Sunday, October 26, 2014

FORMALDEHYDE IN MOBILE HOMES BEING STUDIED BY EPA

INDOOR AIR CONTAMINATED


Indoor air is full of contaminants, dust, gases, mold spores, pollen, animal dander (if you have furry pets), smoke (if you have a smoker). Formaldehyde is one of the worrisome things found in mobile home breathing space.

Furniture, carpeting, paint finishes, cleaning products are a few of the ways formaldehyde gets into mobile home air. The Environmental Protection Agency wants to find out how much and what source is causing the formaldehyde levels and how bad is it?

From their brochure they describe several negative health effects from formaldehyde in the air including sore throat, eye irritation, even cancer.

THE FORMALDEHYDE STUDY


The Air Resources Board is actively seeking people to participate in the "FORMALDEHYDE IN CALIFORNIA MOBILE HOMES STUDY".

                       

Alas, you won't be compensated in cash for the study, but you will receive a copy of the test results for your home from the lab which is worth $100 if you paid for the air test yourself.

You can learn more about the study or volunteer at http://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/formaldehyde.htmhttp://www.arb.ca.gov/research/indoor/formaldehyde.htm

Anyone over 18 years old who is the owner or renter of a mobile home in California may volunteer for the study. I volunteered and received a letter that testing is finished for this season, but I'm being considered for the winter test, they'll let me know.

The study is sampling the mobile homes built by all the manufacturers so no single brand of mobile home is favored over another. There are other criteria which you can learn about by contacting  Stephanie Parent, Air Pollution Specialist at (916) 324-0551 or emailing her at spa rent@arb.ca.gov.

Whether or not we're chosen, it will still be useful to see the results of the study. Perhaps they can suggest ways we can achieve more healthful indoor atmosphere to breathe.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SECURITY IN A MOBILE HOME PARK

Midnight in the Mobile Home Park

All is quiet in the park, a single car drives by sporadically.
Big full moon shining so bright I can't sleep. The streets are quiet.


The day was hot, nearly 100 degrees. The cool of the evening is very welcome. I feel safe opening my windows to catch the breeze. There has been no crime in the park for months. The last time was trespassers coming from the apartments nearby to use the swimming pool.

Safety In the Mobile Home Park

The owners of this park take security seriously. The population of the park is people over 55, some a lot over 55, and very vulnerable. The owners of the park have gone to great lengths to make this a safe place to live. The mail room, the area surrounding the swimming pool and hot tub have video cameras. A security team in plain clothes was hired to patrol, especially at night.

In other years security was mainly police cars parked at the edge of the restaurant parking lot. This was not effective enough to deter crime. There were incidents of homes being broken into, bicycles locked to posts stolen, drugs being dealt.


Security is Increased

The Neighborhood Watch program was put into effect. People who were interested could join the program.

This is in addition to unmarked cars that roll through the park with a plainclothes cop inside who checks for squatters, or other people who don't belong here doing things they shouldn't.

Squatters

Each year a few houses go up for sale. In these difficult economic times squatters try to move in and live rent free.

I was sitting at my computer one afternoon when a large RV pulled into my driveway, but nobody got out.  After a while my curiosity got the better of me and I went to see who it was.  A young woman rolled down her window. "Can I  help you?" I asked. She told me she saw the For Sale sign in front of the house and thought the house was empty.  She told me she had planned to live in her RV in my carport. She was a little put out that I was here.

Neighbors Look Out for One Another

Even if we don't spend much time together, conversations usually being a wave and a "how are you" when something happens they're there. When I broke my arm neighbors called with offers of grocery shopping, rides to the doctor, even help with the cat.

Even the guy who reads the water meter gets the once over from the neighbors to be sure he's someone who's allowed here.

We really do look out for one another. It feels like the safest place I've ever lived.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

MOBILE HOME PARK RESIDENTS TALK ABOUT EBOLA

SOME ARE STOCKING UP

Everyone responds to a perceived threat in a different way. Some stock up on food, others get busy with yard work to put it out of their mind. 

Amazon and eBay are having a run on rubber gloves and non-perishable foods.

Checking the News Media in Liberia

Until now the news from Liberia was usually off topic regarding Ebola. US Soldiers have arrived there and are setting up the treatment centers and laboratories.


