In this opinion piece published Nov. 23 in USA Today, fellow community developer Suzanne Anarde shared a real-world view on “trailers,” aka mobile or manufactured homes. The following is excerpted from that column.
Mobile homes could help solve the affordable housing crisis and help people recover from disasters. They should not be synonymous with slurs.
The holidays are a time when many of us reflect on the meaning of home. But the fact is that 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 plenty of jokes and derogatory terms about low-income, rural people.
For me, this gets personal. I grew up in manufactured housing, first in a singlewide trailer next to my family’s trading post on a Navajo reservation, and later in a brand new doublewide in a New Mexico trailer park. I never knew there was anything wrong with that. 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.
A home should never be synonymous with a slur. But beyond that, updating public 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, most of them in rural and small-town America.
Manufactured housing costs about 20% of the average site-built home. Under the right conditions, it can help solve the affordable housing crisis in our country. In fact, a growing body of evidence shows that a high-quality, factory-built home, combined with fair and affordable financing and ownership or long-term control of the land where it’s installed, is an effective tool for low-income Americans to keep a reliable roof over their heads and build some equity.