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Pilot program aims to offer affordable housing option for Delawareans

Manufactured homes – often called mobile homes – aren’t known for their low energy costs. But a new energy net zero Delaware modular home called the ZeMod is hoping to save Delawareans money in the long run.

Delaware’s Sustainable Energy Utility is partnering with Milford Housing to offer the alternative to traditional mobile homes as part of a three-year ZeMod pilot program.

 

ZeMod got its start in Vermont in 2011.

 

“Vermont got wiped out by Hurricane Irene," said Valerie Miller with Milford Housing. "They had a lot of mobile home communities. And they were thinking: what can we do to help these residents?”

 

The Vermont Energy Investment Corporation studied the housing landscape in Delaware in 2015, and determined there was a market in the First State for modular housing.

Miller says the ZeMod homes should help Delawareans save money in the long run. The average cost for monthly mobile home utilities is over $200 per month. With the net zero ZeMod, that cost would go down to about $20 dollars. Solar panels produce all of the energy needed for the home.

 

“The true cost of home ownership is their mortgage – principal interest, taxes, insurance plus their energy costs, plus their maintenance costs…” said Roger Collison, owner of Greenwood-based company Beracah homes. His company is designing the homes.

 

While the price tag for ZeMods is more than double that of a typical new manufactured home – about $162,000, compared to $71,000 – Collison says they’re built to last longer and retain value better.

 

As an extra incentive, individual $15,000 grants are available to those with an income limit of 120% of area median income. Those grants are being offered by Delaware's Sustainable Energy Utility. Additional $25,000 down payment assistance grants are also available.

 

Another benefit Miller adds: they can be financed with mortgage loans unlike most manufactured homes.

 
“The mobile homes are technically classified as a motor vehicle," Miller said. "So you can’t get a regular mortgage: you have to get a personal loan like a car loan. And your interest rate can be really high and you’re not building any equity.”

Homeowner counseling is also available through Milford Housing.

The ZeMod pilot program's longterm goal is to increase market demand for modular homes like the ZeMod models as replacements for manufactured homes. 

 

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