ROC USA Manufactured Home Communities, Resilience and Justice

Source: The following are brief excerpts from a comprehensive report by Governing, republished from The Conversation.


When you hear the words “trailer park” or “mobile home park,” what comes to mind? Crime? Poverty? Vulnerability to natural disasters? These negative images reflect the stigma, reinforced by popular culture, that many U.S. residents assigned to manufactured home parks – the official name for these dwellings under federal standards adopted in 1976.

Over 20 million Americans live in manufactured housing – more than in public housing and federally subsidized rental housing combined. Yet many people, including urban planners and affordable housing researchers, see manufactured housing parks as problems. In contrast, we see them as part of the solution to housing crises.

With economic, political and technical support, evidence shows that manufactured housing can overcome these challenges.

To date, 20 states have adopted laws that help residents purchase the manufactured home park where they live.The policies have helped ROC USA, a nonprofit social venture, create a network ove over 280 cooperatively 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 electric systems. Their network of regional housing experts then works 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, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs for their residents.

Policy makers are paying attention.The Biden administration’s 2022 housing plan included extensive support for manufactured housing parks.

California Gov Gavin Newsom has called for increasing state funding to preserve manufactured housing parks as affordable housing, The U.S. The Department of Energy recently adopted more ambitious efficiency standards to reduce energy costs for residents of manufactured housing.

In our view, these efforts should be coupled with legislation that protects manufactured housing park tenants and expands the limited-equity ROC model. Governments could enact laws that offer tenants opportunities to purchase their rental units and provide subsidized loans and grants to resident cooperatives. Decades of experience shows that resident ownership can transform manufactured home parks from sites of stigma and vulnerability into stable and resilient communities.

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