The Liberian Observer October 6, 2014 has several Ebola related articles. One feature article is a story about 8 soldiers who have died from Ebola all from a visit from a girlfriend to one of them who was infected by the virus and didn't know it.

The article said this set off a panic among the soldiers in barracks across the country some of whom deserted.

Dr. Logan Wants Support For His Ebola Treatment Protocol’, Which He Has Used To ‘Cure’ 10 Ebola Patients


If I understand the story correctly out of 15 patients 10 were cured and five are still being treated.

He is using drugs already approved for HIV and other ailments. The similarity between HIV virus and Ebola virus prompted him to try the drugs. With this initial success he plans to broaden the sample group.

My Prayer For Thomas Eric Duncan Is That He Should Not Suffer Longer

I don't think he's going to make it.




Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ebola and the Mobile Home Park

People in the Park Respond To Ebola News

My phone started ringing off the hook after the news broke about the man in Texas.  I had panicked much earlier when the New York Times published an article on Ebola.  I went to the store and bought 20 pounds of rice and 15 pounds of soybeans thinking to hunker down in my house if there was an epidemic raging. So folks here in the park knew I was concerned.
Photo Compliments of Laura's Soybeans


The Only One with Ebola in US?


Thomas Eric Duncan, compliments of Associated Press

Reading that the man in Texas is the first in this country carrying the Ebola virus I was reminded of a friend whose husband was caught cheating on her. He told her this was the first time and it was the only one.

If this man was not treated for Ebola on the first visit to a hospital, how many times has this happened across the nation? I believe it has been here at least since June or July. Why? Because I went to a party at a doctor's house July 5th and sensed a deep concern, as though the party was a good-bye to everyone he cared about. I just didn't know what it was. I guessed it was either climate change or Ebola. 

Questions About Things That Don't Make Sense

Ebola is supposed to be not very contagious, only contracted through body fluids. OK.

Then how come people are contracting it handling dead bodies? They don't bleed, pee, sweat, ejaculate, spit, cry or anything else producing body fluids.

How come the man in Texas got it from transporting a woman to the hospital then carrying her into a house?

Questions Not Addressed

On the CDC website talking about Ebola they mention an animal "reservoir." I envision this as the virus being like an ant colony and the reservoir like a nest. In Africa they were thinking that fruit bats were the reservoir. We don't have fruit bats in the USA. Here's a quote from the CDC website on
Transmission.

Because the natural reservoir host of Ebola viruses has not yet been identified, the manner in which the virus first appears in a human at the start of an outbreak is unknown. However, researchers believe that the first patient becomes infected through contact with an infected animal.
When an infection does occur in humans, the virus can be spread in several ways to others. Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with
  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, feces, vomit, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected animals
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats.

What we do have is cats and dogs, a few hamsters and gerbils. If these can be reservoirs it would be a significant problem. Have there been studies?

How Deep is the Sh*t We're In?

The whole epidemic in West Africa started with one little boy. That means it only takes one, like it only takes one match to start a fire. We have one acknowledged Ebola virus carrier. In the next 21 days we should know if the fire was lit.

Media Strategies

When I first freaked out in July I checked online for what was being covered in the news media in Africa. Nothing about Ebola. African TV? Nada, just soap operas. No mention of Ebola.

This is a big story here in the United States. In Africa it seems to be ignored.

(Checked again in September and October 2, 2014 Ebola is not front page news. It is perfectly
possible that most people in Africa are unaware of the disease.)

World Health Organization

Can't remember every word I've read, but they wanted to avoid a panic and negative economic consequences. 

That ship has sailed.

Hope

Now that the virus and its nastiness is out in the open, there actually is a chance of dealing with it. While it was being ignored and wished away, or being labeled as a problem far away, there was no hope.

Now we have a whole nation of people who will deal with it. 

Zmapp and Other Opportunities

I live near enough to San Diego to have seen the financial bonanza for Zmapp from a distance. It's not the only one. There are other companies who will benefit hugely from Ebola.

