Saturday, June 08, 2002
Town welcomes mobile homes; even city hall is in one
Manufactured housing popular in Eastern Ky.
By Roger Alford
The Associated Press
COAL RUN, Ky. Dorothy Hall likes the view from her mobile home.
She can sit on the porch and watch the lunch crowds gather at fast-food restaurants across the street. From her lawn, she sees the constant flow of customers marching in and out of gas stations and the assortment of grocery and department stores on either end of her trailer park.
Car doors slam, horns blow, brakes on big trucks grate, and air conditions in neighboring yards drone on. It's a noisy place.
That don't bother me, Ms. Hall said. I've lived here eight years and I've gotten used to it.
Mobile homes almost dominate in Coal Run, Ky., where almost half its residents live in trailers. One of the town's largest mobile home parks is shown here.|
(Associated Press photo)
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Census figures show that about one of every two residents in Coal Run, a small city in Pike County, live in mobile homes. Even the Coal Run city hall is in a mobile home.
City Clerk Debra Tackett said a welcoming attitude toward mobile homes was a key factor in the town's population spurt between 1990 and 2000. Coal Run, one of the state's smallest cities, more than doubled in population, going from 262 to 577 people over the 10-year census period.
Mobile homes make up a large share of the housing market across eastern Kentucky.
The census showed, for example, that mobile homes accounted for 44.2 percent of all homes in Magoffin County. At the county level, that was the highest concentration of mobile homes in the state.
Nationwide, there were nearly 8.8 million mobile homes, which was 7.6 percent of all housing units in the United States.
Kentucky proportionately had nearly twice as many mobile homes. Nine states had higher rates, topped by South Carolina, where one dwelling in five was a mobile home.
In Kentucky, the statewide percentage is 14.1 percent. The Census Bureau reported 1,750,927 homes in Kentucky, of which 246,443 were mobile homes.
All but one of the top 10 counties in Kentucky by percentage of mobile homes were in the eastern part of the state.
Mobile homes accounted for 39.7 percent of all homes in Martin County, 38.7 percent in Breathitt County, 37.5 percent in Wolfe County, 37.3 percent in Pike County, and 35.9 percent in Leslie.
Not everybody can afford a $100,000 house, but yet they want to be homeowners, said Pete Smith, a salesman for a Pikeville mobile home dealer. Manufactured homes are more affordable and a natural choice.
Ewell Balltrip, director the Kentucky Appalachian Commission, said price is only part of the reason for the widespread use of mobile homes. The lack of level land in the rugged region, he said, plays a large role.
It strikes me that the topography of the land is more suited to mobile homes than traditionally built houses, Mr. Balltrip said. In this hilly terrain, you just go in and create a narrow bench on the hillside for the trailer to sit, and that's a lot less expensive than going in and excavating half a mountain for a traditional house seat.
Mr. Balltrip said some people oppose the proliferation of mobile homes, and some cities have banned them.
They're certainly better than the alternative, which might be homelessness or some 1950s-era Appalachian shanty, Mr. Balltrip said. They're an alternative for folks who either elect to buy that type of housing or who can't afford traditional housing.
Chester Damron, 84, a retired school teacher, said he moved to a mobile home in Coal Run when he realized his eyesight and his ability to drive were quickly failing. He and his wife Rose gave up a three-bedroom house at Elkhorn City for the single-wide mobile home where they now live.
This is all we need, Mr. Damron said. We wanted a place where we wouldn't have to drive.
One of Coal Run's largest mobile home parks has row after row of single-wide trailers on reclaimed coal mine land. More than 60 families live there.
Ms. Hall, a widow, said she had lived in an apartment building before moving to her mobile home at Coal Run.
I thought I never would live in a mobile home, she said. Now I can't think of any place I'd rather live.
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