The BBC asks:
February 4, 2016 3:18 PM   Subscribe

 
Because a post-war economic growth strategy based in part on what Monica Prasad terms "mortgage Keynesianism" had some unintended consequences for housing security
posted by clockzero at 3:27 PM on February 4, 2016 [15 favorites]


Err.... because all that "Greatest Country in the WORLD" line is somehow untrue??
posted by Freedomboy at 3:28 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


"they enjoy the tranquillity of Oak Haven. The site was built in 1959 by Frank Rouss, who cleared all the oak trees away and built 28 trailers on the site"

Shouldn't it be called Trailer Haven?
posted by crazylegs at 3:28 PM on February 4, 2016 [30 favorites]


> "Not everyone who lives in a trailer park is poor,"

My retired parents have a fifth wheel that is both nicer and larger than many of the apartments I've lived in. And when they used to drive it to Florida and park for the winter, some of the trailers/fifth wheels other people had made theirs look like a cardboard box on top of a shopping cart.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:30 PM on February 4, 2016 [22 favorites]


One thing not addressed in the article is that mobile homes are one way for relatively poor people to build a little bit of equity. Sure, most of the monthly cost goes to lot rent and utilities, but people can eventually own their mobile homes. For the seller, there can be upwards of $15,000 or more in almost any housing market. For the buyer, a $700 per month housing expense (300 lot rent, 200 utilities, 200 on the trailer note) is generally going to be manageable, especially if you get a roommate to pay $300 per month.
posted by yesster at 3:31 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


Shouldn't it be called Trailer Haven?

No, it follows the approved naming scheme.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:34 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I was going to snark about the answer being "income inequality," or more bluntly, "poverty you'd not expect with our GDP," but the article actually does a good job explaining that it's not just poor people who live in trailers.

I was also expecting the answer to factor in "low population density," which explains at least half the differences between Western Europe and America. Renting out wide and flat housing is a better deal than building a multistory apartment building when land is cheap.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


There is a blurry line between "mobile homes" and "travel trailers." Mobile homes have dimensions like "14 x 70," look like conventional housing once you're inside, with 2 to 3 bedrooms and 1 or 2 bathrooms. "Travel trailers" have dimensions that max out at 10' x 40,' are almost always fixtured with a lot of built-in features, and never would be mistaken for conventional housing from the inside.
posted by yesster at 3:35 PM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


the man of twists and turns: "Shouldn't it be called Trailer Haven?

No, it follows the approved naming scheme.
"

There's a place near me named Eagles Hammock. What eagles need hammocks?
posted by Splunge at 3:39 PM on February 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


With all the hype over tiny houses and minimalist living, I wonder how far we are from Bespoke Artisanal Prefabricated Homes, Designed In Brooklyn.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:40 PM on February 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


My husband and I are 14 years and 10 months from selling everything we own, purchasing an RV and hitting the road. There is nothing I look forward to more.

Also, in two weeks I will be in Palm Springs for Modernism Week where, among other things, I will be checking out the Vintage Trailer show for the 3rd year running.
posted by Sophie1 at 3:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Why do so many English tolerate electrical appliances in their shower?
posted by humboldt32 at 3:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [10 favorites]


The site was built in 1959 by Frank Rouss, who cleared all the oak trees away and built 28 trailers on the site"
There's a mature oak tree featured prominently in the "Life at Oak Haven" photo montage, so I sense a little hyperbole. My neighbors, back when I lived on my palatial country estate (it took only 20 years to convert a beautiful country home into an old barn) had a "manufactured" home for their mom which was superior in every way to my 1897 farm house.
posted by Floydd at 3:43 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


My friend's mother lives in a really nice double-wide on the shore of a mountain river. I'd live there in a heartbeat.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:44 PM on February 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


Shit, I'm giving serious consideration to some kind of trailer-like scenario, and I make what could reasonably be considered a metric shit ton of money in most of the US. I also just happen to live in a region full of rich people and absurdly inflated property values. 15 or 20 acres of farmland back where I come from and building a semi-portable tiny house (or just straight up buying somebody's trailer) to throw on it has a growing appeal in this scenario.
posted by brennen at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


The trailer my aunt lived in up until a few years ago was nicer and bigger than any apartment I've lived in. Skylights. Giant open kitchen. Jacuzzi. The trailer she and my dad and uncles grew up in was a lot more what you would think of when you hear "trailer". So the term covers a wide ground.
posted by downtohisturtles at 3:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


What eagles need hammocks?
Lazy-ass eagles. Lazy-ass un-American eagles.
Canadian eagles, OK? With their health care and their common courtesy and their multiculturalism.
posted by Floydd at 3:47 PM on February 4, 2016 [35 favorites]


Jim Rockford lived in a trailer.

On the beach.

In Malibu.

Genius.
posted by davebush at 3:48 PM on February 4, 2016 [52 favorites]


They left out one of the reasons why that may be present only in the US west: boom employment in an area coupled with housing shortages, particularly associated with mining and drilling. Mobile homes are a quick way to get lots of housing into a locality, especially since such areas tend to have a lot of open, cheap land. Sometimes called man camps, some to most of the trailers stick around in some way after the boom is inevitably over. You drive around the American west enough you can figure out when a mining town or an oil and gas town might have had their boom by the age of the trailers in the area.

Occasionally you get actual movable man camps, where everybody has their own RV or trailer - the kind of homes meant to be truly mobile - and there's some interesting points of which way is better. It's kind of a fascinating topic overall.
posted by barchan at 3:49 PM on February 4, 2016 [20 favorites]


I did marketing briefly for a company who had RVs that cost upwards of $600,000. And that's before you did ANY customizing.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 3:52 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


They left out one of the reasons why that may be present only in the US west: boom employment

On the other hand, (IIRC) in the 1950s, the U.S. government decided to create a nuclear facility in some tiny town in Washington (with, I think, a different name than it has now) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers came in and built a bunch of duplexes, which remain a big part of the housing stock for Richland, Washington.

(I lived in one of the those duplexes and attended some history of the area presentation thingy while living there.)
posted by Michele in California at 3:54 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a lot of it is basically prefab housing that you can, with some hassle, tow to a new location without a special-use permit on the freeway.

The trailer park makes a lot more difference than the trailer-qua-trailer. Some are kinda scary and shady; others are well-managed, well-maintained, and feel like ultra safe small towns with high density. The nice one near me has the typical underground tornado shelter (they all have them around here), which doubles as an "event room" for kids' birthday parties and things like that. SMART BUILDING.

When they renovated the Arkansas governor's mansion, the Huckabees lived in a triple-wide, and Janet good-naturedly called herself the Queen of the Triple Wide (after the country song about a double-wide).

Basically the same as mobile classrooms, aka "tie-downs" (because you tie them down so they don't blow away, not being snarky, they have these huge giant anchors that have to be sunk for the ties), which are often very nice and have better HVAC than schools built in the 60s.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [14 favorites]


Why do so many Americans live in mobile homes?

Because there are is an enormous amount of cheap land in the U.S. outside of the big cities compared to Europe. This allows people to own a relatively inexpensive home instead of renting apartments.
posted by JackFlash at 3:57 PM on February 4, 2016 [19 favorites]


I've been living in an RV (Class A motorhome, not trailer) for the last 9 months or more. The reason we started is complicated (involving last minute cross country moves and MUCH drama and some serious fly by night 'planning' and favour calling) but after the trip (28 states in 8 months, 19,000 miles) living in an RV is something everyone should do for a while. Seriously.

A mobile home is a bit different (they're static for a start) but living in an RV is on our list of 'things we need to go back to doing'. My income is relatively mobile. We just need something else (even something small) for my wife to do while on the road and we're GONE. Oh and get the last teenager in a job and out of the house/RV.

We'll be moving into a proper house (rental) in the next few months, but our long term plan has shifted to 'live relatively frugally for the next two years and make a decision then whether to go or postpone two more years'. The long term aim is to live in the RV.

BECAUSE IT IS SO AWESOME I CAN'T EVEN. Freedom, the open road, seeing all kinds of magical stuff and wildlife and prettiness etc. Great.
posted by Brockles at 4:03 PM on February 4, 2016 [26 favorites]


"I wonder how far we are from Bespoke Artisanal Prefabricated Homes, Designed In Brooklyn."

