Writer Carly Berlin produced a report through a partnership between VTDigger and Vermont Public dated 7.15.2023 on the subject of “‘Not Going to Live Here Again’ – Vermont Manufactured-Home Residents Return to Destruction.” Left-leaning CNN reported on July 12, 2023 that: “Catastrophic flooding swamped Vermont’s capital as intense storms forced evacuations and closures in Northeast. Intense rainstorms that inundated the Northeast turned streets into rivers, forced evacuations and prompted officials in Vermont’s capital, Montpelier, to close the downtown area.” The Associated Press said: “Parts of the state got more rain on Thursday and about 14,000 customers at the height of the storm.” So, thousands of residents, businesses, and other properties and structures were harmed to various degrees. Per AP: “as of Friday, about 5,200 people statewide had registered to help relief efforts through the state Emergency Management agency and an online volunteer recruitment effort.” So, it would be a mistake to think that only people living in mobile or manufactured homes were negatively impacted.
Apparently notorious manufactured housing professional Frank Rolfe in an emailed and posted remarks on this incident provided the following pull-quotes from Berlin’s remarks via VTDigger and Rolfe’s observations about it.
VTDigger: ‘Not Going to Live Here Again’: Vermont Manufactured-Home Residents Return to Destruction
- Originally released by vtdigger on July 15th, 2023
- Commentary made on July 21st, 2023
Hattie Wood had been through floods at the Berlin Mobile Home Park before. The first arrived during her first spring in the park, almost 30 years ago. It ruined her family’s shed but didn’t reach their home. In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene brought water up to the base of the residence, but again it was spared.
This time, “it took everything,” Wood said on Thursday afternoon, as she returned home for the first time since Vermont’s historic flooding overtook the park earlier this week.
VTDigger is drawing on all available resources to cover the catastrophic flooding. If you can help support these reporting efforts, please consider donating…
Our [i.e.: Frank Rolfe-Dave Reynolds/MHU] thoughts on this story:
This writer thinks they have it all figured out when it comes to why mobile homes in Vermont got flooded the other day – in the same storm that flooded their own capitol. “A large share sit on floodplains. Many parks have aging water and electrical systems that are more at risk of failing when hit by severe weather, and older homes built to outdated housing codes lack the physical integrity to withstand damage.”
Wow, that was really stupid on so many fronts. Yes, many mobile home parks have floodplain on some part of the property, but so does every other type of real estate (including the Capitol of Vermont apparently). Water and electrical systems do not fail in storms any more than any subdivision. And mobile homes have been built to the standards imposed and inspected by HUD (the Federal Government) since 1976.
The real reason that the mobile homes of Vermont flooded recently was simply that the entire state of Vermont flooded and those mobile homes just happened to be located in Vermont.”
MHLivingNews have been editorially critical of Rolfe and Reynolds early (years ago) and often, noting that the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) should have invoked their Code of Ethical Conduct against them several times, and arguably taken the strongest possible action against them and their business practices. MHI has instead effectively elevated them by giving Rolfe stage time at their events.
That said, in fairness, Rolfe has made a few reasonable points that should have been made by MHI, if they only cared about the reality and image of manufactured home living, or outside of a land-lease community. That’s not an endorsement of Rolfe, Reynolds or their business practices. But to be fair in reports and analysis, one must be fair consistently and based on facts. Flooding harmed all sorts of housing. In this instance, it hurt mobile homes and manufactured homes, per reports.
The Views of Marty Lavin, J.D., on the VT Floods
Former community owner and longtime manufactured home industry professional Martin “Marty” Lavin, J.D., has long taken a pro-consumer view on a range of issues. Lavin reportedly sold one or more communities to residents when he exited that part of the industry some years ago. For another example, Lavin slammed what he called the “witch’s brew” of “predatory practices.”
Lavin has also said that there may be legal arguments that could be made on behalf of victims of purported “predatory” practices. With that backdrop, Lavin sent MHLivingNews the following remarks about hte same VTDigger story.
The area around Vermont’s capitol city, Montpelier, was very badly flooded recently. Kayaks were paddled down Main Street. Adjacent to the city is the Town of Berlin, through which the Stevens Branch River flows. It is usually well contained running through its large flood plain.
But during the recent storms the water level rose quickly and dangerously. In its path, for the last several floods, is a 32-unit MH community. I think it was built in the 1960s, so it’s been there a long time and flooded repeatedly.
As the local TV news showed the disaster there and the crying and confused homeowners, who after being barred from entry to the park, finally went in. Every home had been flooded several feet in the interior. Can you say damaged, destroyed, disaster, mold, home lost? It was an emotionally difficult time even for the viewer. Escaping from my lips was “This park should not be allowed to reopen!”
Quickly I steadied myself and thought about what I had just said. What about the 32 families that live there and face the challenge of replacing their homes? Most of the homes there were old enough to vote and older. We all know what even the least expensive MH costs these days, add the setup process and other factors and most residents there are of out purchase possibilities. Buy a conventional house? With a very tight market and average home prices there in the $350,000, guess that won’t work for most of these folks.
What about the community owner? He made a large investment in the community which cannot be repaid out of petty cash. If closed down is that fair to them?
Yet, I have had a 77-unit community which flooded catastrophically and know the terror of such an event for all involved. Is it fair to say there are no easy answers? The various entities involved in this tragedy are dealing with this now. They are reaching out for help, but I’m not sure any help is in the offing. I hope for the best. But I do know the community will flood again in the future if not closed down.”
Tragedies associated with nature as well as at the hands of individuals have happened throughout human history. Lavin and Rolfe have shared different perspectives on this specific topic. Rolfe made the point that implying in some sense that the community was to ‘blame’ was a mistake by the author of that VTDigger article. Lavin made the point that there are no easy answers in this tragedy. Like Lavin, we can hope and pray for the best possible outcome for those harmed.
A manufactured home that is properly installed has about 2′ (plus/minus) of additional elevation that are not found in new single family housing construction. So, sometimes areas that flood that happen to have a manufactured home(s) may witness examples where those homes escape serious, or any, damage, while conventional housing or commercial construction built on a flat slab in the same area may flood. One would hope that writers like Berlin would do their homework thoroughly and give a 360 degree look at what they are thinking about publishing before they advance remarks that may imply something negative about mobile home manufactured home living that may not have been considered or intended. ##
That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
Recent and Related Reports:
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.
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