HARKER HEIGHTS — Mobile homes often get a bad rap. They’ve earned a reputation for attracting unsavory tenants who don’t take care of their property and cause the value of neighborhoods and cities to go down.
But for some people, such as long-time Harker Heights resident Pat Krenek, mobile homes are a way of life.
Monday morning, Krenek stood outside her home near Stillhouse Hollow Lake and pointed out all the work she and her late husband put into the place. At first glance, visitors would never know the sprawling, robin’s-egg blue, 2,900-square-foot house with its attached garage, balcony, rambling porch with white columns and swimming pool is actually a mobile home.
“I try to make all my stuff look good,” Krenek said. “I’m not trailer trash.”
Besides her Heights home, Krenek owns several rental properties in the area. Last month, she asked the city to rezone a lot she purchased on Ball Road so she could put a double-wide mobile home there. The 1/3-acre lot is in a mixed-residential neighborhood of mobile homes, duplexes and permanent single-family houses, but the council turned down Krenek’s request on the recommendation of the planning and zoning commission.
City Manager Steve Carpenter said her request was rejected because part of the property is in a flood plain and the mobile home would have to be placed on a permanent foundation per Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations.
But Krenek believes otherwise. She thinks the city is prejudiced against mobile homes.
“There’s five men (on the council) who want to play gods up there. … They told me I’d have to build a stick house and would have to adhere to FEMA rules, so what possible reason could there be?” Krenek said. “When you’ve got a vacant lot and the FEMA regulations are only on the back corner of it, and it’s plenty high, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I was going to do everything according to FEMA.”
Stephen Booker, owner of Booker’s Pet Hotel on North Ann Boulevard near Ball Road, was one of two neighboring property owners who recommended denial of Krenek’s request when polled by the zoning commission. He said he is not really against mobile homes, but he does have a problem with the city’s inability to enforce property codes and to make the north side of Heights safe for residents.
“This side of (U.S. Highway 190) is turning into a rundown area where people are afraid,” Booker said. “That fear factor goes up when you hear about the crime in the area or see the conditions around here. If they would enforce the codes of the city and say, ‘Listen, you’re going to have to cut your grass’ and actually fine them for it, I wouldn’t care what kind of houses were here.”
Because of the poor state of the northside neighborhoods, he believes moving a mobile home into that area would result in a downward-financial spiral that homeowners could not recover from, resulting in more abandoned houses and unkempt properties.
Carpenter said the city could do a better job enforcing codes, but said he has taken steps to fix that problem. A new building inspector was recently hired to take over plumbing and electrical inspections that have taken up much of Building Official Steve Philan’s time.
“With all the growth we’ve had, he’s been out inspecting all the time,” Carpenter said. “There’s a lot of things we’ve done well on, but there’s a lot we could go back and enforce stronger than we do.”
Despite Krenek’s beliefs, Carpenter said the city is not against mobile homes and code enforcement is not just a mobile-home problem.
“There’s a lot of areas that need attention, it’s not just mobile homes,” he said. “There’s a place for all types of housing in the city. What I do not like is property that’s not kept up at least to a minimum.”
In the meantime, Krenek has a double-wide mobile home and no place to put it — and a vacant lot in a rundown neighborhood.
“I’m stuck with it. Either I have to build a stick house or sell it to someone who wants to build a stick house. What’s the use of having a biased system there?”