Totally already a thing, for example and example and example, depending on your desired level of pre-fab-ness, customization, and tweeness.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:05 PM on February 4, 2016 [13 favorites]


There's a place near me named Eagles Hammock. What eagles need hammocks?

Probably a reference to the other type of hammock.
posted by peeedro at 4:07 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


With all the hype over tiny houses and minimalist living, I wonder how far we are from Bespoke Artisanal Prefabricated Homes, Designed In Brooklyn.


It's happening already. My partner's a city planner who works in zoning. Our city has anti-mobile homes codes on the books (yay classism). Cue current issue he's having with a couple who bought a plot of land, and want to put a pre-fabricated "tiny home" there. Problem is, the tiny home breaks parts of the zoning/housing codes that are meant to keep out mobile homes.

It'll be interesting to see how it all works out, and if this sort of thing will lead to any sort of revision of the city housing codes.
posted by damayanti at 4:10 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Problem is, the tiny home breaks parts of the zoning/housing codes that are meant to keep out mobile homes.

That's ironic since Tumbleweed Tiny Homes were designed with wheels to get around restrictive housing codes. You couldn't have a "real house" that small, but if you put wheels on it, voila, you were no longer illegal.

bureaucracy.
posted by Michele in California at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


> On the other hand, (IIRC) in the 1950s, the U.S. government decided to create a nuclear facility in some tiny town in Washington

If you're referring to the Hanford Nuclear Facility, that was build in the 1940s, part of the Manhattan Project. They build a reactor there to turn Uranium into Plutonium, which fueled both the Trinity test and the "Fat Man" Nagasaki bombs. Richard Feynman has a funny story about getting into trouble with some safecracking antics there. Hanford was an actual town, but it was depopulated by the US gov't and now it's part of Richland/Pasco/Kennewick, the "tri-cities."

It's now part of the PNNL, the Pacific Northwest National Lab, part of the federal national lab system which are big scientific research facilities, though it's not a coincidence that many of them have a past steeped in nuclear weaponry.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:21 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


It'll be interesting to see how it all works out, and if this sort of thing will lead to any sort of revision of the city housing codes.

Likely it won't. City zoning has everything to do with pressures of the surrounding neighborhoods. I deal with this for multi-family housing, and single family, once established, is difficult to change.
posted by Benway at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


John Steinbeck's 1960 Travels with Charley: In Search of America (in which the author himself was traveling around the country living in a truck) depicted mobile homes as a sort of egalitarian new era of nomadism.
posted by XMLicious at 4:38 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


damayanti: Cue current issue he's having with a couple who bought a plot of land, and want to put a pre-fabricated "tiny home" there. Problem is, the tiny home breaks parts of the zoning/housing codes that are meant to keep out mobile homes.

I bash on my home state of Texas for a lot of things but the Legislature got this one right. "Industrialized housing," or housing stock built in a factory in modular sections that meet usual building codes (essentially houses built in sections and moved onto a permanent foundation constructed prior to the arrival of the building), must be regulated under city codes the same as a so-called site-built or "stick built" house.

...[Municipal ordinance and code] requirements and regulations ... must be reasonably and uniformly applied and enforced without distinctions as to whether the housing or buildings are manufactured or are constructed on-site. - Texas Occupations Code 1202.251 (Acts of the Legislature, 2003)
posted by fireoyster at 4:41 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I lived in a building adjacent to a trailer court (never trailer park; people always called it a trailer court) for years, and I would echo what Eyebrows said above: the quality of the particular trailer court makes a huge difference. The one by me was really great. The owners were completely present: they rode around on a little golf cart making sure that everything was ok, and in the summers they took care of their grandkids, who came and spent all day riding around on the golf cart and playing with the neighborhood kids. It was probably the safest neighborhood I've ever lived in. Kids left their bikes out at night. Particularly for people with kids, I think it's preferable in a lot of ways to other inexpensive housing in my community. It's safe, it's zoned for a good elementary school, and kids can run around without worrying about traffic. Also, there's a critical mass of people who speak Spanish there, so I think it's appealing for people who want to be able to function comfortably in Spanish. Latinos make up a pretty small proportion of my town but were about half the families living in the trailer court.

And now I'm fantasizing about getting one of those artisanal trailers that Eyebrows linked above and moving back. I can't imagine what people would make of that: they joked around about my pink bike helmet like it made me a crazy person.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]




"That's ironic since Tumbleweed Tiny Homes were designed with wheels to get around restrictive housing codes. "

Tumbleweeds were designed with wheels to get around restrictive BUILDING codes that mandate 70 square foot room minimums for fixed structures (as well as notable restrictions on bathrooms and kitchens that do not exist in the same form for mobile homes). Restrictive ZONING codes have long prevented permanent wheeled dwellings in standard residential neighborhoods, and Tumbleweed is not run by morons who were not aware of this. They were initially designed to be put in trailer parks courts or on rural land that isn't zoned.

"It'll be interesting to see how it all works out, and if this sort of thing will lead to any sort of revision of the city housing codes."

There are about half a dozen cities in the US that have updated their zoning codes to allow for tiny houses in certain neighborhoods or situations, either as ADUs (accessory dwelling units -- i.e., you park it permanently in someone's backyard as a mother-in-law apartment or rental income unit or whatever) or as free-standing tiny homes or as "pocket neighborhoods" (where two or three standard lots are put together and you put 6 to 12 tiny houses on the resulting parcel). Minneapolis allows backyard ADUs, for example, and got there by an interesting route: there's a small company there that contracts with Medicare to provide ADA-accessible tiny houses so that if, say, your mom breaks her leg and you're coming to care for her for six months, they tow a tiny house to your mom's backyard and you (or she!) can stay in the ADA-accessible tiny home while you help her through her rehabilitation. Or she can move in to your backyard. The company comes around and does all the electrical and sewage servicing. Medicare pays for it because it's cheaper than a rehab nursing home, and keeps older people healthier and more independent in the long run by staying in their own homes. Rockwood, Florida, just a couple months ago passed a new zoning code that allows for tiny houses, which was done from start to finish by an amateur tiny home enthusiast who wanted to live in one and started at square one meeting with zoning officials and asking what she'd have to do to get the code changed.

I've been following the issue pretty closely because I've been thinking of suggesting a zoning overlay for an older, run-down neighborhood in my city with small street-car sized houses on very narrow lots. Most modern builders won't build on the lot size, but there's no demand for apartment buildings or row houses. However, putting a couple of tiny homes on those teeny vacant lots might be ideal.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:47 PM on February 4, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think this post does a much better job of answering the stated question. In short, many American municipalities are less strict about certain zoning requirements (minimum lot sizes, setbacks, parking requirements, etc.) inside trailer parks.
posted by ripley_ at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2016


I had a friend who was living in a trailer while finishing school at UCSB.
...
The SB stands for THE Santa Barbara.

He was renting there, and told me that the landlords were really particular about it remaining clean and shit.

So he had to move out because they sold it...for $450,000.

Sure it included the tiny piece of land it was on, but shit, almost half a milli for a trailer home.
posted by hal_c_on at 4:51 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The homes don't look like trailers in the conventional sense

As an American, I do not understand what they are talking about here. The closest picture to this quote was of a row things that are quite obviously trailer homes, at least to my eye.
posted by yohko at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Talk about exocitizing the other. Next in the BBC's cutting edge series: why do Indians eat that stinky curry?
posted by jpe at 5:00 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's that at all, jpe. Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK And yet when we watch coverage of tornado damage it always seems like they get hit (I know that this is just luck of the draw).

People are intrigued to learn more about the different ways societies do things. If you're poor in Europe, you live somewhere tiny, with a handkerchief size yard if you're really lucky. I like to look up places I read about on streetview and I'm often surprised at how spacious the yards are of houses in what are described as terribly poor neighbourhoods. You could fit in an extra house between the existing houses. A block of land that size in places I know would cost half a million or more.
posted by kitten magic at 5:10 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Equity? In a mobile home? Ha! After 30+ years in theirs, my parents had to pay to get it scrapped. A mobile home is a money pit.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


> As an American, I do not understand what they are talking about here.

