How Mobile Homes Work As Affordable Housing


The term, “mobile home,” is outdated and calls to mind “trailer parks, ‘redneck Riverias,’ and Kentucky double-wides,” but the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy argues that manufactured homes (the new term for these types of residences) “represent the largest unsubsidized affordable housing stock in the U.S.

Almost 8 Million Families Live in Manufactured Homes

According to the Lincoln Institute, almost 8 million families lived in manufactured homes, and their median income was about $29,000 in the middle of 2015. Lawmakers have been transforming the manufactured housing sector, and the results largely depend on whether or not homeowners control the land under their homes. Housing projects like Noji Gardens and Cranberry Village, for example, were extraordinarily successful in the early 2000s, and ROC USA® has expanded from one community in New Hampshire to 267 resident-owned communities in 18 states.

Who Owns the Land?

Unfortunately, problems still exist with poorly manufactured homes and manufactured housing communities run by landlords and companies that do not have their residents’ best interests in mind. Residents of manufactured housing communities can remain at the mercy of their landlords and forfeit much of the autonomy and security associated with traditional homeownership — if they do not own the land.

When residents own the land they live on, however, many of these problems go away, and manufactured housing communities become an almost utopic vision of affordable housing. As one resident explains:

I live on riverfront property, so when I walk out my door I see water, pine trees, and a walking trail that goes from my house to the next town. I wake up in the morning hearing birds. I know all my neighbors; I’m connected to my community. I’m a block from the police station. I feel safe.”

Even With Fees, Manufactured Homes Are Affordable

With resident-owned communities, the experience of living in a manufactured home is more like living in a community with a homeowners’ association (HOA). The residents still pay “rent” for the land they collectively own, but the money goes to the collective land loan, taxes, and improvements. Sometimes, residents pay as little as $450 a month to live in these idyllic communities — a fraction of the average American mortgage, which costs homeowners about $1,275 a month, or apartment rentals, which average at around $1,124 per month.

The cost of the homes is notable, as well. In 2013, a new, energy-efficient home cost $324,500, but a similar manufactured home cost $64,000.

Stigmas and Legal Issues

Still, the stigma of the “mobile home” rages on, even though mobile homes as most people imagine them have not been built since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development introduced quality control standards in 1976, and the remaining 2 million are “barely hanging together and hous[ing] the nation’s most vulnerable populations.” Another reason the stigma lives on is due to the vulnerabilities of residents who do not own the land they live on.

Despite misunderstandings, manufactured homes are one of the only remaining options for affordable housing in the United States. Manufactured home residents, like other renters and landowners, also have rights, and some attorneys exist to defend those rights.

If you are facing a legal issue related to manufactured homes or manufactured home communities, please do not hesitate to contact Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP.

Our experienced attorneys have been helping people like you since 1987, and we would be honored to handle your case.

All you need to do is call us at (888) 998-2031 or contact us online today.