Mobile security

The Baltimore Sun

In Howard County, one of the most affluent counties in America, finding an affordable place to live is a serious challenge for moderate-income families. One answer has been mobile home parks, including a number clustered along Route 1 on the eastern side of the county. Now, there's a legislative proposal to make mobile home living in Howard and elsewhere in Maryland more secure, and it's worthy of support.

While mobile home parks offer a sense of community and an affordable place to live, there are fewer of them in Maryland as park owners see the value in selling the sites to developers. That leaves mobile home residents, who lease the land on which their homes sit, increasingly worried about their futures because finding a new lot is frequently a challenge. The alternative is selling the home for use in another region for far less than its purchase price.

There are nine mobile home parks with a total of about 1,400 households remaining in Howard County. Across the state, there are more than 120 parks, but the number is shrinking.

State Sen. James N. Robey, an Elkridge Democrat and former Howard County executive, is advocating statewide legislation that would require mobile home park owners to come up with relocation plans for residents if owners decide to sell. A similar bill affecting only St. Mary's County, which has lost 1,000 mobile sites in recent years, became law last year. Neighboring Calvert and Charles counties lost more than 100 mobile homes each.

In Howard, where the average single-family home sells for more than $400,000, an affordable-housing task force estimated the county has a shortage of 20,000 housing units for households earning less than $50,000 a year. Other counties are feeling a similar pinch. The Robey bill would be one way to ease the transition of residents with fewer and fewer housing options.

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