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Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2023
Wednesday evening, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing on a plan to expand a Crozet manufactured homes park. Now, this may seem like a dull bit of development news, but it’s really not. This move will not only have a major effect on the lives of the folks who live in that park, but it’s also part of a much larger story that’s playing out across the nation.
If approved, this expansion will be bucking a devastating national trend.
Mobile home parks are disappearing in this country — fast. As housing prices rise, developers are buying up parks, razing them and building more traditional housing there. Once those parks are gone, they take with them affordable housing options that are simply not replaced. And it is devastating to the folks with low incomes who live there.
About a year ago, we reported on what the disappearance of mobile homes looks like in the Charlottesville area. The story featured the voices of multiple former mobile home park residents who could not afford to stay in Charlottesville after their parks were sold.
Before we go further, it’s important to acknowledge that there are many downsides to mobile home communities. People there buy their trailers, but not the land they sit on. So they’re at the mercy of the parks’ owners as far as rent and amenities go. Manufactured homes deteriorate far more quickly than brick and mortar structures, so owners don’t build wealth through equity. And as these parks are sold and redeveloped, residents are forced out. They often lose their trailers in the process because they’re unable to move them to a new park.
Still, these parks provide some of the last truly affordable, unsubsidized housing options in the country. For that reason, states and the federal government are now trying to find ways to protect existing parks and build new ones. Virginia passed a law last year requiring local governments to support the construction of such parks in their jurisdictions. The Biden administration’s 2022 “plan to ease the burden of housing costs” features multiple programs aimed at supporting manufactured home parks. And in June, the Office of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) formed a new Office of Manufactured Housing Programs.
“This action acknowledges the important role of manufactured housing in meeting the nation’s affordable housing needs,” HUD said in a statement.
That brings us back to Crozet. Tomorrow, Wednesday, Aug. 16, sometime after 6 p.m., the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors is holding a public hearing on a plan to add 14 new mobile home spaces to the Crozet Mobile Home Community, which currently has 73 units. (The meeting will be at the Lane Auditorium, 401 McIntire Rd. Here’s how you register to speak.) The park has a new owner, Roseland Communities, which bought the community last year. But instead of razing and rebuilding, as most new owners do, Roseland Communities hopes to keep and expand the park.
The company’s plan asks the county to waive dozens of zoning code requirements. This application has been covered extensively by the Crozet Gazette. In an article published last year, the newspaper explained the waivers:
“The waivers encompass almost every aspect of the zoning code for manufactured homes — size of homes, frontage distances and orientation, distances between homes, setbacks, outdoor living and storage requirements, parking and internal street requirements, as well as specs for driveways, recreation areas, landscaping, screening, storm sewers, and construction materials. In most categories, few existing or proposed lots meet the regulations, and no remedies are proposed in the application.”
Why? The Crozet park was built more than 40 years ago, before the county passed its zoning ordinances. And meeting the new codes would be too burdensome, the owner said.
At least some of the park’s residents agree, and they’ve urged the supervisors to approve the expansion.
“If the 14 mobile homes are not approved, a developer will come in, buy the property, and build apartments,” Allison Wood, who has lived in the park all her life, said at a January county meeting about the proposal. Her comments were quoted in the Crozet Gazette.
“Right now, we are the last affordable housing Crozet has,” she said at a subsequent meeting in June. “A lot of the families who are lower income or on disability really don’t have anywhere else to go.”
A quick reminder. Charlottesville Tomorrow teamed up with the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society to host a conversation about how we name our institutions. Join us at Charlottesville’s Jefferson-Madison Regional Library Central Branch, Aug. 22 at 5:30 p.m.!
Back in Charlottesville, the city has released its 400 page draft zoning ordinance. This draft took seven years to create, and seeks to increase allowable housing density across the city. The process is nearing the finish line. The city’s Planning Commission will now review this draft, hold a public hearing and vote on whether to recommend this draft to the City Council to approve. If the Commission recommends approval, the Council will hold a second public hearing, and then a final vote.
Thanks for reading!
Jessie Higgins, managing editor
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