Manufactured homes stir search for new tax plans

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Manufactured-home parks are popping up all over Michigan and are causing great concerns for other residents.
Sen. Joanne Emmons, R-Big Rapids, said that many of her constituents have called in with worries that their small towns are not able to accommodate mobile home parks.
“Many people are worried about overcrowded schools,” Emmons said, “Mobile homeowners don’t pay enough tax to build new buildings for these schools that are seeing increased student population due to the new home parks.”
Emmons is not alone in her concerns. In June 2001, the House of Representatives formed the House Bipartisan Manufactured Housing Group, a group of legislators who are focusing on a package of 11 bills to reform current regulation and taxation on manufactured housing.
“This package of bills deals with a number of things like environmental control issues, zoning, property taxes,” said Peter Wills, legislative assistant to Rep. Gene DeRossett, R-Manchester.
Wills has been working closely with DeRossett on the bills. He said DeRossett has also been getting a number of calls from different parts of the state with concerns about mobile home parks. “It used to be a southeastern Michigan issue, but now it’s more statewide.”
Like Emmons, Wills mentioned that the greatest complaints have been about the taxation of mobile homes.
“The original tax on mobile homes was set back in 1949 at $3 per month, and it hasn’t been changed since,” Wills said. “The House has proposed to adjust that fee to $10 per month over a five-year period, to generate more money for the schools and the local area.”
Although it’s a small change in the current taxation, Wills assures residents that even if the taxes had risen at the rate of inflation there would not have been much of a difference, and what the House is proposing is still lower.
“If inflation were to come into play, the manufactured housing tax would still only be around $17,” he said. “We believe the adjustment may not go the full hundred yards but it does go about two-thirds of the way in making some change on this issue. If after five years another adjustment needs to be made, we’ll consider it then.”
The House and the Senate agree that mobile home regulations need to be updated, they just don’t agree on the process. The Senate is considering taxing mobile homeowners the same as regular homeowners.
Sen. Valde Garcia, R-St. Johns, said mobile home taxes need to be brought into the 21st century, which means increasing the current tax.
“We don’t want to put them out of their homes,” he said. ” We’re proposing making it real property tax over a five-year period, so that the change is not overwhelming.”
Garcia said that there are several reasons why regulation and taxation in mobile home parks need to be revisited.
“There are some parks that are so small that we can’t fit a fire truck through there, then there are other concerns about land usage and health and safety,” Garcia said.
One of the Senate’s main concerns is creating harmony and balance between the parks and the small town communities.
“The parks are coming in and overcrowding the communities, and that’s a problem,” Garcia said. “Yet, the parks are needed so we want to get a system that would prevent them from overtaxing the small towns.”
David Waymire, communication consultant for the Michigan Manufactured Housing Association in Okemos, said manufactured housing is the answer to affordable home ownership. He added, that taxing the people who can barely afford to buy a home is ridiculous.
“The average cost of a home in metro Detroit is over $100,000, the average cost of a new manufactured home with appliances included is only $40,000,” Waymire said.
“Overall, you can’t really find homes in the state of Michigan that young couples and families can afford. Manufactured housing is the first step to home ownership.”
He believes that some of the regulation proposed by the Legislature is unfair.
“One of the bills they have proposed says that there should be no more than 10 percent of manufactured homes in a community. What about no more than 10 percent duplexes or 10 percent of homes costing over $200,000?”
Waymire is leery of any bill coming from the Legislature about proposed tax increases, considering the current financial condition of the state.
“It’s beyond me why the Legislature wants to increase taxes when we are in a recession and there are so many layoffs in the state.”
© 2002, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism

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