Vermont Subsidizing Energy-Efficient Mobile Home Purchases

Originally published by: Bennington Banner (VT)October 3, 2014

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Jeff Allard of Bennington looked at new housing options after a couple years of renting, which followed several years of homeownership. Considering alternatives, he looked at a mobile home in the Willow Mobile Home Park located on a branch off of Northside Drive last year. That sale didn't work out, but with the help of John Broderick, the executive director of Shires Housing, Allard found another option.

"Mobile homes are an important part of the affordable housing picture in Vermont and other rural states, but they are the least energy efficient homes we have," Broderick said. "A lot of mobile home owners spend a tremendous amount of money to heat their homes."

Allard found a way to have both a manageable-sized, inexpensive and energy efficient home. Broderick referred him to the Manufactured Housing Innovation Project, which Allard took advantage of on an empty parcel of land in the Willow Mobile Home Park.

The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board partnered with Efficiency Vermont for MHIP, a pilot program that is subsidizing 10 private purchases of the "next generation" of modular mobile home, the Vermod Nordic Home by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation. Starting in 2012, the project has been funded by VHCB, the High Meadows Fund and other philanthropic sources.

After learning about MHIP, Allard looked at the modular model for what he would be getting and took a gander at the assembly process, to which he said, "I was impressed.

This isn't a regular mobile home: This is a lot better because of this kind of construction."

"I'm looking forward to the energy bill," Allard continued. "I've owned a house before and I was paying close to $300 a month just to heat the thing."

VHCB has asked nonprofits and mobile home owners around the state to identify purchasers like Allard, and has assisted in the installation of the Vermod modules. Allard's new home isn't a mobile home or trailer; It is more of a house. The pre-assembled module was built off site and trucked to Bennington, where a foundation laid for it to be adhered to.

"The whole point is to create a home that will fit on a site the size of a mobile home pad, and is very energy efficient, solidly built and intended to appreciate rather than depreciate, like a traditional mobile home does," Broderick said.

The house is heated and cooled electrically using an air source heat pump, a "mini-split" that transfers heat from outside to inside a building, or vice versa, under the energy-saving principle of vapor compression refrigeration.

The home is also completely airtight, and was assembled with spray foam insulation and triple-glazed windows, all incorporated into the approximate value of $80,000 a home. Those that take advantage of the project also have the option of having photovoltaic solar panels installed onto or adjacent to the home, which Allard did without hesitation.

"We hope and expect that more and more, people will opt to take a really energy efficient option like this when choosing mobile homes," Broderick said.

The VHCB found the need to sponsor the building of such homes after Vermont took the damage it did in 2011 from Tropical Storm Irene, when 15 percent of the mobile homes in the state were damaged or destroyed. The board got additional sponsorship from Efficiency Vermont for the kind of publicity the project would give energy efficient housing options.


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