Janet Lurell Bailey says she feels like she just won the lottery. She bets no one — no one — is as excited as she was last week. And it’s just going to get better this summer.
“I’m getting a brand-new place to live,” the Sixes woman exclaimed. “These people are angels without wings. These people have given me hope.”
Bailey is the first of what is hoped to be dozens of residents in Curry County who qualify through the ReHome Oregon program to receive new manufactured homes to replace the leaking, moldy, failing homes in which they currently live.
Some homes have black mold. Many have failing — or failed — septic, water, electrical and heating systems. A few have holes in decks or interior floors. One homeowner crawls through a window to get into his home; the floor sags, preventing the door from swinging open. Windows don’t seal against the elements; roofs are caved in. One home’s electrical system is a cobweb of extension cords draped throughout the home like Christmas lights.
And Curry County has many homes like these.
According to the county assessor’s office, there are 3,876 manufactured houses — and almost 16 percent, or 604 houses, are in “poor” condition.
The homes, despite their bad shape, are vital to the social networking of those who live in them, and officials didn’t want to displace people from their neighborhoods while getting them into new living quarters.
From roots to wings
County Commissioner David Itzen got involved in the project — an Oregon Solutions program — in the beginning, about two years ago. The Housing Stock Upgrade Initiative was formed and, with Neighborworks Umpqua as the administrative arm, was renamed ReHome Oregon.
Rules were adopted, financing was sought, rules were changed, and partners — the USDA, home manufacturers and others — were found. The pilot program is hoped to go statewide — or even national — and seeks to replace and repair manufactured homes that have become dilapidated over time.
Bailey’s was among the first to be recognized.
She had lived in a wooden home her father built in 1964 — a house just to the north of her trailer that is the process of dissolving back into the earth. Ropy blackberry vines entwine window frames, and ferns with arms like octopi are slowly pulling the house down; today, only the peak of the roof shows above the tangle of dark weeds.
Abutting it is Bailey’s current home, a pale yellow metal trailer with rusting eaves sporting tufts of grass, off-kilter and broken steps leading to the doors and plastic stapled into the window frames. The septic system’s lid fell into its pit a while back, forcing Bailey to use the bathroom at her son’s house across the way. A garden hose between the houses provides her with water.
“At least the roof doesn’t leak,” she offered with a smile.
She and her tiny dog Brutus have been there since 2009.
Bailey’s new home could arrive as early as the end of this month, and she is looking forward to quite a few changes. It will have a covered porch, a foundation and cement board siding. Windows will be double-paned and a ramp built to her front door. Air conditioning is unheard of in her world.
“Double-paned glass!” Bailey squealed as NeighborWorks Umpqua Housing Rehab Supervisor Arthur Chaput rattled off items on the list. “They’re going to guarantee me I won’t get a $300 light bill this winter. A real foundation! I’m so thrilled! It’s like they built me a new castle! My home has always been where a serf would live. Now I’m going to where a queen would live! It’s a fantasy for me.”
There are, however, rules that say people must own the home and the land on which it sits, making many in mobile home parks ineligible for the replacement option. But programs can be tweaked to specific needs.
“It’s hard to trust (the new mortgage) will come down that much to offset the loan,” said Betty Tamm, executive director of NeighborWorks Umpqua. “But when it does, then we’ll be able to show clients: ‘Look what happened here.’”
Other programs will offer low-interest loans to homeowners of stick-built houses, and no-interest loans for materials for the do-it-yourselfers working on their own homes.