My guess, they're talking about the "manufactured home," which are fabricated in trailer sections, and then transported to the site where they are joined.

My Uncle lived in a "triple-wide" on his property in the burbs until he got married, at which time his new wife decided that a split-level house in town was more her style.
posted by Sunburnt at 5:11 PM on February 4, 2016


I used google to find out what a "static caravan" is, and now I'm confused. They look exactly like mobile homes/trailer homes, except that they have to be moved on top of a flatbed truck as they have only tiny wheels that wouldn't allow them to be trailered on the highway on their own.

Not sure why the article seems to be approaching MH/trailers as such an exotic thing.

An RV, on the other hand, is a totally different thing than a trailer home/mobile home. An RV is a lot more mobile.
posted by yohko at 5:13 PM on February 4, 2016


With all the hype over tiny houses and minimalist living, I wonder how far we are from Bespoke Artisanal Prefabricated Homes, Designed In Brooklyn.

Yep. I have theories about the American Dream. That American Dream that is dying. The idea of owning a two-story house in the suburbs with a swimming pool, three kids, stay-at-home-mother, father driving his car into the city to work, and mom with her van.

Obviously that dream is alive for many folk but I feel, based on my experiences over the past couple of years, that the number of people dreaming that dream is declining.

Instead you have mobile homes and RVs (and yes, I'm getting to the lead quote in a moment). A big part of this is the economic reality. Another part is the realization that marriages don't last and inheriting a house and land is a thing of the past therefore why bother with the headache of owning house which you'll have to sell anyway during the divorce.

I mentioned the economic reality. Which reality is this: job security hasn't been a thing for a while. Obliterating your credit on a house after losing your third job in four years instead of something you can own with much, much less money and still be a home just makes more sense.

Without a sense of future security things like trailer and RV parks just make more sense.

Now for the quote at the lead.

Imagine you are a young tech stud. Imagine that like all other young people (seemingly) you feel absolutely no obligation to stay at one job for the rest of your life much less two years (which is smart since most companies no longer feel an obligation to keep you any longer than that -- we older folk haven't quite caught on to this and suffer accordingly). Instead you design this website and then code this database and then create that music service. Much of it you can do from one place. But, maybe it's easier or even required that you live in the area of that business. Yes, you can do apartment living but instead why not just own your own actually mobile home (RV/trailer)? Now you can live in NY then San Francisco and then Austin and then Seattle all within the space of four years and you have a home and you're not tied to down to leases and mortgages and so on.

So I think the New American Dream is going to be mobile homes/RVs and trailer parks and RV parks (I think the more mobile you are the better) and not only is this being lead by the lower socio-economic classes but it's coming (will come) from the other side: hip, hi-tech, young people.

And this all ties in nicely to the form of anarchism that is the cornerstone of my controversial political theory: Neo Space Marxism for which this thread is not the appropriate place to discuss (but someday there will be an fpp that will need the full NSM experience. Or so I tell myself.)
posted by bfootdav at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Try living in an RV in San Francisco. You won't get much closer than Antioch.
posted by infinitewindow at 5:18 PM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Why do so many English tolerate electrical appliances in their shower?

I believe it's due to poor water pressure in older multi-story terrace houses. The shower units heat and pump the water, maintaining pressure and temperature.

Unfortunately, the UK overcompensates by banning regular power sockets (i.e., those with enough amperage to run, say, a hair dryer) in bathrooms in its building code, which probably has to do with a post-WW2 cost-cutting measure reducing the amount of electrical wiring in a house, which also requires the big, chunky British power plugs to contain their own fuses.
posted by acb at 5:19 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bfootday, iirc the novel Snow Crash mentions that one of the new tribes of north Americans are the RV set. Massive communities that migrate together. There's a lot in that book which seems prescient now.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 5:20 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK And yet when we watch coverage of tornado damage it always seems like they get hit (I know that this is just luck of the draw).

It is not just luck of the draw.

A Brief History of Deaths from Tornadoes in the United States

See section 4. The mobile home problem

Mobile homes account for an inordinately high percentage of fatalities in tornadoes.
posted by Michele in California at 5:20 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


My guess, they're talking about the "manufactured home," which are fabricated in trailer sections, and then transported to the site where they are joined.

Sunburnt, the passage I quoted is directly below a picture of 6 trailers in a row on a paved street. They are all single wide, the type that are moved in only one section and NOT assembled on site. They are, to my american eyes, quite obviously trailer homes. I do not understand what about them "does not look like trailers".

I drive past a trailer sales lot several times a week and am well aware of the difference between singlewide, double wide, triple wide, and that some of the wider ones don't look very much like trailers, especially if they start adding on those little entryway sections and porches. (They like to put these at the front of the sales lot to show them off)

The part that I don't understand is why these would "not look like trailers" to people in the UK.

(Also, there are manufactured homes that are made in flat panels, they are not all made in trailer sections.)
posted by yohko at 5:24 PM on February 4, 2016


A mobile home is a money pit.

Actually, this isn't true. A mobile gives you more privacy so that you don't live asshole to elbow with your neighbors. They are cheap and easily paid off, and then--no rent! No rent, no house payments, and what income you have gets spread out a bit more. I have friends that put away what money they would have spent on a house payment, and they're sitting pretty. Granted there is no equity as in a house, but they you don't have to do big ticket maintenance like a roof, etc. Given the housing market, sometimes you come out quite a bit ahead.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:25 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]



Mobile homes account for an inordinately high percentage of fatalities in tornadoes.


Oh sure, I totally understand that. But it's just bad luck that they get hit - it's not like the tornadoes target them (though it seems like it sometimes).

I remember reading a bunch of tornado myths once and there were people arguing that the tornadoes did target them (much in the same way that people are convinced their town is safe because of a river, hill, local superstition, etc)
posted by kitten magic at 5:26 PM on February 4, 2016


The mobile home is actually dying off. New emplacements are like 10% of the mid 90's number
posted by JPD at 5:28 PM on February 4, 2016


yesster: "Mobile homes have dimensions like "14 x 70,""

And come in double, triple and even quad wide.

kitten magic: " Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK And yet when we watch coverage of tornado damage it always seems like they get hit (I know that this is just luck of the draw)."

You see trailer parks in tornado coverage because the older ones especially aren't as structurally resistant to high winds as houses. When a tornado hits both a trailer park and a housing development unless it is way up on the F scale the news coverage is of the trailer park because the damage is more.

New trailers (say in the last 15 years) are much stronger and don't feature nearly as often on the local news.

BlueHorse: "They are cheap and easily paid off, and then--no rent! "

The vast majority of trailers are situated in parks where the owners pay a pad rent to the park owner. Less than an apartment mind you but still rent.
posted by Mitheral at 5:29 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


My guess, they're talking about the "manufactured home," which are fabricated in trailer sections, and then transported to the site where they are joined.

Sunburnt, the passage I quoted is directly below a picture of 6 trailers in a row on a paved street. They are all single wide, the type that are moved in only one section and NOT assembled on site. They are, to my american eyes, quite obviously trailer homes. I do not understand what about them "does not look like trailers".


Those don't look anything like what someone in the UK would call "trailers". For starters, we'd say "caravan" and it would look more like this:

The row of houses (trailers) look like pre-fab houses to me and completely unrelated to a trailer/caravan in the UK sense of the word.
posted by kitten magic at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


And then in State College they sell the land and evict the renters who are mostly poor and can't afford the new expensive housing replacing their park.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:32 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK And yet when we watch coverage of tornado damage it always seems like they get hit (I know that this is just luck of the draw)."

You see trailer parks in tornado coverage because the older ones especially aren't as structurally resistant to high winds as houses. When a tornado hits both a trailer park and a housing development unless it is way up on the F scale the news coverage is of the trailer park because the damage is more.


Sorry, I think I worded my original point wrong. What I meant to say was that trailer parks aren't something we are familiar with in the UK context BUT we see them on the news and so it's quite reasonable to me that the BBC would do an article explaining why there are so many as it would be something people were intrigued about. I'm obsessed with severe weather and am quite familiar with the structural damage side of things.
posted by kitten magic at 5:36 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


davebush: "Jim Rockford lived in a trailer.

On the beach.

In Malibu.

