An Assessment of Central Virginia’s Manufactured Housing Communities: Understanding the Conditions, Challenges, and Opportunities
In November 2016, the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia and project:HOMES, a nonprofit affordable housing provider in central Virginia, commissioned An Assessment of Central Virginia’s Manufactured Housing Communities: Understanding the Conditions, Challenges, and Opportunities, a report prepared by HDAdvisors to analyze the place of manufactured housing within the affordable housing conversation. This report is the first full assessment of the existing conditions of manufactured home parks in the central Virginia region and includes an analysis of the socioeconomic status and demographic trends for manufactured home residents. In addition, the report includes a detailed quality survey of more than 50 manufactured home parks across the region.
Manufactured homes and park communities are important to include when planning for climate change, adaptation, and resilience — especially as the majority of residents are often low-income and historically underrepresented populations. Data and baseline housing studies underpin and should serve as a foundation for planning efforts. This report serves as an example of an affordable housing assessment that can be used by other regional or local policymakers to evaluate the current status of affordable, manufactured homes and parks. A report such as this can better inform decisions, including to retrofit or adapt existing structures to be more resilient to climate change impacts, such as flooding and minimize displacement from existing homes and parks to protect communities.
This report studies the central Virginia area around Richmond, Virginia which includes 16 counties and four independent cities. In the report, “manufactured housing” is defined as “housing that is constructed in a factory and transported to the site where it is placed on a foundation and finished,” which includes housing commonly referred to as “trailers” and “mobile homes.”
This report was initiated after a 2014 city code enforcement campaign at Rudd’s Trailer Park, a deteriorating trailer park in the Richmond area, led to the eviction and sudden homelessness of many low-income and Latino mobile homeowners. This report was developed to investigate manufactured housing communities, such as Rudd’s Trailer Park, to understand the benefits, challenges, social implications, and unique opportunities that they present to address the need for safe and stable affordable housing in central Virginia.
This report is divided into seven chapters: an introduction; a demographic and socioeconomic profile of manufactured home residents within the region; a regional manufactured home park survey; an analysis of federal, state, and local policies and regulations related to manufactured housing; a summary of best practices, supportive policies, and example award-winning manufactured home parks; resident perspectives; and key findings, conclusions, and recommendations for next steps. Also included is an appendix detailing the list of the 55 parks included in the study.
One important lesson cited in this study is that community outreach, a necessary component in a report of this type, was centered around discussions with park management, advocacy groups, and some residents; however, the researchers were unable to draw substantial direct input from residents. Recognizing this, the report details ways in which future research could solicit more direct resident input. Potential strategies include distributing quality of life questionnaires through existing management practices and scheduled community events, conducting interviews with relevant intermediary civil society organizations, and working with park communities and municipal planning staff on community planning efforts.
Considerations and Lessons Learned
The key takeaways from this report include:
- Manufactured housing and housing communities have been significantly stigmatized because of deteriorating older stock, changing terminology and standards, and a lack of accurate and useful data.
- The benefits of using and maintaining manufactured housing as an unsubsidized source of affordable housing have been largely overlooked, often because of the aforementioned negative stereotypes and stigmas.
- The majority of the manufactured housing stock in central Virginia, especially the pre-1976 homes, are in poor quality and have depreciated in value. Additionally, much of the infrastructure and amenities in many parks are substandard.
Additional takeaways include those on manufactured housing residents, the affordability of manufactured homes, and manufactured home parks in central Virginia, including metrics on the locations of manufactured homes and parks and resident demographics, the median monthly cost and purchase price of manufactured homes, and trends in park design and condition. The report underlines the fact that there is no “typical” park in location, size, or quality,; however, a correlation exists between park size and condition, with larger parks generally being in better condition. Also highlighted is the general social and geographic isolation of many parks, as they are frequently surrounded by undeveloped land and inaccessible by public transportation or major thoroughfares.
Recommended next steps coming out of this reporting effort include:
- Create a template for nonprofit, resident, and local government coordination to improve the condition of manufactured home parks.
- Establish a statewide study group to develop strategies to improve park conditions while protecting the right for existing residents to stay and avoid displacement.
- Create a communication and education program to inform and assist with the development of local policies that effectively improve and preserve parks as an important affordable housing option.
- Develop models for manufactured-housing-specific code enforcement in communities, combined with home rehab and repair initiatives. This means that when a park has health and safety concerns, a local government would already have a predetermined process in place that differs from code enforcement of traditional “stick-built” housing to address unique needs related to manufactured housing and these communities. For example, this could include bringing in Spanish-speaking translators, including experienced nonprofit housing providers in the process, developing a plan to address relocation if homes require replacement, or understanding the relationship between the resident and the park owner.
- Identify and undertake a “model” park revitalization using national best practice strategies, including ownership of land by resident co-op or community land trusts to facilitate the adoption of a legal status for manufactured homes that declares them as real, compared to personal property.
- Engage with national nonprofits, intermediaries, government-sponsored enterprises, and banks on new and innovative financing strategies for manufactured housing.
- Develop a resident-focused plan to replace all pre-1976 manufactured (unregulated) homes in the state.
Publication Date: November 2016
- Best practice
- Case study
- Policy analysis/recommendations