harlotte Bishop was standing at her kitchen window in January 2019 when she saw water streaming into her yard. A block of ice had clogged the brook that snakes around the mobile home park where she and her husband Rollin live in Brattleboro, Vermont. Ice jams are not uncommon in Vermont, but the heavier rains and earlier winter thaws—both related to climate change—will likely cause more flooding in communities near rivers and streams. Bishop grabbed her keys and rushed outside to move their cars to higher ground. Within minutes, she was wading through knee-high water.

Bishop lives in Tri-Park Cooperative, Vermont’s largest and oldest resident-owned mobile home community. The co-op represents a crucial source of affordable housing for about 1,000 residents, but many of its lots are vulnerable to flooding. Bishop says her property has flooded about five times since the early 2000s, and while their home has been spared thus far, she still worries.

“I get paranoid, because I don’t want to lose everything,” she says.

Now, the Bishops have the option to move to higher ground. In partnership with the Town of Brattleboro, the co-op has organized a $7.9 million effort to relocate 26 homes out of the flood zone, and into new mobile homes in safer locations within the park. Their out-of-pocket mortgage expenses won’t change, according to the development firm working on the project.

More than 20 million Americans live in manufactured housing—also known as mobile homes—which costs about half as much per square foot as traditional homes. Across the U.S., biased zoning has sited many manufactured housing communities in precarious “fringe environments,” such as floodplains and fire-prone urban edges, according to Zachary Lamb, a climate adaptation researcher at the University of California, Berkeley. In Vermont, researchers found that about one-third of mobile home communities are at least partially in FEMA-mapped floodplains.

Now, many of those communities are grappling with how to keep their communities safe, without driving up costs for residents, who often own their home and rent their lot.

A New Model for Mobile Home Buyouts

As residents decide whether to relocate, officials involved in the Tri-Park project hope it could represent a model for other flood-prone communities that wouldn’t benefit from standard FEMA buyouts.

Homeowners are typically reimbursed for 75% of the appraised value of their home. But for the owners of older or damaged mobile homes, that amount usually falls short of their actual relocation costs, according to Stephanie A. Smith, a state hazard mitigation officer at Vermont Emergency Management.

“That’s where Tri-Park comes in, as an example of a new model for buyouts within mobile home parks, centered around making people whole and making sure they have somewhere to live that’s safer and more resilient,” Smith says. Tri-Park residents each pay the same monthly rent to the co-op for their lot—an amount that won’t change for those who relocate—and the cost of their new homes will be covered by Vermont’s new Flood Resilient Communities Fund, rather than FEMA.

Read the full article about mobile home communities adapting for climate change by Sarah Amandolare at YES! Magazine.