It may be a bright spot for some. For me, my stock is down 15%.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

5 THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT MOBILE HOMES

1. Mobile Homes and Mobile Home Parks are overseen by the Senate.


"The Senate Select Committee on Manufactured Hones and Communities" is the governing body. Their website is www.sen.ca/gov/mobilehome

They make laws protecting the rights of people living in mobile homes and mobile home parks, which interestingly enough, are not enforced by any law enforcement body. Anyone who wants to enforce any of these laws must hire a lawyer and go to court.


2. There are 4,800 mobile home parks in the state of California alone.


Mobile home living is extremely popular in California. California has taken mobile home living to a whole new level as movie stars and famous entertainers embrace the mobile home style of living.

Ever since the 1950s when Bing Crosby established a mobile home park called Blue Skies in Santa Barbara, California, movie stars and celebrities have been moving into the parks.



Out of the 4,800 mobile home parks only a few have movie stars as residents. Nonetheless the concept of mobile homes being a blue-collar housing choice is becoming a thing of the past. Mobile homes are now seen as respectable for everyone.

3. Mobile homes manufactured and sold before July 1, 1980 do not have to pay property taxes.


Mobile homes before that time were licensed like cars with a plate and yearly sticker attached to the house. Buyers of these older homes can opt to either be assessed as property or continue paying license fees. My house was built in 1971. I paid $79 license fee this year for my 1800 square foot house.

4. A new mobile home comes with a one year manufacturers warranty.


New mobile homes often include appliances, so you get an automatic warranty on all your appliances and on the rest of your whole house!

       Match that, contractors.


5. A mobile home was a governors mansion.


During the administration of Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas the governor and his wife lived in a mobile home for a year on the grounds of the governor's mansion while the mansion was being renovated.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ants! Ants!! Ants All Over The Place

Argentine Ants Are Everywhere This Year

This is the worst year for ants in the 10 years I've lived here. Everybody is suffering. They're in the sink in the kitchen, they're on the counter in the bathroom, they're on you if you sit on the couch.  They crawl up your arms when you're trying to sleep in bed.

Worst of all, you can't get rid of them. The ant stakes don't work, the ant baits don't work, even the sprays are only a temporary solution. I've read they're called "Argentine Ants." That means they'll eat anything, not just sweets or fats or proteins.


Photo thanks to Morguefile.com

Ant Horror Stories

The worst story I've heard is a family taking turns in shifts helping a family member in the hospital who just had an operation on her throat. The ants come into the hospital and get in the throat wound choking her. Someone has to be there 24 hours a day to remove the ants by hand.  The ants are tiny and not very visible from a distance until there are dozens of them. The nurses are taking care of too many people to devote themselves to just one patient, which is what it takes.

A minor ant mishap of my own was going into the kitchen at night to get a drink of water and filling a glass that looked clean (I live alone). I took a big gulp and felt a burning in my mouth and throat like I'd swallowed whiskey. I knew at once it was ants. I'd had 7-up earlier in the evening and had not rinsed out the glass.

A friend told me her ant story. She's been putting off going to the hair dresser because of the heat. It's been in the 90's for quite a while. So one day she styled her hair differently using a lot of gel to keep it in place. During the night she felt something in her hair. When she turned on the light she saw the whole headboard was black with ants. They'd come for the gel in her hair.

What the Ants are After

These ants want sugar for energy food, but protein for their queens. Argentine ants have several queens to a nest, according to what I read. Each queen can live up to twenty years!

How I Got Rid Of Argentine Ants

In a word, Borax. It's cheap and easy to find. My grocery store carries it with the laundry soaps.

Photo thanks to morgue file.com


Before resorting to Borax I tried everything Home Depot had. No joy. Across the street from my Home Depot is a Walgreens so I tried everything they had. Nada.

Then came the night I drank the glass full of ants and I looked in my own linen closet.  There were two boxes of Borax. I grabbed a box, tore open the lid and tried neatly placing a thin line of powder against the skirting of the house. That lasted for one box. My back got tired bending down for 60 feet of house.

The second box I just shook the stuff out, then swept it against the house afterward. Not tidy, but it worked. So I went to the store for two more boxes.




Hurrah! No More Ants.

Success wasn't instant, but later the same day I noticed a difference. The next day was even better. 

The day the ants were gone came without being noticed because it was so gradual. I could put down cat food without it being covered in ants minutes later. One day the ants were everywhere, then there wasn't a single one.  I could leave dirty dishes in the sink.

