Trailer Homes Might Be the Needed Solution for Affordability

Most people have thought of trailer homes as tacky, cheap and unsightly solutions for housing. They have a bad reputation for being unkempt places where only poor people live. However, a few housing experts think that trailer parks could be the new face of affordable housing. Policy experts and housing advocates in Virginia are taking a look at how manufactured housing units could address the affordable housing crisis in that state.

What the Biggest Challenge Is for Virginia's Housing Policy Experts

The state of Virginia doesn't know how many mobile homes are parked in the state. They also don't know the conditions of the mobile homes or where they are located in the state. There is an amendment to a budget proposal in front of the 2021 session of the Virginia General Assembly. The budget amendment would require a census of mobile homes. The executive director of the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia said that there is no record of how many mobile home parks are in Virginia. They know how many units exist, but they don't know where the units are located. The units could be on a lot or in a mobile home park. He went on to say that mobile homes are the largest source of non-subsidized affordable housing in the United States. Unfortunately, they are also the least-understood type of housing when it comes to policy making and general knowledge.

About the Budget Amendment

Paul Krizek, who is a Democrat from Fairfax, introduced the budget amendment. He wants to sort out the lack of knowledge about mobile homes in Virginia. If it passes, the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development will be tasked with collecting and registering a database of mobile home parks. The amendment involves placing a $100 database maintenance fee on each mobile home park by the end of 2021. The amendment is expected to generate about $153,500 in income. One full-time employee would manage the registry. The funds would also pay for for the information technology infrastructure required to set up the registry.

How a Database Could Help Virginia's Lawmakers Understand the Mobile Home Status

No community in Virginia does licensing of mobile homes or trailer parks. A database with basic details could be critical to having essential knowledge about where the trailers are, how many of them there are and their conditions. Without the registry, if the state officials wanted to have all of that information, they would have to put people on the ground and spend hundreds of hours and travel all over the state to find the trailer parks and individual trailers through in-person visits. Satellite imagery could also be an option, but that would take a while, too. The registry would allow lawmakers to know which parks are at risk of environmental or health problems and which ones might need help or an intervention.

Types of Risks Faced By Trailer Parks and Their Residents

In 2015, state officials got involved with mobile home parks in Virginia when several hundred residents of Rudd's Trailer Park in Richmond were facing eviction. The owners of the trailer park did not take care of code violations related to health and environmental issues. They did nothing about the issues, and the trailer park was finally condemned as a fire hazard in 2015. The state wants to avoid a repeat of that situation because hundreds of people lost their homes.

What Makes Trailers an Affordable Housing Solution

As manufactured homes, trailers cost less to produce than a home built on-site. Although trailer homes can technically be moved, most of them never are. The simpler style of trailer homes also makes them more affordable. While they have newer amenities, such as energy-efficient heating and cooling and two or more bathrooms, they don't have the fanciest options that are frequently installed in a traditional new construction single-family home. Mass off-site production lowers the costs, too. The owner of the trailer typically leases the lot in a trailer park. However, a mobile home can be put on a piece of land owned by the owner of the trailer home. The land would just need the utility connections. In 2020, the average cost of a single-wide mobile home was $64,500. The average cost of a double-wide mobile home was $120,300 in 2020. The average price of a traditional single-family home was $284,600 in 2020. Maintenance and other costs of mobile homes are also lower than for traditional homes.

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