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Program aims to support repair, not replacement, of aging mobile homes

Devin Kelly

A new program will use federal funds to help low-income Anchorage families preserve and repair their mobile homes.

In partnership with the municipality, the Rural Alaska Community Action Program, or RuralCAP, is preparing to harness a federal community development block grant of $400,000 and target improvements in mobile home roofs, skirting and foundations. The funds will also go toward fixing defective water heating systems and hot water tanks.

Through the program, up to $20,000 can be spent repairing a mobile home built in or after 1978. Pointing to Anchorage's widespread affordable housing shortage, officials said the objective of the Mobile Home Repair Program is to help low-income families stay in their homes as long as possible.

The program is relatively small in scale. Officials said the goal is to repair a total of 16 units a year.

"There's more need, of course, but at least these funds are here to help some folks out," said Kent Banks, director of the RuralCAP weatherization program.

After expanding rapidly in the 1970s, Anchorage's mobile home parks have slowly deteriorated over the years. Since 2000, nearly 500 mobile homes have been demolished or moved to make way for other developments.

At the same time, the municipality has recognized the role of mobile homes in Anchorage's affordable housing stock. Many mobile home owners are low-income and have trouble keeping up with maintenance, said Melinda Freemon, manager of the Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Initiatives and Partnerships Division.

After reviewing the 2013 Housing and Community Development Annual Action Plan, the Anchorage Assembly last year asked for a program dedicated specifically to the repair and preservation of mobile homes. Freemon noted that it costs at least $75,000 for a new single-wide trailer, and at least $100,000 for a double-wide trailer.

That same amount of funding can rehabilitate multiple units and extend their life a decade or more, Freemon said.

"We feel it's most important to help extend the longevity and livability of those homes rather than just purchase new ones," Freemon said.

To qualify for the new program, a mobile homeowner must make at or below 80 percent of Anchorage's median income. After an application is approved, an inspection and an environmental review will determine if repair work can proceed on the home. If a roof is caving in, for example, the mobile home will not qualify for minor repair work, Banks said.

Officials hope the new program will complement RuralCAP's weatherization program and also free up resources in other repair programs in the municipality. The municipality's Minor Repair Program, which fixes up homes as well as mobile homes, has run in some form since 1997 and is currently operated by NeighborWorks Anchorage.

That program is in its last contract year, and its future has yet to be determined, Freemon said.

Officials were not able to provide an official starting date for the Mobile Home Repair Program. Anyone seeking more information about the program can call RuralCap at 279-2511.

Reach Devin Kelly at dkelly@adn.com or 257-4314.


By DEVIN KELLY
dkelly@adn.com