Singlewides are back, 'great step for little man'

Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Photo by Clint Confehr An entry was excavated in the hill under David Church's home to provide a second access to his storm cellar.

Marshall County commissioners voted 12-6 last week to repeal regulations that were seen as a ban on permitting any more singlewide mobile homes in the county, but there still are some restrictions on how and where they can be placed.

"Twelve felt like there was a need for affordable housing, especially with young couples trying to get started," County Mayor Joe Boyd Liggett said of the majority. "Their key emphasis is that the trailer has to be owner-occupied to cut down on trailer parks.

"The six felt like trailers were a bad investment, perhaps they depreciate rather than appreciate," the county mayor said.

County Building Official Don Nelson said the repealed ban had exceptions for medical hardships or if a mobile home burned, and since the vote on July 23, "Some people came in asking to be located, one with a 20-year-old trailer which is not allowed."

Commission Chairman Sam Smith said that previously new singlewide mobile homes were restricted to 100 acre-tracts.

"That's somewhat prohibitive unless you're going to do something like provide a home for an employee," Smith said. "This new resolution is finding common ground so that people in the county who are just starting out can experience ownership, those who can't afford to build a new house."

Requirements include: a rock, brick or block skirt below the floor line; an 80-square-foot deck on the front and back, and; removal of the hitch.

Commissioner Scotty Poarch was the driving force behind changing the law.

"I started off in a trailer," Poarch said. "My parents gave me some property and we had a trailer and had kids. We couldn't do any better."

The old law "was really classing people. . . and there are a lot of elderly people who can't afford better and don't want to go to a nursing home," Poarch said.

"It's a great step for the little man," he said of lifting restrictions on mobile home ownership. "It's the American way."

Among the six who voted against the resolution is Commissioner Jennifer Harris. Like others who debated this restriction in previous meetings, economic discrimination wasn't the issue.

"There are lots of housing options in Marshall County," Harris said.

While she didn't see the need for singlewide trailers, Harris saw the resolution as an attempt to provide all people "the right to choose their type of home."

However, she said, the resolution lowers standards and even so, there will still be people who can't afford such a home.

"I've tried not to make this about money," Harris continued. "I don't think it's fair to say singlewides are for poor people and big brick homes for wealthy.

"We adopted a uniform building code three years ago to standardize new home construction requirements," she said. "Singlewides are exempt from those standards and I say, knowing that, they are built under their own standards.

"They're not subject to inspection by the building inspector or the building code that we passed.

"And the resolution didn't accomplish what it was to do," Harris said. "It still won't make housing available to everyone."

Some restrictions remain cost prohibitive to some people, she said.

One restriction noted by another commissioner is that mobile homes that are to be placed now can't be more than five model years old.

Commissioners also debated consequences for the county's property tax rate.

Housing market forces will affect property values differently for land with a trailer vs. land with a stick-built home, Harris said. If a mobile home located next to another kind of home has the effect of lowering the other home's tax appraisal, then that could be seen as a benefit since the tax bill would be lower. That, however, would also lower county property tax revenue.