County supervisors vote to fund mobile home rehabilitation

BY ANNA EGELAND | JUNE 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Johnson County Board of Supervisors approved a plan for use of Johnson County block grant funds for mobile-home demolition and rehabilitation in a 3-1 vote Thursday morning.

The plan designates $20,000 for the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County to assist residents in fixing their mobile homes.

According to the official website, the Housing Trust Fund is a private nonprofit organization dedicated to alleviating the shortage of affordable housing in the county by "providing a flexible source of financing to entities that address the housing needs of households with income at or below 80 percent of the area median level."

While Supervisor Janelle Rettig was absent from the meeting, Terrence Neuzil said she had previously voiced her opposition to the plan.

Neuzil, who had the sole opposing vote, said he did not support the use of tax dollars to fund minor repairs in structures that posed major fire hazards to residents.

"There is documentation that shows mobile homes built pre-1976 are built not to the standards of today, particularly in the area of fire-safety standards," he said, noting the buildings' electrical wiring, emergency exits and window design as areas of potential concern. "I have a problem investing Johnson County tax dollars to fix a hole in the floor or a hole in the roof in a building that is a firetrap and a building that our Fire Department would find major defects in," he said.

Supervisor Chairman Rod Sullivan acknowledged the plan could not solve all of the issues with substandard mobile housing, calling it a "Band-Aid on a big problem."

"We recognize this has a downside as well; it's just the best we could come up with," he said.

"We've been discussing a number of ways [to improve Johnson County mobile homes], and this seemed to be the only plausible solution," Stutsman said, acknowledging that the plan is not yet perfect.

"We make it sound so simple, but we have put in so much to get to this point," said Stutsman, who is on a subcommittee that has been discussing the issue since 2010.

She said the supervisors were simply doing what they could to make the mobile homes safer, regardless of when they were built.

Supervisor Pat Harney agreed, saying it is important to "help those that need help the most."

Tracey Achenbach, the executive director of the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County, is administrating the grant program, and she attended the Thursday meeting to discuss the plan's implementation with the board.

Achenbach said the staff will check on the finished projects. Also, she said the mobile home owners and the contractor will sign off on them to verify completion.

"I don't imagine that your funds will take too long to be utilized," she said.

While the outcome of the vote was a triumph for some, Neuzil still regrets that the problem was not handled in a different way.

"I would rather see us invest in post-1976 mobile homes," he said. "… and I think that's what we should have done first, or we should invest the money in tearing those pre-1976 mobile homes down."

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