Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 101

There’s Nothing “Greener” Than Mobile Home Parks

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While the nation debates the “Green New Deal” one housing option is already far ahead of the others when it comes to sustainability and low carbon footprint: the mobile home park. In this week’s Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast episode, we’re going to discuss the many ways that mobile home parks may just represent the best thing going in the U.S. on this front. Who would have thought that “trailer parks” would be on the cutting edge of modern political debate?

Episode Transcript

I drive about 100,000 miles per year looking at our mobile home parks. While I'm driving, I frequently turn on the news. And all I hear on the news over and over again is this big focus on things that are green. The Green New Deal, things that are greener, green forms of energy. I'd like to let everyone know there's nothing greener than mobile home parks. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. We're going to be talking all about how green mobile home parks really are.

First item is the homes are very small. Now typically a mobile home in a mobile home park is at or under about 1,000 square feet. But at the same time, the average size of a stick built home in America right now is 2,687 square feet. That means that most mobile homes are about two thirds smaller than a stick built home. Now tell me which is greener? Obviously the mobile home. When you have smaller footprint, less energy required to heat it, to cool it, to power it. At the same time, less money, less activities required to pay for it. Just based on size alone, mobile homes are definitely the greenest thing there is out there in the world of housing.

Number two. They're sustainable. That's the big catch word of everything regarding green today is sustainability. Mobile homes in mobile home parks are in fact the only form of non-subsidized affordable housing in the US. What does that mean? It means they don't require in subsidies to exist. Apartments are not sustainable when it comes to affordable housing. All those apartments on Section 8, those are situations where the American taxpayer is paying up to 80% of the rent for the resident of the apartment. When you have a subsidy situation, that's not truly sustainable. If you shut off the subsidies, they couldn't exist. If you watched on C-SPAN a couple years ago, Congress debated the affordable housing crisis in America. It was very apparent if you watched that. The Departments simply aren't the answer. Nothing that has to be supported with subsidies is in fact an answer.

It's just more part of the problem. When you build more apartments that require subsidies, you're just creating a great economic burden, and that can't go on forever. Mobile home lot rents in the US average about $280 per month which is infinitely affordable. And about 80% or more of all mobile homes are owned free and clear. That's why it's the sustainable type of housing.

Also, let's talk about how little mobile homes use in utilities. Again, because there's a small footprint, there is not much required in the ways of water and sewer and electricity. Many mobile home park residents spend collectively between water and sewer and electricity less than $100 a month. Compare that to that 2,687 square foot detached single family dwelling, it's running about three to four times that amount. Clearly, if we're all in agreement that conservation of utilities is a good thing, then mobile homes are definitely about the best you'll ever find on using the smallest amount of utilities.

Speaking of conservation, let's not forget that mobile home park owners are very much into conservation today. Most everyone in a mobile home park pays their own way, thanks to a lot of the park owners installing sub-meters in recent years using the European company called Metron, which allows the meters to be read every 20 minutes, and therefore to always be scientifically accurate. Now when you bill back water, sewer to residents, what you find right off the mark is that the use typically declines by roughly a third. The simple fact that mobile home parks have sub-meters in place means that a lot of our residents are using about a third less utilities than they would otherwise, than they would if they were in a housing type, which does not have that level of personal control. When it comes to conservation, again, mobile homes and mobile home parks right at the top of the list.

This next one is kind of interesting. Many residents in mobile home parks do not own cars. If you look at a lot of these mobile home parks in very urban settings, and they're all over America. And you drive in those mobile home parks, you'll see very, very few cars. Why? What do they do? They ride public transit. They're located right in the heart of town, so basically whatever they need, whether it's the grocery store and work, they can either walk there or get there through public transport. They could even ride a bicycle. But they just don't have a lot of cars.

Now it's also true in a lot of mobile home parks, you have a lot of residents who are seniors. And once again, they don't use a lot of cars. You could have a household with two people with only one car. That's like America of the past. Decades ago that's how Americans were. They had only one car per household. But today we all know most American households have at least two or three. Some have more than that. If you look at our mobile home park down in Florida in fact, people don't even use cars. They're typically using electric golf carts. You can't really get much more green than that.

The bottom line is that mobile homes simply never wear out. If you want to say that mobile homes are a temporary form of housing and therefore they can't be very green, they don't last that long, you're completely wrong because to say that means to say that all housing, all stick built homes also wear out. And I think we would all agree that that premise is a little wrong.

Finally, mobile home parks are greener than any other form of housing because we have a huge support network. That's what makes mobile home parks so unique is that you've got a sense of community like no other. You know my partner Dave lived in many of the parks in the early years. He would buy a mobile home park to turn it around. He would move into the mobile home park while he turned it around. Then he would move on to the next. He lived in a park in Hondo down in Texas at one time many years ago, 20 years ago. He told me what was interesting about Hondo was it had such an advanced support network. It predated a lot of the things that we take for granted today. Before there was meals on wheels, if you lived in Hondo, and you were elderly, and you could not get to the grocery store or the restaurant, other people would bring you the food for free.

Long before there was Uber, if your car broke down, you couldn't get to work, somebody in the mobile home park in Hondo would offer you a ride. Get you to work, get you to the doctor appointment, whatever you needed to have. It was this huge support network that allowed the residents to live happily, even when they didn't have large incomes because they knew no matter what happened, someone had their back. The residents would chip in collectively and make it happen. Whatever it was ... released a lot of stress on people's parts and made a lot of people who were living marginally financially. Maybe they had a period where they lost their job, might have been a death, a divorce. It meant when these kind of bumps in the roads came, they weren't wiped out.

Again, there's nothing greener out there than people who can sustainably support each other. If you really look at a lot of the green movement and this entire conservation, a lot of it is about trying to share resources. And you'll never see people share resources more than in any old American mobile home park. It's just simply a part of the culture. You've seen those t-shirts where it says mess with me, mess with the whole trailer park. I know it's kind of not good humor, but it is in many ways true. A lot of residents take their sense of community to heart and will do whatever it takes to help each other. As a result, you cannot have a more sustainable lifestyle than that.

For the simple fact that mobile homes are typically small. They don't use a lot in utilities. They're extremely sustainable. The only form of non-subsidized housing that actually works in the affordable housing specter. That they have a huge support network that allows their lives to be sustainable when bumps in the roads may occur. The conservation is promoted by the owners. And the very fact that many people have a very low carbon footprint because they don't even own an automobile. It's really hard to find something greener than a mobile home park. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. Hope you enjoyed this. And we'll be back again soon.