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Tue September 25, 2007
Welcome Home: Housing in Brunswick County
By Catherine M. Welch & Peter Biello
Wilmington, NC – WHQR's Welcome Home series continues this morning in Brunswick County, where a landmark study recently took stock of the growing housing problem.
To fully understand the state of affordable housing in Brunswick County, researchers out of UNC-Chapel Hill sat down with the major stakeholders and asked these four questions: to what degree does the county lack affordable housing, how do you think it impacts Brunswick County; what are the major obstacles and finally what should be done.
Principle investigator Bill Rohe says they meshed answers to those questions with a panoply of data and came out with some surprising results, including the rising number of Brunswick County residents who are paying more than half of their salary to keep a roof over their heads.
Mobile Homes in Brunswick County
For some Brunswick County residents, affordable housing takes the form of a mobile home. The county's tax office says there are 7,000 mobiles in Brunswick County this year, down from 7,500 four years ago.
The question remains whether the county needs more mobile homes or fewer. Housing Specialist Anita Oldham says mobile homes help meet immediate needs.
There isn't a lot of affordable housing in Brunswick County and there are very few affordable apartments. What apartments there are that affordable rents, they're almost always all full because the demand is so high.
As a result, those people end up renting trailers. Rent on a trailer is typically $450 or $500 a month. This often means living in old, dilapidated trailers.
But if you take away those trailers then where do they go? That's the issue right now. Right now I'd say if there were plenty of affordable apartments I'd say shut down the trailer parks, but there isn't.
Resea Willis, director of Brunswick's Countywide Development Corporation, says mobile homes can be sanitary places to live, but
When you talk about wealth building, the appreciation value of mobile homes does not fit into that, because they are still treated as personal property and they are depreciated.
Willis says mobile homes have hidden expenses. Heating in winter and cooling in the summer can be more expensive because the walls of mobile homes are poor insulators. She also says the stigma attached to mobile homes may cause some people to object to new mobile homes and trailer parks.
Brunswick County Planning Director Leslie Bell says the county has been liberal in allowing mobile homes to set down in sites other than mobile home parks.
Our effort is not to displace folks in mobile homes but to provide a bigger box for those who might would fall in that income category.
Bell says in Brunswick County mobile homes traditionally served as secondary beach homes, often for retired people. Now mobile homes are disappearing. 1,012 permits were issued for mobile homes in 1996. In 2005, the number had dropped 40%.
Bell says people who moved into mobile homes for retirement find it hard to upgrade to real property homesband low income earners find themselves stuck too.
The question then becomes how to make mobile homes a stepping stone and not an ending place.
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