Mobile homes provide satisfaction, drawbacks for rural Pennsylvania

January 4, 2010 |

A majority of Pennsylvania’s mobile home residents say they are overwhelmingly satisfied with their homes despite problems like construction quality, social stigma and financing associated with them, according to Penn State geographers.

“The fact that there are problems associated with living in a mobile home was not a surprise to us,” said Destiny Aman, graduate student in geography. “But, residents were overwhelmingly satisfied with their housing choice despite the problems, and that points to a real opportunity for housing policy to address issues and improve the quality of life for mobile home residents.”

Aman and Yarnal conducted their research in 12 rural counties in Pennsylvania. They published their findings today (January 4) in Applied Geography.

The primary benefit of living in a mobile home is the low cost of the dwelling, according to Aman and Yarnal. In a mail survey to mobile home residents in 12 counties, 48 percent of the respondents cited affordability as a benefit. Another 47 percent said the interior layout of the mobile contributed to their satisfaction. In all, 385 mobile home residents responded to the survey.

It is likely that other affordable housing opportunities do not exist for these residents, Aman says. About 78 percent of the households surveyed earn less than $50,000. These people live in rural areas lacking the diversity of affordable housing options found in cities, such as apartment complexes.

Residents, however, say there are challenges with mobile home living.

“The most common complaints from residents were about the quality and conditions of their homes,” Aman says. “They complained about cold floors, burst water pipes or specialty fixtures that cannot be purchased at hardware stores.”

They also cited insufficient space, high utility costs, lot rental fees and the social stigma of mobile home living as their primary dislikes.

Despite the challenges, Aman said mobile homes should be a component of affordable housing initiatives in rural Pennsylvania even though they are “largely ignored by policymakers attempting to solve affordable housing problems.”

“Mobile homes have become a very important part of the rural housing landscape,” Aman said. “By focusing on fixing something people are already largely happy with, you stand a better chance of crafting successful housing policy.”

For instance, Aman says state and federal agencies could offer incentives to encourage people to buy mobile homes and develop mobile home parks, in the same way existing programs do for urban apartment complexes.

In addition, policymakers could use affordable housing funds to encourage mobile home residents to buy newer models built for energy efficiency and durability, Aman says. Her research found that many people live in mobile homes that are 25 to 30 years old, but these old structures were not built to last that long.

By increasing the number of newer mobile homes in rural areas where there are not many housing options, Aman says, policymakers could efficiently address multiple housing issues for rural residents.

The Center for Rural Pennsylvania supported this work.

One Response to Mobile homes provide satisfaction, drawbacks for rural Pennsylvania

  1. MainFragger January 4, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    I have a friend who recently sold his mobile home.

    He left because they were raising his rent $100 a year, and he kept having problems with electric and phone service and were continually bounced back between the phone and electric companies for his problems because once the wiring went on camp grounds, they insisted the association was responsible, and of course, the association would point him back to the electric and phone cos.

    Often they would randomly site aspects of his house or shed would be out of code, after they’d been up for years.

    And when he finally tried to sell the place, they made him fix it up to the point of looking brand new…even though he already had a customer willing to buy it as used. Forcing him to renegotiate his price to with the customer after spending everything to fix it up.

    And on top of that, they’d list what he needs to do to fix the place up, he’d do it, and then they’d be unavailable to inspect it for weeks, and then when they checked it out would come up with 5 more things that need to be fixed. He later found out there were selling campers on their own, and they were just trying to hold him up so they could sell theirs..even though he told them he already had a customer. AND he was trying to get out in time in order to not have to pay another month’s rent, but they held him up enough that he couldn’t avoid it.

    Whenever they expected you to do a repair they’d give you till the end of that month, regardless of whether that was 30 days or 3 days away. But in the last two years he needed some repairs done by them, none of them ever got done.

    I guess what I am saying is that I’ve found out a lot of laws about associations governing communities that apply to houses and apartments, don’t apply to trailer parks. And many of the trailer park associations take full advantage of that to take advantage of their rentors..

    I would love to see whoever is in charge of that part of the law take another look at the way trailer park rentors/rentees are treated and make laws to protect them as well as some one who owns a house or an apartment.

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