In 2011, floods in the spring, and Tropical Storm Irene later that year destroyed more than 150 mobile homes and damaged hundreds of others.
A meeting in Burlington took stock of what’s been done to help mobile home owners since the flooding – and long term efforts to minimize future storm damage at mobile home parks.
It’s not easy protecting mobile homes from floods. Once inundated the structures are usually a complete loss. Mobile home parks are also often located in flood vulnerable sites.
Many of their residents are low-income or living on fixed incomes and have limited financial resources.
Shaun Gilpin is program director of the Mobile Home Project at Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.
Gilpin says mobile homes are an important part of Vermont’s affordable housing stock and there’s a need to replace those lost in the flooding.
"At the same time is it just to put homes back into areas where we now have a better understanding of the flood risk and the fluvial erosion risks that are out there. How do we react to that? How do we bring back the number of units that we need, or even expand that without putting people into harms way and setting them up for another disaster," says Gilpin.
For that reason, work is being done to minimize the impact of future storms.
One approach discussed at the meeting is replacing old housing stock with new mobile home designs that are more durable and energy efficient.
The higher cost of these mobile homes is offset by the long term energy savings, but financing is a challenge for buyers. Low or no interest loans or subsidies could make purchasing a better designed mobile home more attractive.
Other approaches discussed include encouraging cooperative ownership of more mobile home parks, where residents are involved in emergency planning and efforts to mitigate risks.
Relocating mobile home sites is another more challenging option. That’s an issue at the three mobile home parks that are part of Tri-Park, a Brattleboro cooperative.
Resident Nancy Brosz says twenty-five of her fellow owner-residents currently live in a floodway. Moving their existing mobile homes is difficult because of the age of the structures and limited space in the parks.
"There’s not a simple solution. If there was we would have done it," says Brosz. "We really want to care about them so they don’t fear when the water comes up as in spring floods, they don’t have to worry that the sound is coming closer."
Many mobile home parks were built before statewide land use regulations were established and were built in places where they might be prohibited today.
Meeting participants also discussed a draft report outlining recommendations for disaster resilience at mobile home parks. The final version will be issued at the end of the month.