By Martin Kidston
For the past few years, Laila Huson has worked to patch the leaky aluminum roof on her mobile home. While she considered borrowing money for a new roof, placing her car as collateral to acquire a loan at an interest rate of 36 percent wasn’t a risk she wanted to take.
Now, she won’t have to.
The Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation on Thursday announced a new program aimed at helping those who live in mobile homes make improvements while avoiding high-interest debt.
The Mobile Home Improvement Loan Program enables the borrower to pay on a sliding scale, one that’s based on the borrower’s monthly income and expenses.
“Every year, we go up on the roof to try to seal the leaks, but it’s an aluminum roof and with the hot and cold expanding and contracting, it’s a regular problem,” Huson said. “When I first heard about (the Mobile Home Improvement Loan), I didn’t believe it.”
Huson, who lives in Missoula, was the first to be approved for the new program. Aided by a $3,200 loan, she’ll now be able to get a new roof on the home she shares with her sons.
Catherine Jones, development director at the Montana & Idaho Community Development Corporation, based in Missoula, said the organization has worked with residents in several mobile home communities to finance and purchase the land beneath their homes.
While doing so, it observed other problems that weren’t being met, from leaky roofs to broken windows and poorly insulated foundations. Those who live in a mobile home have a harder time finding financing for essential repairs, which can lead to uncomfortable and unhealthy living conditions.
“When we work with a community to finance a (resident-owned community) loan, it always uncovers community infrastructure problems, like unsafe playgrounds and water systems, as well as individual homeowner needs, like leaky roofs and broken windows,” said Jones. “We decided that in addition to helping mobile home communities form ROCs and buy the land, we’d seek funding to help them address other issues related to health, safety and well-being.”
Frederick Smith, marketing manager with MICDC, said mobile-home owners can use the loans for nearly any home repair or upgrade, from winterization to heating and cooling, and upgrades for energy efficiency.
The loans can also be used by mobile home communities for improvements such as playgrounds, lighting, signage and landscaping. Smith said they represent the basic infrastructure that’s present in a typical neighborhood, though accessing capital for repairs isn’t easy for many mobile-home owners.
“Due to income and difficulty to access credit, they can’t find good interest rates or loans to fix windows, put roofs on top of homes, pay for installation or other types of heating and cooling,” said Smith. “You have a lot of mobile homes that haven’t had upgrades in a while. A lot of these folks, the easiest access point they have for credit is at a high interest rate and putting up needed items for collateral, such as homes and cars.”
Frederick said the program has additional applications pending. The loans are available to residents of mobile homes in both Montana and Idaho and are funded by a local nonprofit, which Frederick wasn’t at liberty to name.
“Our main goal is to help these folks who may not otherwise have access to financing and give them flexible repayment terms to improve their quality of life, and the health and safety of their neighborhoods,” he said.
To apply for a Mobile Home Improvement Loan for an individual mobile home or a mobile home community, contact Julie Ehlers at 844-728-9234.