to sell their mobile homes to the city; such transactions remain on the table.

Of the eight homes that have been sold to the city, the average price has been $25,189, according to McGee, with prices ranging between $14,720 for the least expensive home, up to $41,670.

Flatirons Habitat for Humanity will lead the replacement of the mobile homes with the new fixed-structure dwellings.

Attempting to quell the fears of Poteet and other residents that they might not qualify to own a new home, Flatirons Habitat Executive Director Susan Lythgoe promised her organization would be able to find ways to work with households to enter them into homeownership at the park through an affordable mortgage, which would be subsidized with public funding if necessary.

While Lythgoe said only one of the 25 households she has met with so far would not qualify for one of the new Habitat homes, the unqualified entity had a citizenship documentation issue, not an income issue.

For that household, and others like it who would not immediately qualify for homeownership due to a documentation barrier, Lythgoe said Flatirons Habitat could rent one of the new homes to such families for up to 10 years. That period of time could allow younger members of the household who hold citizenship status to eventually qualify for a loan to buy the home, she said.

While the redeveloped lots will allow members of the Ponderosa community to enter homeownership while making even less than 30% of the area median income, through subsidized funds and Habitat’s “sweat equity” model, there are residents who are making much more than that, Firnhaber said, including around 90% of AMI.

Those higher-earning residents would be unlikely to qualify for the $775-a-month housing cost average they are paying now, should they want to move into one of the new Habitat homes, Firnhaber said.

But they would have the option to stay in their mobile homes. Firnhaber assured concerned residents they would be able to apply for improvements to mobile homes, like roof replacements, for as long as they stay, and the process to receive the proper permitting to do so would be no different than it was when the park was under the county’s purview.

Ponderosa resident Neil Backstrom asked council to have the city repair a mobile home he formerly lived in before relocating to another trailer in the park. Firnhaber said mobile homes found to be out of compliance with city codes when residents seek to improve them to prolong their life could be rehabilitated through a program run jointly by the city and the county that helps residents afford upgrades.

But mobile homes could not be expanded or replaced with another mobile home under the park’s new land use and zoning regulations.

Prequalification processes for residents wishing to obtain the new Habitat homes is set to begin in early 2020. Phase one of the city’s planned infrastructure upgrades, namely the park’s water delivery infrastructure, will begin summer 2020, and the first phase of new home construction will start fall 2020.

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