Little Rock Passes Mobile-, Manufactured-Home Rule

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

By: Kristin Netterstrom
April 21, 2010

Mobile homes built before 1976 are no longer welcomed into Little Rock.
Little Rock city directors approved the immediate ban Tuesday as part of the city's ongoing efforts to make sure that the popular form of cheap housing is held to similar safety standards as those built on a foundation.

City directors also passed legislation requiring all mobile homes and manufactured homes be registered with the city planning department. Homeowners have until July 19 to register their properties and the annual registration permit is free.

After that date, homeowners have three days to notify the city if they move a manufactured home into Little Rock.

Although most people use the terms interchangeably, Little Rock city code now will refer to "mobile homes" as units built before federal safety standards were adopted in June 1976 and "manufactured homes" as those built afterwards. The distinction follows federal guidelines.

Mobile homes that are already in the city are grandfathered in.

Under the new city law, homeowners also will be required to notify the city when they move a registered mobile home or manufactured home to another site.

The registration program is supposed to help code-enforcement officers keep track of properties.

City directors passed a nuisance ordinance in March 2009 allowing code-enforcement officers to inspect the mobile homes for nonworking plumbing, electricity problems or other health hazards. Little Rock stopped inspections in the fall after code-enforcement officers realized they needed to include in the ordinance time limits for making repairs.

With Tuesday's vote, codeenforcement officers now have deadlines to work with when they inspect a mobilehome or manufactured-home park.

Owners will be given 30 days to make repairs for life-threatening violations, or demolish or remove the structure. Repairs for violations that aren't considered life-threatening would have to be completed in 60 days. The city would require the work to be done by licensed electricians, plumbers or contractors.

If property owners don't make the repairs, the city can now condemn a mobile home or manufactured home as a nuisance. The city has done this for years with stick-built homes.

Despite the new inspection rules, the city expects inspections will still be complaint-based.

"It's all going to depend on the conditions," said Tracy Roark, Little Rock's neighborhood programs manager, who oversees code-enforcement officers. "People aren't going to be able to say `I don't like the look of this mobile home'" to have it be inspected.

Southwest Little Rock resident Pat Gee wishes all mobile homes and manufactured homes could be banned, but she doubts her wish is realistic or one the city could legally pursue.

"I don't have an answer to it. We do not have enough reasonable housing," she said last week while on a tour of the nearly dozen parks within a few miles of her home. "If you don't have money, you're either homeless or live in a place like this." Gee said she wasn't disturbed by the type of housing, but by the conditions that some of the homes were in. Some of the parks near her home had multiple mobile homes and manufactured homes with boarded-up windows. Many of the streets were nearly impassable because of potholes.

There were also many homes without visible problems that had fenced-in yards, carports and trampolines.

No one spoke against the ban or the registration program Tuesday.

"The sooner we get started, the sooner we can see our neighborhoods improve," said At-Large City Director Joan Adcock after the vote.

Some changes to the ordinances were made between last week and Tuesday to appease the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association, such as requiring the city to notify any lien holders before the city razes a nuisance property.

The association supported the ban on pre-1976 homes being moved into the city.

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