Genius.
"

As well, Martin Riggs lived in a travel trailer on a beach along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. Less brilliant and more crazy.
posted by Splunge at 5:37 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


peeedro: "There's a place near me named Eagles Hammock. What eagles need hammocks?

Probably a reference to the other type of hammock.
"

TIL. Thanks.
posted by Splunge at 5:38 PM on February 4, 2016


I've lusted after Riggs home/location since the first time I saw the movie.
posted by Mitheral at 5:40 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Probably the only property in Silicon Valley I could possibly afford to buy would be in a trailer park.

There's a double-wide for $280K that looks alright.
posted by aramaic at 5:44 PM on February 4, 2016


I'd 100% live in a narrowboat or barge, aka "the mobile homes of the waves."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:49 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's that at all, jpe. Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK And yet when we watch coverage of tornado damage it always seems like they get hit (I know that this is just luck of the draw).

Not only are mobile homes usually less well constructed than traditional houses of the same age, but mobile homeparks and individual mobile homes are often sited on marginal land that is most at risk from natural disasters.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [4 favorites]


My partner and I were seriously considering living in a trailer for a while, and it's still sort of on the back burner. I grew up in a somewhat rural area with a lot of trailers and small houses, and for me it's really homey and comfortable. The problem is always finding work and sustaining yourself, because those pretty, quiet rural areas don't tend to have a lot in the way of jobs.

I think my current pipe dream is to be able to work remotely and live in a trailer near some woods. The sad thing is that the way housing is going that dream is probably about as realistic as owning a mansion somewhere, but oh well, I can still dream.
posted by teponaztli at 5:59 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I mean, that's also sort of depressing, to think that your fantasy about living in a trailer somewhere is unrealistic. What an age we live in.
posted by teponaztli at 6:00 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


Am I the only Mefite who actually lives in a trailer park? AKA: Manufactured home? I have a double wide (24 X 48 foot) three bedroom/two bathroom/washer/dryer/dishwasher etc on a corner lot. I live in NJ; my lot rent includes water, sewer, snow, and garbage removal. I will be paid off in less than 9 years (19 year mortgage). It's the most room I can afford in NJ, to be honest. And it really is a great park - sidewalks, a playground, quiet even at night (even with lots of kids here).

As for construction: they are made quite similarly to Modular Homes, and they withstand the traveling at high speeds along the highways to be delivered to their sites with no damage. When Hurricane Sandy hit, it was only a much, much older trailer that had part of their roof peeled off (but only the shingles, not the actual roofing).

I like the space yet closeness of neighbors, an easy to maintain home, and affordability. I have no problems living here, and have raised my kids here.
posted by annieb at 6:04 PM on February 4, 2016 [33 favorites]


I grew up in a single-wide in a small, tidy trailer park in Decatur, Georgia (there's a car dealership there now). I've also done time in a "fancy" double-wide on private land, and for a brief period of time, my parents lived in an Airstream at a campground. I love finding trailer parks in unexpected places. When I was in grad school at UT-Austin, the school owned a trailer park that was campus housing. There is one not far from me now, right behind Dulles Airport, that charges over $1000 lot rent. Close to airport, commuting distance to DC - it's rare affordable housing in a desirable location.
posted by candyland at 6:10 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Annieb it sounds like you have a nice arrangement but I have a question. Do you worry at all about not controlling the land you sit on? I ask because I have read of more than one mobile home park that was nice and stable being liquidated for development. It seems to me that this is the fatal flaw in mobile home parks.
posted by Pembquist at 6:11 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I ask because I have read of more than one mobile home park that was nice and stable being liquidated for development. It seems to me that this is the fatal flaw in mobile home parks.
Yeah, that sucks. But I think that you have to realize that for a lot of people who live in trailer parks, the alternative is renting, not buying a different kind of house. So that instability is going to be a fact of life no matter what.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pembquist, I don't worry (and thank you for asking) because my particular park has been around for more than 30 years (they are good about replacing old trailers with new as they old ones become available). To the left of us we have a McMansion development (seriously!) To the right we have a development of Colonial homes (in the $300,000 to $400,000 range. Across the street they began a development but cannot sell the lots. Our owner also owns other parks in the state, and there have been no changes.

I did see an older park sold after Hurricane Sandy decimated the trailers (all old, single wides). None of the homes were able to be saved; the land will now become condos. Same with another old, privately owned trailer park on a very busy commerce/retail business route - gone. But, knock wood, we'll be here for years, yet. (Plus, in my town, there are four or five trailer parks, from REALLY trailer trash parks to very nice age restricted communities..they are welcome here).
posted by annieb at 6:20 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


There have been previous FPPs about the economics of trailer parks. Managed correctly, they are a very profitable (and dense) use of land, so it isn't a given that a given court would be sold for development even as land prices rise.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:31 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


> Try living in an RV in San Francisco. You won't get much closer than Antioch.

RVs are not mobile homes, and there are usually a bunch parked on Division, and at least on weekends, in Designer Gulch (on DeHaro, Alameda, etc.). I used to see them in Dogpatch, too, but now that neighborhood's getting all fancified so probably not so much. It's not a fun way to live in the city, but it probably beats living in a tent next to a freeway on-ramp.
posted by rtha at 6:32 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've lusted after Riggs home/location since the first time I saw the movie.


Does anyone know where that location actually is ? I always wondered if it was a realistic commute to work in LA or just movie rubbish displaced pretend commute.
posted by Brockles at 6:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Paradise Cove in Malibu is a trailer park inhabited by actors Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Matthew McConaughey, where homes fetch up to $2.5m and come with marble floors.

Matthew McConaughey is exactly the sort of guy who wouldn't quit living in a trailer just because he struck it rich. He'd just upgrade to a really ritzy trailer. The fanciest Dijon ketchups! Alright, alright, alright!
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:17 PM on February 4, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've rented a few mobile homes, but never in a trailer park. All were spacious and modern if not exactly well insulated. Pipes freezing in sub-zero temperatures was a problem in one. But it's a way for the owner to grow equity in the value of the land, not so much the mobile home, which is why my oldest sister and her family bought several acres in the mountains and a double wide mobile home instead of building a frame house- the land is worth quite a bit more than when they bought. As for a trailer park, I get why some people prefer it, but it's too close together for me, and the equity value for an owner isn't as worthwhile as owning a cheap acre with utilities.
posted by krinklyfig at 7:25 PM on February 4, 2016


I lived with my (now ex) husband in an RV for about 8 months. It was an experience, and if our marriage hadn't failed we might still be living in it (for all I know, he still is). The campground we lived in was very peaceful, especially during the week because most people used their RVs as weekend vacation homes. The plan was to get remote or contract jobs and travel around. Obviously that didn't work (see above about failed marriage) but it's something I could see myself doing on my own. It was very freeing not to have so much stuff and to be able to pick up and go on a whim.
posted by desjardins at 7:39 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


oh - building off of krinklyfig's comment, the reason that most trailer homes are in the south has to be mostly because of the weather. We wintered over in the RV in Wisconsin and holy god was it miserable. I imagine mobile homes are better but probably not by that much.
posted by desjardins at 7:41 PM on February 4, 2016


My sister and bil retired here fifteen years ago.

I have never seen a genuinely more content demographic.
posted by notreally at 7:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes. They are trailers masquerading as houses.
posted by notreally at 7:57 PM on February 4, 2016


Since we had a recent Stephen King thread, I'll mention that, in 'Salem's Lot, there's a bit where the crooked realtor is thinking about the nice profitability of trailers and trailer courts. King, who wrote Carrie in the tiny alcove in their double-wide that served as a laundry room, no doubt was speaking from experience.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:02 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've lusted after Riggs home/location since the first time I saw the movie.

Does anyone know where that location actually is ? I always wondered if it was a realistic commute to work in LA or just movie rubbish displaced pretend commute.


Each movie appears to be in a different place. The first movie looks like El Segundo, near the airport. Two looks like Palos Verdes. Three looks like San Pedro. Four looks like Zuma.

Edit: Holy shit, I was nearly right on.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:09 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


As well, Martin Riggs lived in a travel trailer on a beach along the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles. Less brilliant and more crazy.

