Developers in the Valley

Pan and Fork residents say new housing code comes up short

September 10, 2013
Tonight the Basalt town council will give a final vote on a measure that will permanently change the town's affordable housing rules. The move is part of the town's ongoing effort to relocate the residents of the Pan and Fork mobile home park in order to do restoration work to the riverbank, and to build a recreational park and possibly a hotel at the site. KDNK's Ed Williams went to the Pan and Fork to talk to residents living there, and find out what the change in affordable housing would mean for them.
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The Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. Photo by Nelson Harvey
The Pan and Fork Mobile Home Park. Photo by Nelson Harvey

Tonight's vote would eliminate Basalt's current requirement that 100 percent of any affordable housing removed during the town's planned renovations at the site of the Pan and Fork mobile home park—replacing it with a formula that will pay affordable housing residents displaced by development based on how long they've lived in their current homes and how many children they have.

The town says it's a big improvement from the current rule, which doesn't actually move people into replacement housing, but rather just builds new affordable homes that the displaced residents might not end up living in.

But may of the low-income residents of the Pan and Fork say that even with the average payment of around $20,000, they won't have the money to relocate somewhere new.

Irma Diaz, who has lived in the Pan and Fork for almost 20 years, says forcing her out of her current home, even with a $20,000 payment under the town's proposed plan, would be a serious problem for her.

Her trailer can't be moved, she says; it's too old. A new trailer in the Valley costs at least $60,000, she says, plus a 12,000 installation cost at a new trailer park, if she finds one. She can't sell her trailer to a new tenant because the Pan and Fork is going to be demolished. Taking her twenty thousand dollar reimbursement from the town into account, she estimates her mandatory move from the trailer park will leaver her with over $50,000 in debt, if she can get the credit.

Irma's husband Rafael says he went to look for affordable housing in New Castle, but he says trailers were too expensive there too. Plus, he says, most people who live in the Pan and Fork work upvalley, and living in New Castle would mean a 100 mile drive everyday and two hours of lost work—something he says most residents can't afford.

Another Pan and Fork resident, Nohemi Romo, also says she stands to lose a lot from her mandatory relocation. Romo, who is one of the first round of residents required to leave the mobile home park, says says she's invested $60,000 over six years in her home at the Pan and Fork, and taking into account her reimbursement she will lose $52,000 of that investment.

Like others in the Pan and Fork, she thinks it's unfair that the formula the town is looking at does not take into account money the residents have invested in their homes. "I really hope I can somehow find a piece of land I can own myself, so I don't find myself in this situation again," Romo said. "But I don't think I can do that because land is so expensive here. Maybe I could get credit for a small house, but I probably couldn't get financing to buy a piece of land because of the cost. But I would be ok with either option as long as it's fair."

Some residents would come out ahead with the town's relocation payments, in the few cases where the trailers and the money the residents have invested in them were less than $20,000.

But the overriding feeling at the pan and fork seems to be that the forced relocation is going to cost more than they can afford—that's if the residents can find a new affordable place to live in the Valley.

That's a feeling echoed by Juan Alvarado, who is also in the first round of trailers to have to move. He says the ordeal has been traumatizing for his family—his wife suffers from migraines because of the stress of not knowing if they will find a place to live, and he says the situation has been especially hard on his young children.

"What they should do is pay for a psychologist for my kids. They need help, they're crying saying they're going to kick us out of our house, that we won't have any money—they need help and I need help too. I don't know what to do. This is humiliating," Alvarado said.

"I ask all the rich people from Aspen to Glenwood that they think about us here, about our kids," he continued. "If any of you has a parcel of land you want to donate to us, please do it. We are all suffering here. Please try to feel in your heart what we are going through here."