Vanishing Trailer Parks

January 27, 1994

The developer of Seven Oaks, the tony subdivision of townhouses and detached homes in Odenton, recently went to court to evict a handful of residents from the J&J Mobile Home Park, which has problems with unsafe water and sits uncomfortably close to the new development.

There appears little reason to doubt that developer Warren E. Halle will emerge victorious in the end. He gave ample notice to residents of the three-acre mobile home park that they would have to find other housing after unhealthy levels of radium were discovered in their water. The impending closure of another mobile park also underscores how difficult it is for Anne Arundel countians of modest circumstances to find accommodations in the lower end of the housing market.

The number of trailer parks in the county has steadily declined in recent years. As county real estate has become more valuable, land has been gobbled up for pricier housing complexes. Many other trailer parks disappeared to make room for commercial or industrial development. Or they disappeared because they were too close to growing Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Nevertheless, there are many county residents who can barely afford the less than $300 in rent that many trailer parks charge.

This trend is irreversible. Over the past couple of decades, Anne Arundel has developed from a once-rural county of truck farms and summer cottages into an important bedroom community for Baltimore and Washington and the many key defense- and science-related institutions in between. As the population has increased, its socio-economic characteristics have swung upward, too.

Moreover, the county has in recent years adopted more rigid codes regarding mobile home parks. There are good reasons for controlling the number and size of parks and for assuring the safety of those who live there. In this real estate market, though, it was also inevitable that as the guidelines became stricter, the bare-bones economics that make such parks feasible would diminish.

If trailer parks disappear in Anne Arundel altogether, the people renting in the lowest end of the market may face homelessness. That is a sobering thought in a county that is ill-equipped to handle such a problem.

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