Trailer parks full of mobile homes coming to vacant lots near you!
That was the essence of some arguing at a recent contentious City Council meeting when local builder John Reeder attempted to get approval (and did, finally) to rezone a vacant tract behind the KSK Buddhist Center on Airport Road.
Ironically, many of the opponents adjacent to the parcel in question live in trailer parks full of mobile homes.
That’s not fair. They are not mobile homes, and their neighborhoods are not trailer parks. Unfortunately, to many of us of a certain age, that’s what they were called when we were youngsters, and the nomenclature has stuck with us like a bad stain.
They are affordable housing, whether we like it or not.
It’s a common sight to see houses, or halves of houses, rolling down America’s highways. Built on steel frames with axles and temporary wheels, they’re overseen by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and have been for decades. HUD ensures the product is legit and perfectly fine for people to live in.
In June 1976, HUD decreed any such product built prior to that date would henceforth be referred to as a “mobile home.” Everything built the very next day, with no changes to anything, would be called a “manufactured home.” Setting a “mobile home” in Santa Fe is illegal. Rolling in a “manufactured home” is protected by state law and cannot be denied.
Old phrases die hard. Just north of Reeder’s property is a manufactured home community of single-wide homes anchored by thin metal straps to spikes pounded into the ground and “skirted” with material to hide the steel frame and axles. It’s called Shalom Mobile Home Park, although none of the dwellings appear anywhere near 45 years old.
On the other side of Reeder’s property is a well-established working-class neighborhood of manufactured homes. Different than the homes in Shalom, but built exactly the same in the same factories, they’re on nice individual lots. Most are double-wides and sit anchored to solid “skirting” of concrete foundations. Many have stucco from top to bottom like most Santa Fe homes. The shallow pitched roofs and rectilinear shape give them away.
Well over a year ago, Reeder began seeking approval, at the urging of city staff, to go for R-6 zoning, the same as the nice double-wide community to the west and half the density of single-wide Shalom.
Neighbors were incensed and found sympathetic ears on the Planning Commission and City Council. Reeder backed down to R-5 with 42 lots, Santa Fe’s most common neighborhood density. Think Casa Solana or Bellamah, but still the neighbors fought. The traffic! The crime! The mobile homes!
Reeder had the audacity to not promise “stick-built” homes on slabs. Nor could he. As a custom homebuilder, he knows getting anything built under $200 per square foot in Santa Fe is a miracle. That means a modest 1,500 square-foot home (a double-wide can be over 2,000 square feet) could cost $300,000 to build.
Add lot, infrastructure, financing, sales taxes, overhead and profit, and we’re bumping against a $400,000 sale price. That’s not entry level and certainly isn’t affordable, and it’s probably not a hot seller next to a manufactured home community that calls itself a mobile home park.
Reeder promised that if manufactured homes do wind up on his lots, they’ll be double-wides, no older than five years, on solid foundations. That means they are mortgageable and will appreciate in value. He also agreed to no accessory dwelling units and volunteered to build a public sidewalk from his property to Airport Road, which means the residents of Shalom Mobile Home Park will now have a safe and accessible path along their property.