New money to help Vermont mobile home parks

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 6:12 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EAST MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - Historic levels of federal funding are bringing help to some of Vermont’s poorest communities by reinvesting in rural infrastructure.

State data shows about 8% of Vermonters live in mobile home parks. These types of homes accounted for 40% of property damage during Tropical Storm Irene. A plan from the state would invest in rural water and sewer that will improve the lives of mobile home residents.

Communities like Middlebury have long had investments and resources for infrastructure, getting the attention of lawmakers in Montpelier. But rural communities like East Middlebury just next door have long been strapped for public dollars.

“Things that we think of happening in third-world countries are actually happening here in Vermont,” Healthy Homes Supervisor Margie Klark said.

Lindale Park, a 67-unit mobile home community built in the 1960s just east of Middlebury, is one of Vermont’s 250 mobile home parks, also called manufactured home communities.

“We have homes with visible pooling septic systems. Systems that have to be pumped. There are unfortunately parks where people do not have water getting to each home,” Klark said.

That’s going to change in the coming months. The Addison Community Trust on Thursday gave state leaders a tour of a new septic and leach field project they hope will serve the community for the next 50 years. It was made possible through Vermont’s Healthy Homes Initiative, funded by some $25 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“From permitting and regulatory barriers to cost and capacity and technical barriers and through overcoming these challenges in the future, I’m hopeful manufactured communities will be able to access more of these resources,” said Elise Shanbacker, the executive director of the Addison County Community Trust.

For years, infrastructure in communities like Lindale has been left behind. They don’t always qualify for the same loans that towns and cities do.

Investments like these also highlight Vermont’s new environmental justice law-- the concept that low-income and marginalized communities shouldn’t bear the brunt of climate change and pollution.

“These are people, part of our community. Let’s respect them like we would anyone else. And frankly, they’re of the last bastions of affordable housing that’s left,” said Ashley Lucht, the associate director of Quantified Ventures.

The state is in the process of identifying who exactly should be included in an environmental justice community and what that support should look like. In the meantime, more money is coming Vermont’s way through the infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act for projects like these.

“Having an affordable home shouldn’t compromise having clean drinking water and adequate wastewater disposal,” Vt. Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore said.

State leaders are preparing to launch another wave of funding for the Healthy Homes project.

As for the septic project at Lindale, they hope to have it wrapped up by Thanksgiving.