By JENNIFER HLAD
ANNAPOLIS (Feb. 05, 2010) - Andrea Leepa owns her home, but not the land it sits on.
This week, she urged legislators to support a bill that would require mobile home park owners to notify residents and provide relocation assistance if the owner sells the land for another use.
"Even though our home is called mobile, it really isn't," Leepa told the House Environmental Matters Committee on Thursday.
Moving a mobile home can cost between $10,000 and $15,000, she said, and many parks only accept homes that are less than 10 years old.
Leepa's home in Deep Run Mobile Home Park in Elkridge is 17 years old. And while she's under no threat of moving right now, it's something she said she worries about.
Right now, the law says park owners must provide a relocation plan—but it is not very specific about what the plan must contain, said Jacob Ouslander, a staff attorney for the Southern Maryland office of the Legal Aid Bureau.
The bill fills in the specifics, requiring the plan to include a timeline of the closure, a list of other parks in the area with vacancies, companies that specialize in moving mobile homes and other information, Ouslander said.
Owners also would be required to provide cash assistance for residents—many of whom lack the savings necessary to move to a new home—he said. The assistance would be tied to the amount of rent the resident paid for the previous 10 months.
"Their home is essentially being taken away. This would help them transition," Ouslander said. "This is an area of affordable housing that is very scarce in this state."
Delegate Stephen W. Lafferty, D-Baltimore County, said he has seen parks close in Howard County and wanted to reach a balance between the needs of the park owners and the needs of the residents.
The land a mobile home sits on can be very valuable, he said. While apartment residents may be able to find other reasonably priced apartments if they are displaced, mobile home owners have paid tens of thousands of dollars for their home and may not be able to move them.
Mark Weinman, a mobile home park owner and representative of the Maryland Manufactured Housing Coalition, said he thinks the bill strikes a good balance. The coalition supports the bill.
However, a representative of the Manufactured Housing Institute of Maryland said that organization does not support the measure.
Robert Enten told legislators the organization's members think the matter should be left to local governments. He called the bill a "one-size-fits-all approach," saying not all parks are built on land with high development value.
Madeleine Beard, a deacon at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Highland, said even with the downturn in the real estate market, residents of mobile home parks live with the fear that the land will be sold.
Many residents are senior citizens or the working poor, Beard said, and "their mobile homes are usually their largest, and often their only, asset."
While the relocation assistance outlined in the bill would not replace the mobile home, Leepa said it would "significantly help us to move or put money down on a new home."
Leepa, Beard and Enten offered similar testimony Wednesday at a Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing about the bill.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.