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Delaware Manufactured Home Relocation Authority extends benefits to residents of immobile RVs

Kent County installing new sewers in Dover-area manufactured home parks in 2016 to remedy public health hazards.
US Environmental Protection Agency
Sewer construction at a manufactured home park in Dover in 2016.

A legal battle over evictions at the Pine Haven manufactured home park in Lincoln prompts Delaware’s Manufactured Home Relocation Authority to refine some of its policies regarding residents of recreational vehicles — a less-common form of housing in Delaware's manufactured home communities.

The Authority is responsible for managing a trust fund, paid into by both the owners of manufactured home parks and manufactured homeowners, which is used to provide financial assistance to cover the cost of moving or demolishing a manufactured home.

For residents of Pine Haven, some of whom received eviction notices from the park's new owners last fall, that assistance could be vital: many of the community's residents are seniors on fixed incomes.

But a new state law defining what qualifies as a "manufactured home" left some residents unsure if they qualified for assistance from the Authority's trust fund. The park contains a mix of traditional manufactured homes and recreational vehicles, most of which are no longer in working condition and cannot be driven or towed to a new campsite.

In March, Pine Haven residents approached the Authority to clarify whether a recreational vehicle qualifies as a manufactured home.

The authority's board ultimately concluded that residents of immobile recreational vehicles could qualify for assistance, albeit not to cover relocation costs. "If the vehicle can be moved, it isn't eligible," said Authority board chair Mitch Crane.

Instead, the Authority determined residents of immobile recreational vehicles can receive a so-called "non-relocatable benefit," meaning they can abandon their vehicle — which, having no resale value, would be demolished — and receive a small sum to help them secure new housing. The non-relocatable benefit is also available to manufactured home owners whose homes are no longer in a condition to be moved.

Crane argued that while those living in recreational vehicles are eligible for the benefit, they did not pay into the trust fund — a reason for the Authority to be cautious about the size of the benefit.

"They can benefit by the trust fund - the law says they can - but that is taking money that was contributed to the trust fund over the years by landlords and manufactured home owners," he said.

The Authority's board ultimately opted to increase the maximum benefit from $1,500 to $3,000 — the first increase in the non-relocatable benefit in more than a decade.

The Authority has, however, increased the cap on other forms of assistance in recent years: in 2021, the board voted to increase the maximum relocation benefit, and in 2022, the board offered stipends to cover motel rooms as transitional accommodations for those relocating their homes.

But board member Andrew Strine also noted that while expanding benefits, the Authority may also encounter difficulties confirming the eligibility that those applying for assistance. At Pine Haven, for instance, many residents — both those living in recreational vehicles and traditional manufactured homes — may not have titles to their homes, making it difficult to determine whether an applicant for assistance is the true owner of the vehicle or home.

“If you can show that you were there with a lease paying rent, that might be enough," said Strine. "I don’t doubt that most people don’t have titles.”

The Authority does not expect a substantial surge in applications for benefits from Delawareans living in immobile recreational vehicles; according to Crane, Pine Haven is the first park the board has encountered with a substantial number of residents living in recreational vehicles.

And while members of the board acknowledged that $3,000 is a tight budget for a fixed-income household searching for a new home in Delaware, Strine suggested that the sum might cover most of the downpayment on an older manufactured home in an inland park.

Meanwhile, a cease-and-desist order from the Delaware Department of Justice directing Pine Haven’s new owners to temporarily halt evictions has lifted some pressure from the issue.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.