Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 104

Green New Deal? Mobile Home Parks Have Been Green For Decades

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There’s been tremendous discussion in the media of the “Green New Deal” – but is nobody aware that mobile home parks owners already perfected that model years ago? In this third installment of our four-part series titled “Politically Correct Parks”, we’re going to examine how mobile home parks fit into this entire “green” narrative. There is certainly no business model in America that is more successfully “green” and that offers a sustainable housing solution with a minimum usage of natural resources and a smaller carbon footprint.

Episode 104: Green New Deal? Mobile Home Parks Have Been Green For Decades Transcript

There's more that's green than just money in mobile home park investing. This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series, and our third installment, Parks. We're going to be talking about how the fact that mobile home parks were green long before the green new deal. Now, if you don't know what the green new deal is, I'm not sure how you couldn't, it's been in the media almost every day. There're three tenants of the green new deal. One is sustainability, another energy efficiency, and the third's economic inequality, which I didn't even know, but apparently, the green new deal ties back to FDRs New Deal back from the Great Depression. So how in the world is a mobile home park greener than the green new deal? How did we get to be green half a century ago?

Well, the first item is we're the only form of affordable housing that actually is sustainable, so if we want to talk about sustainability, mobile home parks are the poster child of that concept. Section 8 Apartments, which serve about 20 million American households are not sustainable. These are the form of affordable housing that most Americans think of. However, they only exist through to subsidies, basically grants to the United States government that filter down to needy families who can't pay rent in markets based on the actual market levels. So they pay based on percentage of their income, and the US taxpayer pays the rest. Now, there's nothing wrong with that concept theoretically except for the fact we simply can't afford it. That program, like many in government, is running out of money. In fact, there are millions of people who have applied for the program who should get admitted to the program, but they can't because it has no money and that makes it really non-sustainable.

Now, you may have seen some things about it on TV, on CSPAN. A few years ago, Congress had a whole bunch of hearings regarding affordable housing, and they seemed, they pretended to be shocked to find out that our current governmental programs were simply not sustainable. I recall one congressman asked the panel, "So if we shut this program down, what happens to all of these families, these 20 million households that are living under section 8?" And he was told, "Well, they would all be displaced because the apartment owners would simply evict them all and go back to renting those apartments to other people who can pay the full market rate." So when it comes to sustainability, in fact, we are the only choice. And on top of that, we don't get hardly any governmental support in any manner. I'm not talking financial, I'm just talking lip service, positivity, people slapping us on the back and saying, "Good job every day for providing this only form of sustainable affordable housing," and that's kind of sad.

The second item is that we are all about living small in the mobile home park space. We are all about living in a small footprint. It's very, very energy efficient and mobile homes use very, very small amounts of utilities for the simple fact our square footage is a fraction of the average American home. If you look at a typical mobile home in one of our mobile home parks or really any mobile park stretching across America, you'll find the home is traditionally about 14 feet wide, and I'm going to say an average in America of about 60 feet long. So it's about 840 square foot of usable size. Compare that to the average US home, stick-built home, which is over 2000 feet in size. So we're using about a third of the power of that traditional home. And because of this, I think you'd have to say, "We're green, we're big green."

In fact, I don't know how you get any greener than that when you're using very, very low amounts of utilities, and on top of that, look at the actual structure itself, the mobile home. Look how green that is. If you've ever toured a mobile home plant where they build the mobile homes themselves, you'll see that a typical plant, which employees maybe about a 100 to 200 people can produce seven what's called floors per day. Now, a floor could mean one single-wide, or it could mean half of a double-wide. So that's why I don't say seven homes a day, but seven floors a day. Think about that. Producing seven complete homes per day on that one factory, it's unbelievable. And on top of that, one thing you'll note when you are given the tour is the fact that all of the debris from the mobile home, all the remnant pieces of carpet, pieces of wood, all of that stuff has to fit in just one barrel.

That's the goal. That's the rule there at the plant. So effectively, you're getting those seven homes a day produced with only seven barrels of debris. I mean that's amazing. How could you even do that? If you go to the plant, you'll see it is a wonder of efficiency. They have everything tied together so good. Every scrap of wood that they have that's functionally sized gets used in perhaps a piece of a cabinet. They buy carpet in rolls that are the exact width of the homes, so they don't have to cut and paste and stick and saw anything off. So when it comes to efficiency, let's all be honest, you're not going to find anything in America more efficient than either the construction of the mobile home or the mobile home itself. We are all about living small at a time when people were living large.

Back when the goal in America was to have a 4,000 square foot or bigger home we were still down there at a 1,000 square feet and under. And on the topic of energy efficiency, let's talk about all the other types of energy efficiency that our residents engage in. The first is they don't buy new cars. They tend to hold onto things for long, long periods of time. As far as I know, that's being very conservationist. So they'll buy a car, and they'll drive that thing a couple a hundred thousand miles. I do the same thing. Every car I have, I've always driven until it gets to two, 300,000 miles in the engine blows. I had a Jeep Cherokee once, I had three engines. I'd driven it till the first engine blew, the second engine blew and then the third engine. So that's true conservation, it means not wasting our resources on things we don't really have to have. And one thing many of our residents certainly do not, is on buying new cars all the time.