That is pretty much the definition of Malibu.
posted by dame at 8:15 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


This thread's given me the Double Wide Blues.
posted by oluckyman at 8:20 PM on February 4, 2016


The homes don't look like trailers in the conventional sense

As an American, I do not understand what they are talking about here. The closest picture to this quote was of a row things that are quite obviously trailer homes, at least to my eye.


As a NZ/Australian (and I have lived in England too), I have literally never seen anything like that photo that wasn't actual non-mobile houses. My concept of a "trailer" is this (and I didn't know until Google Images said "do you mean utility trailer?" that anyone used a more specific term for them.) My concept of a caravan is this. When I had heard about trailer parks in the USA, I had always imagined a park like the latter, and when I heard that people lived in really big ones with multiple rooms, I imagined them to look like the caravans in those images, just blown up to two or three times the size.

When I first learned that Americans call "caravans" "trailers", that didn't conjure up more house-like images to me, but rather less house-like, because I started imagining something somewhere between the caravans pictured above, and the "utility trailers" that we call "trailers". Like, maybe something with a less permanent roof, like tarps over a huge (utility) trailer.

Reading this article, I realise I was being kind of dumb, but I can't be the only one, and I think the BBC is playing to my demographic.
posted by lollusc at 8:31 PM on February 4, 2016 [7 favorites]


from article: "South Carolina is not among the 10 poorest by income, but there are eight states, all southern, that appear in both lists."

Looking at this, one of those states is New Mexico. That's... sort of geographically correct, I guess. It feels a bit like the cultural difference between "trailer" and "trailer home" to me, though.
posted by koeselitz at 9:11 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


From the Seattle Times: The mobile-home trap: How a Warren Buffett empire preys on the poor

Billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffett controls a mobile-home empire that promises low-income borrowers affordable houses. But all too often, it traps those owners in high-interest loans and rapidly depreciating homes.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:20 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


My parents lived in a trailer park in Scottsdale AZ for many years after they retired. Tons of retirees do, especially the snowbirds fleeing the frozen north. Just fly over Phoenix and you can spot dozens of those communities. It's affordable, not much upkeep, and they're part of a community of retirees (and kids and grandkids who fly in to escape winter for a week).

In rural America, especially small towns, trailer homes are everywhere. Partly its the lower standard of living, lack of apartments, and again, cheap land. Stuck in a dead end job in a small town and you don't have the wherewithal to buy a house, you probably can scrape together enough to get a trailer house.
posted by Ber at 9:23 PM on February 4, 2016


Trailer parks don't attract tornadoes; they attract news camera crews. Any time a tornado touches down, the local news crews are drawn to trailer parks like flies to a picnic.
 
posted by Herodios at 9:30 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


Those don't look anything like what someone in the UK would call "trailers". For starters, we'd say "caravan" and it would look more like this:

My concept of a "trailer" is this (and I didn't know until Google Images said "do you mean utility trailer?" that anyone used a more specific term for them.) My concept of a caravan is this.

I’ll take a shot at it. Lots of things are called "trailers" in the States, it’s a bit catch all, a bit slang.

Mobile home = trailer
The thing that semi trucks tow = trailer
Camper = caravan (still makes me chuckle) = trailer
Motorcycle trailer, work trailer, utility trailer, boat trailer, etc.

Calling something a "trailer" is like calling something a "vehicle" (but less formal instead of more formal)

Basically anything that’s pulled behind is going to be called a trailer, it’s all context specific. If I said "I’m going to buy a trailer" people would have no idea what I meant. You only use "trailer" when the exact type is known from context. You’d say "I just bought a camper" (or "camper trailer" if you wanted to be specific) when you’re telling your friends, but you’d probably say "I’m going to unhook the trailer" when you’re actually dealing with it. You’d say "I’m going to live in a mobile home" or "I’m going to live in a camper" to explain to someone, but you might just call it a trailer after they knew.

Or something like that. I honestly never thought about it before.
posted by bongo_x at 9:31 PM on February 4, 2016 [9 favorites]


Another big thing is that people often want to buy a large piece of land, or a specific piece of land, but they can’t afford the land and a big house. Many people will put a mobile home on it to live and save to build a house later, if ever. The land is more important to their lifestyle than the house. This is pretty common in the southwest.
posted by bongo_x at 9:36 PM on February 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


Why? For the same reason Brits cram six adults into a two bedroom house. Economics.

Although with trailers, there's enough left over to park a monster truck and a bass boat out front.
posted by 3.2.3 at 9:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


A double wide can be the only practical way to put a house on land in the rural west of the US. Land can be had for around $1,000 an acre, but that land might be an hour or mores drive from where the nearest carpenters, plumbers and roofers live. So it is far too expensive to build a house from scratch out there, and you are forced to just bring in the mobile home.

Anyway, all of the double wides I've been invited into have been very comfortable inside.
posted by monotreme at 9:42 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


For Michael Breeden, 27, picking a mobile rather than fixed home a year ago was all about freedom. "I know I could have got a [foreclosed] house if I wanted to but we can move this to where we want and if [house-owners] want to move they're stuck."

For my entire adult life, I've lived in tenement apartments in expensive cities. There, you're paying for the land and the locale. The building itself is almost an afterthought.

The idea of buying the "building", with the option to move it to a different place... that is so far outside my ken, I can't hardly imagine. Really, just the idea that the building could have value irrespective of the land, and that value being great enough that it'd be worth the hassle of moving it....

I imagine somebody trying to relocate my crumbling late-19th century South Brooklyn tenement to a hilltop in West Virginia somewhere. Might as well bring some rats. A home is not a home without some genuine NYC rattus norvegicus.
posted by panama joe at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Trailer parks just aren't something you see in the UK

It depends on where you look, and how hard you try. There are many Travellers of varous ethnicities distributed within the UK--some in mobile homes, some in more permanent campsites, others in housing--that would disagree with this statement. And with the new influx of refugees, I expect the number to grow.
posted by meehawl at 9:45 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


And with the new influx of refugees, I expect the number to grow.

That is an odd representation of the UK situation. Trailer and mobile home parks in the US (and RV parks) are rife - there are hardly any in the UK at all by comparison. The idea that Traveller parks and campgrounds are even (being generous) an order of magnitude smaller by comparison is far off the mark. Compared to the US concept, there really is no comparable market in the UK. There are Holiday Home trailer parks, but not any significant mass of long term living parks.
posted by Brockles at 9:55 PM on February 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


So ignoring that the pieces are usually delivered *on* a full trailer rather than being trailed themselves, and that people hardly ever move them again, it sounds like the kind of houses a lot of scandinavians live in could qualify as quad-to-I-dunno-octuple-wide mobile homes? :-)

For example, here are some finnish guys building a sextuple-wide in a snowstorm (main build between 1:00-2:30, the rest of the video is styling. not entirely sure what they're doing at 3:15-3.30). I grew up in one of those myself.
posted by effbot at 11:08 PM on February 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


The first time I can remember my mind being blown was at the age of five when I watched our neighbor's trailer being hitched up to a truck and driven away. Our trailer had skirting around the bottom, and I'd never realized that I was living in a house with wheels. I had to come to grips with the impermanence of life at an early age.
posted by Knappster at 11:33 PM on February 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


Part of it has got to be the climate (do you get the same preponderance of trailer parks in the northern states?) and the fact that building codes in parts of the US are so lax that permanent homes aren't that much sturdier. My parents own a wooden summer house in Denmark, and it has non-load-bearing interior walls that are sturdier than exterior walls in many US houses.
posted by Dysk at 2:48 AM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I lived in a double wide with a friend for a couple years. It was situated on a bit of land in the country with a gorgeous creek in the backyard, and surrounded by hills. We would sit on the porch in summer and watch thousands of fireflies in the meadow across the street. I'd move back there in a heartbeat.
posted by triage_lazarus at 3:13 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


Trailer parks don't attract tornadoes; they attract news camera crews. Any time a tornado touches down, the local news crews are drawn to trailer parks like flies to a picnic.

Ugh I dreamed tornadoes blew my suburb away last night. (We've had a coupl small ones in the neighborhood this week.)

The city I grew up in expanded past its seams many times; the latest iteration was trailer parks at its wind swept edges. Easy to throw a park together after laying utilities, but hello, wind-swept. They got a lot of damage from "dust devils" and other violent desert wind events.

