The Fight to Save Denver Meadows: New Documentary Delves into America’s Affordable Housing Crisis

(The following includes excerpts from a review by the Denver Post of a new documentary titled “A Decent Home” that premiered at the Denver Film Festival, November 6 through November 11.

When Luz Galicia became a single mother after her divorce, the only way for her to pay her daughter’s tuition was to move out of her big home and move into a mobile home in the Denver Meadows Mobile Home Park in Aurora.

“A mobile home is not a second-class house,” Galicia says in a new

motion picture length documentary, “A Decent Home.” A mobile home is my house. It’s where we put our energy, our family, our history, our everyday memories.”

“A Decent Home,” directed by Sara Terry tells the story of mobile home parks’ status as America’s last bastion of unsubsidized affordable housing. The documentary, over six years in the making, looks at our country’s affordable housing crisis through the lens of Denver Meadows residents as they fight to save their park from being sold to developers–a battle to preserve community, economic stability, and the American dream as they know it.

“Think about what a home is,” Terry said in an interview. “And think about whether it’s a basic human right or whether it’s a commodity. Which would you want to live in?”

The documentarian first learned about big money players moving into the mobile home park sector six years ago from an article in the Guardian. She was outraged.

Mobile home parks are “canaries in the coal mine.” Terry said.

The documentary features mobile home parks next to Google headquarters in Silicon Valley and in Iowa and New Hampshire, but the film’s main throughline is Denver Meadows.

The mobile home park was home to 100 families, such as Galicia, whose lives were upended when the park owner, Shawn Lustigman, decided to sell the park and kick the residents out.

Mobile homes represent a unique slice of American homeownership because most people own the mobile homes they live in — but not the land on which their home sits. That’s rented to them by a landlord, who holds all the cards when it comes to the future of the park or the rent for those small patches of grass.

Lustigman’s decision led these mobile homeowners on a multi-year odyssey to city council meetings and public hearings, pleading with Aurora’s leaders to save their park from turning into hotels or apartments.

While Denver Meadows has mom-and-pop owners, Terry zooms out to show what it means for mobile home residents across the country when private equity firms gobble up mobile home parks and jack up the rent — a trend encapsulated through the teaching seminars of Frank Rolf’s Mobile Home University.

The seminar teaches prospective mobile home park investors to raise rent relentlessly because mobile homeowners, contrary to their name, can’t actually afford to move. Remove amenities, such as pools or playgrounds. Say goodbye to laundry rooms or vending machines, Rolfe preaches in the documentary. Don’t learn who lives in your communities.

As part of the seminar, Rolfe takes attendees on a tour through one mobile home park.

“You’ll be shocked by beach towels in windows instead of curtains,” he tells one group.

The attitude portrayed in this scene is part of the “othering” of mobile homeowners, Terry said. Her hope for the film, she says, is to show the viewer who actually lives in these parks.
“I’m fighting the stereotype of trailer trash,” the director said. “It’s a pejorative term and people make comments like that all the time. I don’t want it to be an acceptable stereotype anymore.”

Recent Posts