Also, I know it's a big deal of the Green New Deal proponents is our residents rarely fly on airplanes. If you ask them to raise their hand on whose been on that airplane recently, you won't get many hands going up. So there's another opportunity to again point out that our residents are very, very energy conservation. Also, some of our residents survive without cars at all. What they do is they simply use mass transit. They ride share, or they simply walk wherever they need to go.

So although you'll never find it in any American subdivision that I know of, in a mobile home park, you will find many, many people living there, and you'll see there is no car parked in front of that mobile home at night. That's because they don't have the need for a car. They can ride a bicycle, can ride a scooter and mass transit or simply walk wherever they need to go. But they don't have a lot of cars. And as we all know from the Green New Deal, it's a problem apparently if you have a lot of dependence on transportation and transportation that uses a lot of energy, by not being really into cars, planes, really anything that requires gasoline, or some form of energy that would have to be defined as being extremely energy efficient.

Finally, let's go over the income inequality because that is a part of the Green New Deal. You can look it up on Wikipedia. So how do we solve income inequality? Well, let's think about it. We are the only form of detached dwelling in America that you can pay for on a salary of about $15 an hour and under, we're the only one. So when it comes to solving income inequality, when it comes to people who want to have a house with a yard, to be a homeowner, to park by their front door to have no one knocking on their walls and ceilings. We are the only people on earth that provide that. So I think you'd have to say, "Yeah, we certainly are solving income inequality every day because we're providing the American Dream to people who cannot afford the stick-built home variety of the American Dream."

And on the subject of income inequality and giving people better lives on low, lower incomes let's talk about the very elaborate support networks that mobile home parks have, and let's talk about where those come from. My partner, Dave Reynolds, lived in a mobile home park called Hondo. It was hit by a tornado and Dave, in the old days, used to live in every mobile home park that he bought virtually. He went down to this park in Hondo that he owned because it was hit by a tornado, and he personally put the park back together again. And Brandon, his son, who I worked with all the time, he lived as a child in Hondo for a while, and he noted as a child and Dave noted as an adult the amazing support network that that park displayed.

It had ride-sharing before Uber. If your car broke down, and you couldn't get to work, well, don't worry the residents would take you anywhere you needed to go. It had Meals on Wheels years before that program. If someone in the mobile home park was injured, disabled could not get food on their own, don't worry, people would supply you the food. The support network in mobile home parks, in fact, has always bad and one of its big attractions. Time Magazine wrote an article called The Home of The Future, a couple of years ago, and they noted that mobile home parks are like gated communities for the less affluent. They were very, very impressed with this amazing support network that goes on in mobile home parks every day, all across America.

And mobile home park owners have also keyed in on that. We are a big proponent of creating the atmosphere that allows for these support networks. How do we do that? Well, one thing a lot of park owners do that we do. We do an annual event called Spring Cleanup and in the Spring Cleanup we bring in some dumpsters. We provide all the tools people need, and we try, and spruce up the park to get off on the right foot. Winter is ended, the snow is melted and now we're trying to get everyone revitalized, refocused on the community and in so doing and having activities like that, they tend to meet each other. They tend to form relationships and bonds.

We've also been building a whole lot of amenities. All park owners have. If you haven't driven in a mobile home park recently you'll note that there're all kinds of new things going in and going on. We're all building pavilions and enhancing our clubhouses. We're provided all kinds of green spaces for entertainment, picnic tables, grills, soccer goals, all kinds of things are going in, and some of the more elaborate parks, even things like splash pads going in, and we're doing that to help foster that sense of community. We think it's a super important part of what we provide as part of our product, so all the time we're doing that. In fact, in the case of our company, we go even one step further. We have a program called Impact Cares where we actually go in and bring together a lot of volunteer groups and provide all kinds of parts and supplies.

We go in, and we full-on rehab homes in our parks, and a typical impact Cares Event we'll go in and sometimes rehab, and I don't mean full rehab, I don't mean ripping out the floors and putting in new carpet. We'll bring old homes back to life with painting, carpentry, flooring, in some cases, whatever people need. And we can sometimes, in a single weekend go in and redo 10 homes, things like that. Well, often, in fact, as we get into the thick of it trying to help people, we'll find people who really, really need help and will go absolutely bend over as far backwards out of the way as we humanly can to help them.

One of our events, we had a resident who was a veteran. He was living in a little tiny RV. He lived there most of his life with his wife, and it was really far too small and now he was disabled. His wheelchair would not even move around in the RV. At the same time, we had an older home that was abandoned. That someone had just abandoned in the mobile home park. We rehabbed the home, and we gave it to him. That's kind of things that we do. That's the kind of thing that all park owners do, so when it comes to solving inequality, income equality you'll find no one on earth more devoted to that task or more successful in doing that task than mobile home park owners. And for those reasons, I can proudly declare mobile home parks were green long before the green new deal. This is Frank Rolfe, Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast series. Hope you're enjoying this four-part series on politically correct parks. I'll be back next week with the final installment.