How Manufactured Homes And “Mobile Home” Communities Can Help Address America’s Affordable Housing Crisis and Climate Change

(The following contains excerpts from an online Fast Company posting by  Zachary Lamb, Jason Spicer, and Linda Shi).

Many people think manufactured homes are poorly built, even though these structures, unlike site-built houses, have had to meet federal construction and safety standards since 1976. These standards have been periodically updated, often in response to disasters. Today, new well-installed factory-built homes are comparable to site-built homes when it comes to standing up to wind, fire, and other disaster threats.

Compared to homes built on site, manufactured homes cost half as much per square foot – partly because it’s easier, more predictable, and cheaper to build homes in factories.

Over 22 million Americans live in manufactured homes. There are 43,000+ land-lease communities with 4.3 million estimated homesites. 27% of new homes are placed in those communities – Yet many people, including urban planners and affordable housing researchers, see manufactured housing parks as a problem. In contrast, we see them as a part of the solution to housing crises.



Manufactured home land-lease communities are often dismissed as rural and low-density and, therefore, irrelevant to urban housing needs. However, 61% of all manufactured housing is located in a metro area, and 8% is in urban centers.

The density of these communities, typically 8 to 15 homes per acre, is often greater than nearby neighborhoods. In Houston, for example, many manufactured home parks are located in suburban areas close to the central business district. If anything, local zoning in many cities limits the density of manufactured home communities.

Local governments and park owners often are eager to convert parks to what they describe as “higher and better uses,” which frequently means evicting residents for commercial development or more expensive housing. Meanwhile, private equity investors, pension funds, and sovereign wealth funds are buying up manufactured housing parks, which they view as reliably profitable investments. When owners redevelop parks, they can evict residents with little recourse.



While many manufactured housing residents own their homes, they may not own the land the homes sit on. This can leave them at the mercy of predatory park owners and investors. Moving manufactured homes is difficult and expensive, despite the ”mobile” label, so residents of manufactured home communities (aka mobile home parks) can’t easily relocate when park owners allow conditions to deteriorate, raise rents, or evict residents.

But there are alternatives. Residents in over 1,000 manufactured housing parks in the U.S. have jointly bought their land, creating RESIDENT OWNED COMMUNITIES.

To date, 20 states have adopted laws that help residents purchase the manufactured home parks where they live. These policies have helped ROC USA, a non-profit social venture, create a network of over 280 cooperative-owned, limited-equity, resident-owned communities that are home to over 18,000 households.

ROC USA provides low-cost loans to resident cooperatives to buy land and make needed capital improvements, such as upgrading water, sewer,and electrical systems. Their network

of regional housing experts then work with communities for at least a decade to develop and sustain their ability to manage their parks.

Over three decades, no ROC USA community has ever defaulted on a loan or sold their park. A growing number have adopted climate-responsive measures, such as building storm shelters and community centers, upgrading drainage infrastructure, and providing emergency post-storm tree clearance and other forms of mutual aid. Other resident-owned communities are investing in renewable energy and energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs for their residents.

Policymakers are paying attention. The Biden administration’s 2022 housing plan includes extensive support for manufactured housing parks.

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