Trailer Park Joys

The FWD #184 • 686 Words

Could the new PRICE program herald a renaissance for manufactured housing communities?

On December 29, 2022, Congress passed the 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act. While it did not include game-changing funding increases for housing that advocates hoped for, it did include a small, new program aimed at resident-owned manufactured housing communities (MHCs). You might know these better as mobile home parks.

The $225 million Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (PRICE) program will fund new manufactured housing financing and improvements. The program marks the first time the federal government has made investments into resident owned communities. HUD will administer the program.

“This bipartisan agreement … makes a game-changing investment in manufactured housing,” said Housing Assistance Council CEO David Lipsetz. “Rural communities will use this funding to preserve existing affordable housing, build more, and lay the foundation for a better future.”

ROC USA, a New Hampshire based nonprofit that provides financing and technical assistance for cooperative ownership of mobile home parks, notes that the PRICE program is a direct result of resident-owned MHC advocacy efforts. During October and November, policy makers and Congressional staff members toured resident-owned communities (ROCs) in Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island to see what impact PRICE could have on manufactured home communities. Proponents suggest that this program can strengthen mobile home parks physically to stave off the effects of climate change on their aging infrastructure, coupled with the added benefits of turning ownership over to residents. 

The funds will be awarded competitively to make mobile home park infrastructure improvements and support acquisitions, including resident-owned purchases. While grants can be used on manufactured homes outside of parks, the program does set aside $25 million specifically for the redevelopment of MHCs to preserve or increase the supply of affordable homes.

A 50% match will be required, highlighting the need for hopeful grantees to proactively demonstrate the value of manufactured housing to other public and private funders in their community. For a good place to start learning more, we recommend materials from the 2020 symposium hosted by the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia (MHCCV).

So why is this investment needed in the first place? For one, older manufactured homes—particularly those built prior to 1976, when widespread safety standards were first adopted—are some of the worst quality homes in Virginia today. While they might be more affordable, residents end up paying more to heat, cool, and repair their homes.

Furthermore, although mobile home parks are America’s largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing, an increasing number of communities are being purchased and repositioned by private equity groups. This often leads to displacement and a subsequent loss of affordability. 

Here in Virginia, a small number of manufactured home communities have been purchased by nonprofits, each with a common goal to preserve and improve housing opportunities for residents. These examples could, and should, be replicated using new PRICE funds.

In 2007, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville purchased Southwood Mobile Home Park to stave off the displacement of hundreds of families. Since then, Habitat has invested over $25 million to improve conditions in the park and build a mix of new home types to best serve residents’ needs. Last November, Albemarle County approved the second phase of redevelopment in the park, which will lead to 1,000 new homes.

East End Mobile Home Park in the City of Manassas was purchased by the nonprofit Catholics for Housing (CFH) in 2018 following a series of severe water and sewer issues, which almost led to the community being shut down by the city. Since then, CFH has fixed and upgraded the infrastructure, and continues to operate the park as one of the only remaining low-cost housing options in the area.

Most recently, the affordable housing and rehab nonprofit project:HOMES purchased Bermuda Estates in Chesterfield County at the end of 2020. This move saved the park from a likely sale and redevelopment to expand nearby strip mall commercial properties. Following acquisition, project:HOMES listened to residents’ priorities and began improving conditions in the park, including paving roads, building a new community center, and working on long-term strategies for mobile home replacement.

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