Manufactured housing sector faces council

Sussex County Council members spent most of the afternoon presiding over the public hearing for a proposed 1,600-unit residential plus commercial development on 836 acres of farmland between Milford and Milton. (They deferred, awaiting a recommendation from the Planning and Zoning (P&Z) commission.)

However, council members spent most of the morning reviewing legislative action in Dover that may or may not affect Sussex County. County Administrator Robert Stickels gave everyone an update.

• Senate Bill (SB) 19 — schools wouldn’t be charged sewer impact fees (still in committee).
• SB 102 — subdivision roads would need to meet state — not county — standards, whether they’re intended for public use or not (out of committee).
• Various bills aimed at changes to the Sussex County Council voting structure — House Bill (HB) 143, for two new seats redistricted in 2007 and filled in 2008, and HB 170, for two new at-large council seats in 2006. The first has advanced to Senate committee, the second is out of committee in the house.
• Stickels also spoke at length about Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s proposed Sprawl Prevention Act, which includes a state veto over local municipal annexation components – no one had sponsored the bill as of June 7.

He asked council for an opinion regarding state recycling goals — Delaware isn’t making its goal of 30 percent diversion from landfills.

Draft legislation would enable the county to impose a $3-per-ton tipping fee to institute recycling programs. Council Members George Cole and Lynn Rogers voted to steer clear of it. Council Members Dale Dukes and Vance Phillips and Council President Finley Jones said as long as it was just enabling legislation, no problem.

Council also heard from Ruth Briggs King, executive director for First State Manufactured Housing, regarding a new policy circulating in the manufactured housing business that would provide voluntary rental assistance for the elderly or disabled.

Termed the Rental Assistance Program (RAP), King said a number of community owners had already signed on — so far, more than 8,000 manufactured homes fell under the RAP umbrella.

According to King, 16,000 manufactured homes were paying into the relocation trust authority, and that’s roughly half of manufactured homes in the state — so 8,000 is a very significant percentage.

She said the assistance came in three forms.
(1) Rent cap at 5 percent above the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
(2) If rents are below market value, and move toward market value, they can’t increase by more than 18 percent a year, and by no more than 50 percent over a three-year period.
(3) A straight-up 10 percent reduction, once residents turn 62 or become disabled.

“This formalizes what we’re already doing,” King noted. As she explained, there was a public perception that community owners sometimes “flipped” properties to developers without regard for displacing tenants – but those owners didn’t represent the industry.