Creating a Model for a Resilient, Affordable, and Carbon Neutral Mobile Home Site

Boulder, Colorado is known for its high quality of life, progressive land use planning, open space preservation, and strong environmental ethic. The City houses a highly educated population and holds a diverse economic base that has experienced significant growth in recent years and is projected to increase by another 10% in the next 25 years. Home prices in Boulder are also high and climbing, with a 31.3% increase in median single-family homes between 2015 and 2017. Nearly two-thirds of Boulder’s renter households are cost burdened. Escalating economic trends and plummeting housing affordability leads to growing income inequality and difficulty retaining workers in some sectors. In addition to these resilience challenges are the physical threats of wildfires and the highest flash flood risk in Colorado.

The Ponderosa Mobile Home Park, is a site that represents a confluence of these resilience challenges. One of the most affordable sites in Boulder, the Park sits in the 100-year floodplain, with a small share in the 500-year floodplain. As the city addresses its housing affordability challenge, the City wanted to ensure that Boulderites maintain their diversity in ethnic backgrounds, incomes, and household compositions while addressing resilience and sustainability through upgraded infrastructure investment.                                                                  

In 2017, the City of Boulder purchased Ponderosa and began working with the residents to plan for infrastructure improvements, and to identify affordable, energy-efficient home replacement options. The goal is to avoid displacement while transforming the community into a model for developing a resilient, affordable and carbon neutral community. As part of this exploration, Rebuild by Design worked with the City of Boulder and Trestle Strategy Group to create a resident-centered, community design process that included a day-long workshop on December 4, 2017.

As Ponderosa and the city contemplated new infrastructure for the mobile home park, many questions about land ownership and innovative infrastructure and housing options emerged. In order to help the city address some of these questions, as well as think larger about the possibilities for Ponderosa, Rebuild helped the City pick a consultant to deeply engage the community and created a day-long workshop to bring outside experts and community members together for holistically envisioning a more resilient and sustainable Ponderosa that maintains affordability. As part of the workshop, we helped the City determine the right experts and participants for the needed discussions and brainstorming. Ultimately, we organized the workshop around exploring three key areas:

  1. Land ownership options and their potential impact on housing affordability
  2. Infrastructure and housing innovation to explore during the design stage
  3. Social challenges and assets of the existing mobile home community and broader Boulder community for generating additional capacity and useful resources.

Later that year, Rebuild by Design brought together experts in housing, water, energy, finance, and social services to create a resident-centered, resilient community design process. These experts, along with residents of the Ponderosa community, assisted the city in uncovering the feasibility of different ownership models and potential infrastructure ideas to transform the community into a model for developing a resilient, affordable, and sustainable manufactured home site in Colorado and beyond.

The composition of approximately 60 participants ranged from expertise in city planning, design and sustainability to housing affordability and social services. Approximately 20 residents also attended throughout the course of the day.

The outcomes of this workshop were captured in Rebuild’s report “Path to Resilient Mobile & Manufactured Homes.” On the infrastructure side, ideas emerged around amphibious design, pervious areas and water features on the site as well as community Wi-Fi and a community resilience center. The report identifies the best ways to utilize indoor and outdoor space to build social capital and leverage existing community assets, as well as knowledge gaps and needed next steps around land ownership models. The report also highlights key interventions for building a resilient mobile home park that can be applicable to similar communities throughout the U.S.  

Rebuild’s collaboration with the City helped move forward decision-making around Ponderosa’s annexation and infrastructure needs. Rebuild’s process helped generate a creative and more comprehensive approach to addressing Ponderosa’s challenges. The workshop built trust with the residents and brought in additional resources and expertise. 

Read the report developed from the workshop, outlining outcomes, knowledge gaps and next steps here.

Read the case study here.