Something that Helped While Waiting for The Ants to Go Away

Because having bugs crawling all over you is disturbing, I needed something immediately to help while the Borax was doing its job. Chalk.

Regular chalkboard chalk works pretty well, but even better is insecticide chalk.



I don't know of any stores where it is sold.  I bought it at the flea market for 50 cents a pack. I shared it with my friend with the hair gel experience.

Chalk doesn't kill the ants, just deters them from crossing it.


I put it around the rungs of chairs. It let me eat in peace, but didn't keep the ants from crawling up my feet and legs if I put my feet down on the floor.

I noticed when I went to the bank they were trying a similar maneuver  with aluminum foil under furniture in the waiting area. I was too shy to ask if it worked.

You Can Win The Battle With The Ants

Trust me, Borax works when nothing else will.  

According to what I've read, the ants are seasonal. They infest homes from March to October. I hope they leave in October so I can sweep up all that white stuff around my house.

Best of luck to you in vanquishing your ant army.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

WALL STREET JOURNAL RECOGNIZES MOBILE HOME LIVING

AUGUST 7, 2014 WALL STREET JOURNAL PUBLISHED A FEATURE STORY ON  MOBILE HOME OWNERS

Adam Bonislowski wrote a landmark article in the Wall Street Journal. 

Mr. Bonislowski focused on only one park, Paradise Cove in Malibu, California.
Paradise Cove has always been a spot for movie and TV folk.  A nearby park, Limerick Cove, has never had that distinction. The space rents are the same, the price of homes much less.

 The WSJ article said Mathew McConaghey lived there recently and sold his place for $2.55 million. This is not the experience most mobile home owners have when they go to sell their coaches. The built-in risk is that a mobile home will not sell, or will sell for much less than what is owed. Some of there reasons are:

 A) funding has dried up. 

A few years ago mobile homes could be financed at attractive rates so long as the price was over $80,000. The effect was that all mobile homes were selling for $80,000 or more.  When that ended and mobile homes could only be bought cash, prices dropped.

In the park I live in homes that were bought a few years ago for $200,000 are selling now for $70,000. The owners cannot afford to move.

B) Space rents dramatically increase.

In 1968 there was a Federal mobile home law that restricted owners of Mobile Home Parks to an annual rate increase of 1% or less. This was to protect the elderly who sold their real estate to buy mobile homes so they could live on their savings and social security income for the rest of their lives. This law was reversed with many of its protections in 1998.  The oldest seniors lost their homes because their savings were exhausted and their social security was so low.

When there is a glut of homes for sale, no financing for older units, and high space rents, prices of mobile homes drop to the bottom. People having to move in a hurry donate them to their church or give them away to anyone who will pay outstanding space rent.

C) Other Major Changes

When something major changes like water and garbage, or utilities are charged on top of rent when it was formerly included, will trigger a drop in home sales prices.

So what would make 30 year-old mobile homes suddenly be worth millions? Movie stars moving in next door. If this is likely where you live, then yes, the value of your mobile home purchase will increase.

A quote from the WSJ interview with Mr. Su, said that in the long term values of well-built manufactured properties tend to move in line with the broader real estate market.

This is not my experience or that of buyers in ordinary parks where the rent is only $1500 a month or less. For us the value of a well-built mobile home follows the market of used cars. They are, after all, licensed as vehicles, although by a division of HUD.  We used to get stickers to put on license plates attached to our houses, just like cars. Here's a photo I took of mine.




Now we only get a document to keep.



Which brings up an important point the WSJ failed to mention. Mobile home owners often don't pay property tax. On a $2 million or $3 million home this would be substantial. Mobile homes pay the license fee each year, like a car, and only the land owner has to pay property taxes. There are exceptions. New buyers can choose if they want to be listed as "real estate" and be taxed by property taxes or pay license fees. On a new mobile home the license fees might well be higher than property taxes.

As you can see from my registration document the fees for a year are $79.00, Mathew McConaghey would have paid something similar because the houses in Paradise Cove are about the same age.

If the Wall Street Journal is going to cover Mobile Homes they need to connect with typical, or even luxurious mobile home parks, not just a very special park overlooking the ocean in Malibu with homes owned by movie stars and use it as a standard. It's not.