That said, when I was fixing to move in Florida, the one thing in my budget was a single wide in Boca Raton for $90k, 30 years old. T
posted by tilde at 3:19 AM on February 5, 2016


Why? For the same reason Brits cram six adults into a two bedroom house. Economics.

You might have the UK confused with Hong Kong or somewhere here. Four adults would be within norms. Six, while no doubt it is the case somewhere, is no more normal than permanent caravan residence is.
posted by Dysk at 3:19 AM on February 5, 2016


Paradise Cove in Malibu is a trailer park inhabited by actors Pamela Anderson, Minnie Driver and Matthew McConaughey, where homes fetch up to $2.5m and come with marble floors.

I read this and went down a rabbithole. Paradise Cove started off as a place where fishermen would park their trailers and campers. Now some of the mobile" homes in this community have been on the market for as much as $4 million. I must say, the views are amazing.
posted by missmerrymack at 4:23 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why? For the same reason Brits cram six adults into a two bedroom house. Economics.

Like Dysk says, six adults in a two bedroom sounds unusual, but I agree with the basic economic argument. From the article:

Plus there's a policy issue, he says - limited housing options in the US for low income people. The threshold at which they're eligible for subsidised housing is much higher than in European countries so people that might live in a council house in the UK don't have that opportunity here.

The western European countries have had many decades of robust social housing policies, so that a comparatively large percent of their populations live in subsidized or otherwise "public" housing. That has never been the case in the US, and even less so now than in the past. For many decades now trailers have been the work-around to building and zoning codes -- almost everywhere, those codes mandate minimum construction standards, sizes, and so on for site-built houses and apartments that effectively put a floor on building prices as well as limit developable land.

It just isn't possible to build a legal house or apartment building for less than a certain amount per square foot, but that cost is still above the budget of many millions of Americans. Mobile homes are less stringently regulated, so they are the housing of choice for people priced out of the regular housing market everywhere except a few dense cities and places where there is a stock of tenement apartments. There's an upper end to that, with the retirement communities mentioned above in the sunbelt, and the lower end is familiar from stereotypes and the photos in the last part of the article.

There is a distinction between mobile homes (that are at least theoretically meant to be moved) and manufactured houses (that are made in a factory and trucked in pieces, but that are installed on an immovable foundation), and local regulations categorize these things in a variety of different ways. For example, it is almost always legal to park a travel trailer or RV (or tiny home on wheels) in your driveway, but usually not legal to have someone living in it, though that is starting to change in some places as described above.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:30 AM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised no one has mentioned manufactured housing cooperatives. As has been mentioned earlier, while trailers provide a relatively inexpensive route to homeownership, pad rent can suck up much of the savings.
New Hampshire has pioneered a policy which gives tenants a subsidized right to purchase the park where their homes are located. Some of the state's expertise has been shared with a national network (though most other states lack the legal leverage).
posted by Octaviuz at 5:02 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


My retirement plan for years has been a trailer in my nephew's back yard. I haven't told him yet, though.
posted by JanetLand at 5:43 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I haven't told him yet, though.

Please don't ever tell him. Just show up. Then, when he says "what are you doing in my yard?" just raise an eyebrow and calmly say "I have no idea what you're talking about".

Please. I beg you.
posted by aramaic at 6:35 AM on February 5, 2016 [10 favorites]


The way school funding works around here, by the time the school is built it's not big enough and they always have to add a pool of "temporary" classrooms that are basically mobile homes turned into classrooms. They keep them forever and then replace them.

We looked at mobile homes here in TX but they were either dire or no less expensive than an apartment. But then we wanted to be in commuting distance of town.

My grandma lived in a trailer park, but it was a little shabby, and too close to the highway. I have never seen one I'd want to live in.

I have seen nice, brand-new mobile homes on people's properties, but even they seem flimsy, with a hollow, echoey sound when you walk on the floors and lots of aluminum and plastic. It doesn't feel homey to me. It feels like one good wind would send the whole thing tumbling.

I think you could definitely build solid, safe modular homes, but I think they'd have to be better than most doublewides out there.
posted by emjaybee at 7:15 AM on February 5, 2016


I'm four years away from a retirement plan that includes a small plot of land with a barndominium as a home base, a full-time quality fiver and a Volvo 780 tractor. So much America to see!
posted by Standeck at 7:50 AM on February 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


In Dennisport, MA, the town finally managed to evict a seaside trailer park and replace it with a cluster of houses and/or townhomes that are more densely packed together than the ones in densely populated cities. Also, uglier. I assume the town is now eyeing the tiny little cottages that have been there since the middle of last century, too. MOAR LUXURY MANSIONS.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:23 AM on February 5, 2016


A lot of the tiny houses have been built in various locations in Sonoma County. The county is going to try a trial run of setting up a little village of them on some empty county property as housing for homeless.
posted by ericales at 8:27 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


We're not in a Depression, and the Great Recession is done, but there are still a lot of people who can't afford housing. Some of them are living in a trailer parked at a family member's, some of them are living a mobile life, parking wherever they can, catching a shower at the gym, cleaning up at McDonalds, just trying to keep it all together. Some people find that living in a van or camper is an interesting way to live, but sometimes it's just another version of poverty. It's a huge sign of the inequality in the US.
posted by theora55 at 8:30 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


also, way too many people think it's okay to ignore sanitation requirements. Of all the things building codes regulate, making sure that you don't pollute the water, mine or yours, and have decent toilet facilities, is really great.
posted by theora55 at 8:33 AM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


My idea of the typical mobile home dweller is that they are white, which is why I never considered them as something for me. (Also, I was raised solidly middle class and only ever saw trailer parks on tv). For anyone who knows, is that generally true?
posted by honey badger at 8:48 AM on February 5, 2016


But now I'm thinking about cashing in the house, buying something nice and buying a nice plot of land near a rushing river.
posted by honey badger at 8:49 AM on February 5, 2016


Mobile homes, even double and triple wides, are treated legally as cars in many states. Ownership of mobile home in a park is almost separated from the ownership of the land. This makes their investment, ownership and tax characteristics different in some valued respects.
posted by MattD at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2016


This House Costs Just $20,000—But It's Nicer Than Yours (And it'll be killed by NIMBYism?)* - "The Rural Studio's 20K House is so cheap and has such innovative design that it's changing the entire housing system—from mortgages to zoning laws."
posted by kliuless at 9:16 AM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


...I have read of more than one mobile home park that was nice and stable being liquidated for development. It seems to me that this is the fatal flaw in mobile home parks.

That isn't peculiar to trailer parks. It is potentially a problem for any type of affordable housing. If the area becomes more desirable for any reason at all, either your rent goes up or the owner tears it down and builds something more upscale or sells it to someone else who wants to do exactly that.

In my twenties, I lived in a trailer for about 6-7 months. Well, in reality, it was such a dreadful experience that I left and visited relatives with the kids for about six weeks just to get the hell out of there. That and other Reasons means I probably spent only 4.5 months actually physically staying there. We got back from our 6 week visit and the place was full of spiders and wasps and other creepy crawlers. My oldest was four at the time. He forevermore called it "The Bug House".

Anyway, suffice it to say I have Baggage. It has been interesting to read the many different takes in this discussion.
posted by Michele in California at 11:23 AM on February 5, 2016


Note that the $20K house actually cost $67,650. The name comes from the cost of the original project house 20 years ago. And it is smaller than most park model single wides.
posted by Mitheral at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2016


I spent years in an Airstream with a 20 ft. hull, cheap heating and cooling, cleaning took about 30 min. The darkroom, deepfreeze, off season closet and tools lived in a utility trailer outback. The only thing I don't like is the tiny oven. I've got a new spot picked out for it, soon.
posted by ridgerunner at 12:05 PM on February 5, 2016


Note that the $20K house actually cost $67,650. The name comes from the cost of the original project house 20 years ago. And it is smaller than most park model single wides.

where did it say that? i just saw the article so i have no idea really, but i applaud the vision and effort at least :P speaking of 'affordable' housing -- back to Michele in California's ideas about reframing! -- i found this interesting:
Housing represents the largest share of consumer expenditures in BLS data. The BLS breaks it down into multiple categories, including shelter, utilities, household operations, supplies, and furnishings. Of these, no surprise, shelter is the biggest expense, representing 19.6 percent of consumer expenditures in 2014. Among the lowest income quintile, the expense share is even higher: 24.8 percent.

