Trailer park residents must move in one year

The Baltimore Sun

New zoning displacing trailer park residents The roughly 180 families living in the Aladdin Village Mobile Home Park in Elkridge must move within one year -- another step in the redevelopment of the U.S. 1 corridor.

Aladdin, with capacity for 241 families, is the latest and largest example of how rising land values and large-scale rezoning by Howard County is prompting major changes along the old industrial corridor.

It is a change county officials welcome, but the price is high -- the loss of hundreds of affordable homes for lower- and moderate-income people.

For Linda North, a single mother who is a secretary at Fort Meade, it means a likely move to a Baltimore rowhouse she can afford, she said.

"The best choice for me is a trailer," North said, but with Aladdin the fourth county mobile home park to close in recent years, the number of locations are shrinking. Like other residents, she pays $500 a month to rent the pad on which her home sits.

For Eleanor Gyr, 71, a 28-year resident of Aladdin, it means leaving the spacious, 1976-model double-wide unit. Gyr's hobbies and related equipment include a piano, a kiln for ceramics, photography, sewing and her service on the county's Housing and Community Development Board.

"I want to stay in Howard County. I want to stay in Elkridge," said Gyr, though she knows she likely will not find as large a space as she has now.

"I've been looking for apartments," she said.

The residents got a letter over the weekend giving the required one-year notice under state law, setting Sept. 5, 2007, as the park's official closing date.

The move is to make way for 436 townhouses, 200 condominiums and a 100-room hotel on the site. Some of those new homes could be affordable for Aladdin residents through the county's moderate-income housing unit subsidy program.

Mark Levy of Rock Realty, the company that owns the 40.6 acres, said work would not begin until after the residents are gone.

"We have a full-time person who is taking care of the relocation of everybody out there. He will meet with every resident individually," Levy said.

He said in April that his firm would honor a 15-page relocation plan offered residents in October, 2004 by a previous owner.

"We obviously gave these people months longer time. I hope we've demonstrated to the residents that we're working with them," Levy said.

"The problem is when someone owes the bank $60,000 on a unit. We can't solve that," he said. "We're trying to be innovative and help them get rid of their liability."

A home as old as Gyr's "is worth less than the cost to relocate it," Levy said. And North said she knows her 1987 unit is not movable.

Most mobile home parks will not accept homes that are more than 10 years old, and with parks closing in recent years, there are very few places to move them.

North bought her home four years ago, she said, and learned about six months after that that Aladdin was destined for redevelopment. Her 20-year-old daughter attends college in Baltimore and her 15-year-old son is in high school in Howard County.

She is more worried about finding a new three-bedroom place she can afford than about the sale value of her home. Rents are higher than mortgage payments in many cases, she said.

Howard County housing officials can offer some help -- up to $2,500 in relocation expenses for limited-income families, said Neil Gaffney, deputy county housing administrator.

A 60-unit mobile home park is scheduled to open next summer for some Aladdin residents, Levy said, and his firm is trying to help people in financial straits. But the new park, a mile south on U.S. 1, is considered transitional and will close in 15 years under the county law that created it.

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