Mobile Home Communities

Essay by 26677 July 2009

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In the United States, about half of mobile home communities are found in rural areas, because either urban zoning excludes them or the rural zoning and housing codes are more lax. A mobile home community differs fundamentally from other communities of place (those distinguished by distinct geographic boundaries), because it is the private property of a landowner who runs it as a profit-making enterprise. As private property, community governance is not democratic; those who own the land or those who manage the park for the owner make and enforce the rules by which residents must live. Yet, despite these limitations, mobile home communities are a popular choice for those with modest means, because residents obtain a stand-alone house, albeit on rented land.

HISTORY OF MOBILE HOMES AND MOBILE HOME COMMUNITIESHistorians of mobile homes and mobile home communities consider both to be major housing innovations, as mechanisms for meeting the chronic national demand for affordable homeownership.

Originating in the early 1920s, trailers were considered tourist housing, and communities, termed "auto parks," were developed for a recreational clientele. Since the 1930s, however, trailer parks have carried the stigma of group housing for those down on their luck. The negative stereotypes that became associated with mobile homes and communities emerged because the federal government used them as temporary housing: for New Deal workers involved in large construction projects in the 1930s; for defense-plant workers during World War II; and for housing emergencies created by natural disasters. After World War II, trailer parks were thrown up near universities to house returning veterans taking advantage of their government-provided educational benefits. Such "tin-box" mobile communities were considered temporary, meant to fill a postwar vacuum for housing nationwide.

Between 1980 and 1990, the United States experienced a more than 50-percent increase in mobile home numbers, to...