Part of the cost of shelter is the land, and part is the cost of the building. Putting aside, at least for purposes of this article, fanciful schemes to create more land, the amount of land available is approximately fixed. This means that there are three ways to reduce the cost of shelter: 1) build more densely (i.e., share expensive land between more households), 2) reduce the cost of construction, and 3) make currently cheap and underutilized land more accessible and useful.

The first, building more densely, is certainly worthwhile, but it is more of a political problem than a technological one. Cities should reduce zoning and height restrictions and eliminate ordinances, such as parking minimums that discourage density. Replacing existing municipal taxes with a land value tax would be helpful in encouraging better and denser use of land.

One not-entirely-political way to increase density might be to experiment with new housing modalities. For instance, what if we had urban dorms for 18–25 year olds who were not currently enrolled in college? That might be cheaper and denser than expecting new high school graduates to get their own full apartment.

The other two approaches to reducing the cost of housing lend themselves more to technological innovation. There has been substantial interest in pre-fab construction in recent years. The technology seems to be able to reduce construction costs by around 20–30 percent. And because pre-fab construction takes less time than traditional construction, it reduces some of the inconveniences that fuel NIMBYism.
posted by kliuless at 12:12 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


And this all ties in nicely to the form of anarchism that is the cornerstone of my controversial political theory: Neo Space Marxism for which this thread is not the appropriate place to discuss (but someday there will be an fpp that will need the full NSM experience. Or so I tell myself.)
posted by bfootdav at 5:14 PM on February 4 [3 favorites −] [!]


There is only one real choice this election: space communism.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:26 PM on February 5, 2016


There was a discussion of costs in the comments on the linked article including a link to another article summing up the costs.

It might be possible to build houses for $20K with most or all volunteer labour and minus land, utility connections, planning, architectural design, and development cost charges. They might even be better than trailers. But crank out a few dozen homes for that price before touting them as 20K homes.
posted by Mitheral at 12:28 PM on February 5, 2016


"For instance, what if we had urban dorms for 18–25 year olds who were not currently enrolled in college? "

I've always thought if I lived in New York City I'd open a restaurant called "BOARD" where you would buy a subscription for X nights per week and then you'd come to my 6 p.m. seating or my 8 p.m. seating and serve yourself family-style from the absurdly large spaghetti and lasagna and whatnot that's easy to do home-style in bulk, at long wooden tables (the boards!) on long wooden benches where you sit with 50 other young people who don't want to have to cook five nights a week or pay restaurant prices five nights a week. No ordering, no preferences, just home-cooked food like your mom used to make your you can get a sunbutter-and-jelly sandwich from the fridge. Eaters take home leftovers so I don't have to deal with them.

Not only would it be absurdly popular but it'd be responsible for at least five marriages a year.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:35 PM on February 5, 2016 [11 favorites]


> One thing not addressed in the article is that mobile homes are one way for relatively poor people to build a little bit of equity.

I would suggest that anything with an axel should be considered a depreciating asset.

For the buyer, a $700 per month housing expense (300 lot rent, 200 utilities, 200 on the trailer note) is generally going to be manageable, especially if you get a roommate to pay $300 per month.

My mortgage is less than that. Ok, not really, but damn close. Sure, at $200 a moth that $15,000 will be paid in 7 years, and I will be paying for 15, but that trailer will be next to unsellable after 7 years when mine will have appreciated.

Generally, a person would be way ahead just renting an apartment or house and saving to own if possible. I can't think of really any situation where trailer living is desirable. This is the reason why most people living there have no other choices.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:43 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've always thought if I lived in New York City I'd open a restaurant called "BOARD" ...

Call it "disrupting the restaurant industry" and you'll have $25M in angel funding by the end of the month.
posted by Etrigan at 12:45 PM on February 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


And this all ties in nicely to the form of anarchism that is the cornerstone of my controversial political theory: Neo Space Marxism for which this thread is not the appropriate place to discuss (but someday there will be an fpp that will need the full NSM experience. Or so I tell myself.)

those would be the expanse threads on fanfare :P re: belters!
posted by kliuless at 1:01 PM on February 5, 2016


After the no-money-for-retirement nightmare thread, I've had a small (and potentially comic-tragic) fantasy. I was already planning on buying 30-40 acres where I am as a personal / family / dog nature reserve. A place with a creek, woods, a pond, and hopefully a huge snapping turtle or two. But after that thread, I've had this thought that wouldn't go away of offering a place where any interested mefites could put down a small or tiny house on a half-acre each. Offering the land up at cost. Create a little island of blueness in this very red area. Though community meetings might devolve into a real-life version of the old metatalk and everything goes tits up with flameouts.

Just an idle thought because I don't think many would want to move out to a place with more cows and coyotes than people. But the thought of a Metafilter tiny-house / trailer park community is kinda fun. And scary.
posted by honestcoyote at 1:09 PM on February 5, 2016 [5 favorites]


oh hey, new FPP on the '20K' house fwiw...
posted by kliuless at 1:32 PM on February 5, 2016


I think we've discussed "let's form a Metafilter commune!" a few times 'round here.

Eyebrows, I like your idea. I always thought I'd open a chain in New York called "PitStop" that was nothing but bathrooms. Really nice ones, lots of them, fairly cheap to use, security on site to cut down on shenanigans.

We could maybe sell candy and sodas too, but mostly: here is a clean place to relieve yourself, change a baby diaper, and feel like a human again for a small fee.
posted by emjaybee at 1:33 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I always thought I'd open a chain in New York called "PitStop" that was nothing but bathrooms.

Please include showers. There are too few showers in the U.S. that aren't either in a home or require you to rent a room for the entire night to access them. Even truckers have trouble getting showers. Some places do not have enough truck stops with shower facilities.
posted by Michele in California at 1:54 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a couple of friends who live in a mobile home park in Mountain View that's quite nice. It's only a mobile home park in the most technical sense, as it's all double wide manufactured homes that I doubt could really be moved anywhere except to be demolished. In the crazy-rent land of Silicon Valley, it's actually a not bad choice. Mortgage and pad rent for a 2 bedroom house is less than a 2 bedroom apartment with less space, and they get a bit of yard space. It's family run and well kept up. I've occasionally been tempted myself.

However, there are investment groups that have discovered money to be extracted. They buy up parks and start jacking the rent. Most of the residents can't afford the thousands of dollars up front to move somewhere else, even if there is somewhere else to move that isn't doing the same. So they hang on, paying more and more money, until they can't anymore and they are kicked out, with the home itself going to the bank or the park owner for back rent.
posted by tavella at 1:59 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've lived in a singlewide for at least 30 years. It's affordable. The current one is my second trailer. The first began its tenure in a nice little park in Cary, NC, before the place was taken over by the RTP population boom. The trailer was moved to a wonderful ten acres of rented land outside of Apex NC and stayed there for many years till the owner decided to install a McMansionville. I had obtained my architectural degree by then on the pay-as-you-go plan, so we were able to move and not impact my schooling.

We finally had enough saved to get a land loan and got a place closer to our aging Moms and moved the trailer. Except the licensed, bonded, insured mover managed to destroy it during the move and his insurance agent wouldn't pay out "because the tractor/truck wasn't on the policy". Now we had land but no home. Funny how that turned us into homeless folks. My husband lived in the office of his small business during the week. I lived in a room at my Mom's during the week to be close to my job. During weekends we were at one or other. Then my hubby developed lymphoma and didn't survive.

Ten years from then, I'm finally in another singlewide on our property. It's affordable, and if I ever get to retire, I'll be able to sell the land and trailer for enough to be able to buy an RV and finally travel.

So, here's what I know about trailers:
1. Insulation isn't great. Everything is cheaply made and interior finishes and cabinets don't hold up. But if you're handy, all of that can be fixed if you have time and inclination.
2. The home is titled as if it is any other trailer (think boat trailer) but it doesn't have a highway use plate.
3. Taxes on the trailer are (in my State) paid yearly just like any trailer.
4. Not all insurance companies cover trailers.
5. Maintenance is similar to regular housing.
6. Used trailers in good shape that are 15 yrs old or less sell for a "decent" amount; older ones rapidly depreciate and eventually cannot get insurane coverage.

