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SG-W:/ "MOBILE" HOMES (cont.)

I appreciated Gary Haller's comments regarding mobile homes.  It's good to 
see additional discussion on the SmartGrowth listserve.

I'm sure that no one objects to replacing "old trailers with new manufactured 
homes."  I hope there's a good business in that.

That phrase, however, highlights an important distinction that should be 
made.  "Manufactured homes" refers merely to a construction process--they are 
built off-site (usually in a factory) and transported to the site for 
installation.  "Trailers" and "mobile homes" loosely refer to a type of 
housing that is moveable and not permanent.  It reflects, perhaps, an earlier 
era when some people tended to be more transient--taking their home with them 
when they left.

The legal underpinning which allows "mobile homes" to be NOT subject to ad 
valorem property tax rests upon the premise that they are truly "mobile" and 
not attached to the land.  "Attachments" are considered part of the real 
estate, and are therefore included in the valuation of a property.  For 
example, an in-ground pool is considered to be an attachment which increases 
the value of the property.  It's value is subject to property taxes.  An 
above-ground pool, however, is assumed to be easily moveable and it's value 
is not calculated as part of the State Equalized Value.  Hence, no property 
taxes are paid on such a pool.    

How, then, do we determine if "mobile" homes are truly mobile?  It's a legal 
premise which has gone completely unchallenged due to the strength of the 
mobile home development lobby.

I pose this simple question of fairness:  If an individual purchases a 
manufactured home and installs it upon a piece of real estate which he 
owns...then it is considered an attachment and the owner pays property taxes 
based upon its value.
If the same individual purchases a manufactured home and installs it in a 
"mobile home park" (sic), it is not considered an attachment and it is not 
subject to normal property taxes.  In each case, the method of installation 
is the same:  it's hooked up to water, sewer and utilities...and it may even 
be secured on a foundation.  But one pays general property taxes--and the 
other does not.  Is this fair?

Jack Smiley
Southeast Michigan Land Conservancy

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