Trailer owners may get help

Officials seek ways to aid displaced park residents

Board hears tearful pleas

Facilities closing as land is sold for development

Howard County

May 17, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County housing officials, concerned about the growing threat to affordable housing created by the closure of mobile-home parks in the U.S. 1 corridor, are seeking ways to help distressed residents.

Leonard S. Vaughan, the county's housing director, said a study of Howard mobile-home parks - containing more than 2,000 units - is under way, and county officials are considering laws to help protect buyers who might be unaware that the park they are moving to could close. Because home buyers don't own the land, the units depreciate in value and often can't be feasibly moved.

Members of the county's Housing and Community Development Board heard tearful pleas Thursday night from residents of the 6.8-acre Ev-Mar Mobile Home Park in Savage - several of whom moved there in the past three years. The 17 residents who remain at the park received legal notice last week that it will close in June 2005.

Increasingly, owners of Howard mobile-home parks are deciding to close and redevelop because of soaring land values and building along the U.S. 1 corridor, where most of the parks are located.

The result is that hundreds of units of scarce affordable housing are disappearing in a county where the average home sale price last month was $344,000.

Several small parks in North Laurel have closed, and Pfister's Mobile Home Park there is scheduled to be next. The 241-lot Aladdin Village in Jessup is also likely to give notice soon that it will close, officials said.

`They misled us'

Ev-Mar has 54 lots, but Vincent Patrick, the residents' leader, said some people have left and others have been evicted since he organized a community effort to buy the land and create a housing co-op.

"We moved into our home [in 2003] with a 30-year mortgage. They misled us," said V. Ann McAndrews, who told the board she has no place to move her trailer if Ev-Mar closes.

"People are being done dirty," said an angry Waverly Bryant, a resident who identified himself as a union iron worker. "They pay $30,000 for a trailer, and they're bringing people in there knowing they're going to be booted out.

"All we're asking for is a little dignity," he said.

Audrey Pressley, a two-year park resident, cried as she told board members that she spent money to fix up her 1978 mobile home, but that it's too old to move - even if she can find a place that would accept it.

"I have a 2-year-old son, and I have nowhere to go. Nowhere," she said, apologizing for her tears.

"The money coming into our house isn't enough to pay for an apartment. I don't sleep anymore. I'm a nervous wreck," she said. The cheapest apartment she can find charges $850 a month, plus utilities, and it has no washer or dryer.

Rent subsidies possible

Vaughan said the county might make federal Section 8 rent subsidies available to displaced low-income people.

Kalvin Evans, who has just left military service, said he moved into Ev-Mar in November 2002.

"I've got four kids and one on the way," he said, adding that he isn't prepared financially to move or lose his mobile home.

Vaughan said he met Wednesday with Walter S.B. Childs, who represents the estate of the late Henry E. Meyn, a co-owner of Ev-Mar. Childs did not return calls seeking comment.

Vaughn said a tentative agreement has been reached to help residents who sign an agreement to leave Ev-Mar.

Meyn's heirs had offered $2,000 to each resident who agreed to move but excluded anyone who opposed the rezoning or the park's closing. Vaughan said that Childs agreed to remove that provision and that the heirs agreed to pay to move or demolish trailers left on the property if the title is surrendered. Residents who sign the agreement may stop paying rent.

The Ev-Mar residents tried to form a co-op to buy and continue operating the mobile-home park, but the owners turned down their $1.9 million offer after the county rejected a proposed zoning change for the land.

A California company that operates the larger Aladdin Village has sought to rezone the property for a mixed-use development. The county is considering that proposal.

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