Parks vs. personal land:
1. Our original park was nice and the manager lived in a trailer on site. From visiting others in parks, I find this to be an ideal situation.
2. When you have your own property, there are many more of the standard home ownership things to deal with.
3. Not all municipalities allow trailers because, Reasons.
4. Parks do up rents; of course. Utilities up fees and property taxes increase.

Difference between trailers/modular/RV; definitions:

Tratler=mobile home. (The P.C. term is mobile home or manufactured home)
Can be in multiple sections which are on a frame and axles. Is designed for pulling behind a big tractor truck and installed on site. Is single story high. Has thin interior walls. Most codes now require them to be "tied down" with large ground anchors. Multiple segmented trailers are fastened together onsite per codes/manufacturer recommendations.

Modular homes.
Pre-fab house or segments. Usually arrives on a trailer and is installed via cranes. Some of the beach codos you see are actually done this way. Can be multi story. More municipalities allow modular than allow mobile homes; not all do allow modulars. Modular is not designed to be moved once installed. More options in configurations are available and they blend nicely with "stick-built" homes. Are made of very ordinary types of interior construction.

RV=travel trailer.
Titled by department of motor vehicles. Can be pulled behind or motorized. Municipalities restrict locations where they are allowed. Sometimes RV parks are allowed and are similar to trailer parks. They aren't designed to be permanently installed, and often places do not allow underpinning (closing in the underside.) They are designed for frequent moves.

I'm no expert, but have experience with all three types of residences. Our trailers have been an affordable way for us to live, but it's not for everyone.
posted by mightshould at 2:44 PM on February 5, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've always thought if I lived in New York City I'd open a restaurant called "BOARD"

Add on-site washers and dryers, a dimly lit rec room with a pool table and a ping-pong table and ugly couches and a bookshelf of ratty paperbacks and unread hardcover pop-history books, and you'd have the post-college demographic sewn up. Maybe, for a small extra fee, you could have friendly middle-aged people on hand to ask the customers when they're getting married, or when they intend to grow up and get a real job.
posted by Daily Alice at 3:19 PM on February 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've lusted after Riggs home/location since the first time I saw the movie.

Does anyone know where that location actually is ? I always wondered if it was a realistic commute to work in LA or just movie rubbish displaced pretend commute.


I can tell you where Riggs mobile was located. It is on the south end of Zuma Beach, a county run public park in Los Angeles County

Mithral you can keep on lusting for a long time, you'll never get to live there. Console yourself with the knowledge that no one else will either.
Brockles it is a movie rubbish work commute. It is easily 90 minutes to 2 plus hours depending on traffic to downtown LA. Of course Sunday morning commute would be a flash.
It is a very popular filming location. Everything from students, indies, small films through commercials, TV and features gets shot there. In fact this reminds me I wanted to post a mefi question as to what location is the most used in the US.
posted by Jim_Jam at 9:56 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'll weigh in on living in a mobile. I have lived in four.

I was looking to buy a home in the run up to the housing peak in the early oughts. In Los Angeles. Houses and Condos were beyond my budget. So I found listings for 100,000 to mid 100,000 mobiles in neighborhoods that were decent. I was stunned to find that the space rents miles from water were $1,000 or more. Combine that with the higher interest rates and the prices pretty much matched the houses and condos. Within a year I watched a public auction on the sidewalk drive a rundown 1400 sq ft HUD house with illegal apt addition (out of the garage) shoot solidly over $500,000. I backed away from that freight train.

At the end of that decade I retired. I was ready to look for a home again at a time when the market was on a downturn. I went back to San Diego County and began looking around. I had a limited budget of course but I was concerned about how far down the market would go. This made my search a long and difficult one. I did not want to continue living as I a had done through my professional career in an apartment. I quickly learned that SD was not as affordable as it had been for my lower middle class parents retiring in the 70s. My low six figures budget was not adequate to buy the quality home I wanted. I am not talking McMansion dreams here. Just a decent 2 or 3 bedroom house. I also couldn't afford the rents for the decent apartments in SD. There were double wide mobiles in parks near the beach in the low 100s and up. But the space rents were $1200.

I moved my search into the IE. I rented a 70s double wide for less than 1K. Within 4 months I rented a smaller older double wide for even less than the less than 1K. I was lucky to save a few hundred a month toward my home purchase. The mobiles were not well insulated and either chilled down on cold nights or in the hot summers heated up like an oven. The kitchens were small and awkward and the car port parking was almost as cramped as my grandfathers single car garage built before the middle of the last century. That said, the community, a resident owned retirement HOA was clean and loaded with amenities and activities.

I wanted my American dream of a house, a comfy place with a dining room and a garage for my toys and tools. I had commitments that kept me from leaping right into a purchase. I looked at a lot of houses. Stick built, traditional mobiles with the aluminum siding and manufactured homes. I tiptoed around a few and watched them go. I made a couple of offers that didn't work out.

Then one day I walked into my new home. It has vaulted ceilings, an incredible kitchen, a fireplace, tiled floors and a free standing two car garage. It is double insulated. It's pushing 2K sq ft. I has stucco exterior walls. It is a house. But if you go out behind it there is a metal plate on the wall where it was 'licensed' to be transported. You could call it a mobile. I call it a home. It is a manufactured home in a retirement community of mobiles from the 70s on, manufactured like mine and stick built houses on a golf course. I own the house and the land.

On the depreciating nature of mobiles. Mobiles in this area do appreciate. Especially when the lot is owned with the home. There is something to the value of land, but when housing prices rise, these rise too. This brings me to my fourth and first mobile. In the 70s when I was starting out, with the help of my folks I got a loan to buy a mobile in a rental park. In a semi country area at the far edge of the urban.... It was wood paneled and cramped. I remember my bed was shoved up against two walls and my closet was smaller than a motel closet. I would not have wanted to spend 30 years there. I sold it after a year to head off to school. For a profit (over purchase price excluding rent) during a time of interest rates in the high teens.
posted by Jim_Jam at 10:48 PM on February 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Jim_Jam: "Mithral you can keep on lusting for a long time, you'll never get to live there. "

No problem; I lusted after the location but California not so much.
posted by Mitheral at 1:09 AM on February 6, 2016


I believe it's due to poor water pressure in older multi-story terrace houses.

Yes, I understand that. It was a rhetorical joke meant to point out that the realities and minutiae of life vary from place to place. That's what makes it all so interesting. Making judgments of other cultures and places only from the perspective of your own experiences is small minded thinking. Fortunately, traveling, and an open mind are wonderful cures for this ailment.

Don't get me started on what Europeans think about the fact that we build using wood.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:33 AM on February 6, 2016


Don't get me started on what Europeans think about the fact that we build using wood.

We build with wood in a lot of Europe, particularly northern Europe. It's just how badly you build with wood...
posted by Dysk at 10:41 AM on February 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Generally, a person would be way ahead just renting an apartment or house and saving to own if possible. I can't think of really any situation where trailer living is desirable. This is the reason why most people living there have no other choices.

See, this angers me. Someone with the view that poor people are the only ones living in trailer parks. That we should get money together by renting a house or an apartment to save to buy our own houses. Economically, depending on where you live, it may be close to impossible. I pay less with my mortgage and lot rent than I could ever find in a small house/apartment in New Jersey. A two bedroom apartment around here goes for AT LEAST $1300 and that is usually in some "less desirable" towns, no pets allowed, one bathroom. To rent a two bedroom home is in the $2000 range. I pay $1200 a month for three bedrooms and two baths, in a quiet neighborhood, close to everything but not too close. To me, living in my manufactured home IS desirable, and I'd appreciate it if you didn't lump all "trailer" owners in one pit.
posted by annieb at 7:58 PM on February 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


See, this angers me

All you people living in the ~ 8,500,000 moble homes in the U. S. are just wrong. The machine for keeping you warm, dry, clean and fed should only come in two varieties and on wheels ain't one of them.

If its any consolation, my phone and favorite band sucks!
posted by ridgerunner at 9:47 PM on February 6, 2016


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