Mobile home parks have long represented a slice of the American dream for those who couldn’t afford land. Nowadays mobile home parks represent a cash cow for park owners and as such are exposing the immobility and economic vulnerabilities of tenants who can’t afford to move or live anywhere else.

Mobile homes/manufactured homes provide the bulk of unsubsidized, affordable housing in America, but their numbers are shrinking as many mom-and-pop community owners, especially in metro areas, are either selling the property to developers for non-mobile home use, or too large investors who would profit handsomely as a result of the lack of new mobile home park construction. 

Both of these trending scenarios can be devastating to mobile home park residents who own the home but not the land where sited. If the property is sold for redevelopment the existing residents are forced out of the park, most often without a destination site available, nor the funds available to pay for relocating the mobile home –  if relocation sites where available.



Mobile home parks attract corporate and institutional investors, attracted by potentially hefty profits from a near-captive clientele, underscoring what has always been an unusual housing proposition. Such acquisitions have ramped up in recent years. A common denominator is the announcement of larger monthly rent increases for the residents of the community immediately after the transaction is finalized. These are especially problematic in age-restricted communities populated by older residents with fixed incomes.

Today, the top 50 owners of mobile home parks have a combined 680,000 home sites across America, a 26% increase from 2016 to 2018, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). Investors and private and private equity firms, formed by investors who directly invest in other companies, now own more than 150,000 home sites, according to a 2019 report from three housing groups.

There have been a scant few new manufactured home communities developed over the last 10 years, not because of demand or wherewithal. Local and state housing authorities bolstered by nimbys (not in my backyard) demonizing “mobile homes” and those that live-in them, typically result in denials of applications for new manufactured park construction and individual placement within “home-only” zones.

The Colorado Sun, along with more than a dozen partner news organizations across the state, spent the summer visiting mobile home parks to hear from residents, managers, and owners. The project found that the number of parks is declining and ownership consolidating as mom-and-pop parks sell out to large investors, which sometimes leads to displacement and redevelopment — and, in the eyes of many residents, an imbalance of power that threatens their low-cost lifestyle.

“We’ve relegated mobile home parks to a corner of the American imaginary, said Esther Sullivan, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado/Denver and author of a book on mobile homes titled Manufactured Insecurity.” (Reported by THE COLORADO SUN)

“We have media representation of who is living there and stereotypes of who are living there that are absolutely false. In reality, this is a major swath of our workforce. This is the primary way that our working households attain the American dream of homeownership.”



Sullivan calls mobile homes the largest source of “naturally occurring” affordable housing, an organic solution not created by public policy or housing assistance. Mobile home residents live under the radar — literally zoned out of sight and segregated from conventional housing.

“We could lose this crucial source of affordable housing and low-income home ownership,” she said , “which would exacerbate the affordable housing crisis.”

Even now, the diminishing number of mobile home parks represent the last, best hope for some semblance of homeownership.


IMAGE: The Berkshire Eagle

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