I Celebrated Holidays in a Mobile Home

“Don’t knock manufactured homes or their value to America” proclaims Suzanne Anarde in an op-ed published in the Opinion section of USA Today on Friday, November 24, 2017.

Following excerpts from that first-person narrative reconfirms that today’s manufactured homes are essential to the uniquely American dream of quality affordable homeownership, yet do not garner the respect that is deserved. 

“The holidays are when many of us reflect on the meaning of home. But not all homes are created, or valued, equally. Take the manufactured home, otherwise known as a mobile or trailer home. There is no American dwelling more disrespected. They’re derided as “tornado magnets” and they serve as the butt of jokes and derogatory terms about low-income, rural people.”

“I grew up in manufactured housing, it was where my mom was, where I did my homework, where we shared Thanksgiving dinner and put up our Christmas tree. We lived comfortably, with dignity, and it had nothing to do with the public’s attitude toward the physical structure of our house.”


Manufactured Homes Are Country’s Largest Source of Unsubsidized Housing in the U.S.A. 

“Updating the perception is important because manufactured housing is important. It constitutes the country’s largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing and is home to more than 17.5 million low-income Americans.”

“Manufactured homes cost about 50% of the average site-built home. Growing evidence shows that a high-quality built manufactured home, combined with affordable financing and ownership or long term control of the land where it is installed, is an effective tool for low and middle-income Americans to keep a reliable roof over their heads and build some equity. Manufactured homes can be produced and installed in a third of the time it takes to build a home from the ground up.”


Manufactured Homes Appreciate in Value

“Research has charted how manufactured homes appreciate in value when located in stable neighborhoods. In fact, manufactured housing has improved radically. With pitched roofs, front porches, conventional siding and even two stories, most are indistinguishable from site-built homes. Educating policymakers and residents could go a long way toward lifting regulatory barriers and narrowing the affordable housing gap.”

“The vast majority of “mobile homes” aren’t mobile at all — they’re attached to permanent foundations. Yet at least 80% of new manufactured homes are titled as chattel (personal property) rather than as real estate. As a result, consumers are penalized with higher interest rates, shorter terms, and fewer protections than what’s offered for a standard mortgage.”


Many Mobile Homes Built Before 1976 Federal Building Code Are in Need of Repair or Replacement 

“Many of the older mobile homes are in dire need of replacement or rehabilitation. In Appalachia, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (my organization) partners with the Kentucky Highlands Investment Co. to renovate or replace houses in serious need. Some states, including Maine, New York, and California, are offering low-and no-cost loans to help homeowners.”

“Many people run the risk of displacement in mobile home communities through rent increases or sale of the land for development. Resident Owned Communities USA, a nonprofit based in New Hampshire, has helped mobile homeowners buy the parks where they live. The new cooperatives are demolishing abandoned homes and rehabbing others.”


For Millions, A Manufactured House Is The Definition Of Home

“Ultimately, manufactured houses might not pave the way to great wealth. Nonetheless, they offer parents a way to raise a family and make modest financial gains, and elderly Americans an affordable way to stay in communities they’ve long loved. They’re places where a child can do her homework and celebrate the holidays. For millions of rural and suburban people, like my own family, that is the definition of home.”

We originally posted this narrative in December 2017. At the time the author was program vice-president for Rural LISC, a nonprofit, leading rural investments and programming for the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Suzanne Anarde is now the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) at Rural Community Assistance Corporation  (RCAC), headquartered in Sacramento, California.

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