According to the Center for Housing Policy, the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference, affordable housing can have a positive impact on the health of families and communities. Exploring hypotheses around this relationship, the CHP has looked at ideas ranging from the money that is freed up for other health promoting expenses when housing is affordable to the stress reduction and self-esteem boosting which results from the availability of stable, quality housing. This Zoom Out explores mobile or manufactured homes as affordable housing and the challenges that mobile home parks face in being seen as a vital part of a community.
All Parks Alliance for Change is a non-profit tenants union for residents of Minnesota’s manufactured mobile home parks. In their fact sheet, they detail just how prevalent mobile home parks are in Minnesota. There are over 900 licensed parks housing almost 180,000 individuals, with about 80% of these residents (144,000 people) identified as low- to very-low income. 15% of homes in Minnesota are mobile homes, and there are more units of affordable housing in manufactured home parks (48,700) than there are HUD subsidized units (36,000) and Rural Development units (12,400) combined. Despite what the term “mobile home” implies, 42% of residents have lived in their home for over 10 years, implying the tie that mobile home residents have to their communities. And yet there are many challenges faced by members of manufactured home communities in actually being a part of the broader community.
In many cases, mobile home park residents own only their home and not the land on which they live, and so are vulnerable should a park need to close. In addition, a Consumers Union report indicates that “Most manufactured homes are financed using a personal property loan like a car or a couch. Consumers who finance their home with a personal property loan (also known as a chattel mortgage) do not have foreclosure protections similar to those available for real property home mortgages.” And, as Julie Trnka discusses in her video, the perception of trailer parks as homes for “trailer trash”—the implication being people who do not contribute to a community and are not a real part of their community—and thus not “worthy” of being a part of a neighborhood. Stigma and stereotypes and prejudice must surely negatively affect the health of mobile home park residents and accordingly the health of the whole community.
What is a home but a place where a family is trying to make it work? What is a community but people coming together to build a life together? Manufactured home parks and their residents are a valuable and important part of any community. How do you see the mobile home communities in your neighborhood? If you take pride in your community, you must care for your community—all of your community.