By David Henderson
To move into Pismodise you must meet four conditions: Be 55 or older, keep your dog under 20 pounds, be present when guests stay at your home, and be comfortable with what most Americans consider a very small house. “If you need more than 800 square feet I can’t help you,” says Louise with a shrug. There seems to be some leeway on the dog’s weight. The unofficial rules are no less definite: If you are attending the late-afternoon cocktail session on the porch of Space 329, bring your own can, bottle, or box to drink. If you are fighting with other residents, you still have to greet them when you run into them. Make your peace with the word “trailer trash.”
This is from Lisa Margonelli, “How the Trailer Park Could Save Us All,” Pacific Standard, April 22. The deck line is: “A healthy, inexpensive, environmentally friendly solution for housing millions of retiring baby boomers is staring us in the face. We just know it by a dirty name.”
The whole article, though long, is beautifully written and informative.
Among seniors’ living options, there is one we overlook: mobile homes. Time-tested, inhabited by no fewer than three million seniors already, but notoriously underloved, manufactured-homes can provide organic communities and a lifestyle that is healthy, affordable, and green, and not incidentally, fun. But in order to really see their charms, we need to change a mix of bad policies and prejudice.
Louise tells me that some residents of Pismo Dunes survive on less than $900 a month, while others have monthly incomes of $15,000. For half of the residents, this is their second home. This is not a fluke: Farmers Insurance surveyed seniors in mobile homes in 2012 and found that while 30 percent have assets under $25,000, nine percent had more than $250,000 and some had more than $500,000. “When you consider we’re called trailer trash, it’s a joke,” says Louise. “I have very wealthy people here. They think it’s the coolest thing there is.” Lunches at the clubhouse are priced at $5 so that those who would never ask for help can bring home leftovers, those who are better off can put a little extra in the jar. One resident likens the diverse incomes and classes in the park to the old canard about nudist camps–everybody’s naked so you can’t see the differences. “In here we’re all equal. Some can hardly afford food. It’s all over the playing field. There’s no tension because some of the trailers are run-down. Who cares? It’s their home.”
The above two excerpts are what made me think of Alexis De Tocqueville.
Also, note the difference between government-financed and private:
THE U.S. HAS AN impressive crowd of people working to provide affordable housing through infrastructure bonds, HUD loans, and IRS tax credits. Ironically, a lot of effort and money are put into federally-funded programs that have created a few hundred thousand units, while manufactured homes provide housing to almost three million seniors. “The problem is there’s a huge stigma,” says Rodney Harrell, a senior strategic policy advisor for AARP. “As a housing person myself, I had to learn a lot to appreciate that manufactured homes could be a good choice.” The image of the trailer as a rusting hulk, a blight on the landscape, and a scam-laden investment aimed at poor people make activists and policy makers shy away from changing the very policies that could make it a better investment. Tremoulet thinks some of the prejudice is the result of HUD incentives themselves, which offer carrots to builders of low-income housing but not of manufactured housing.
HT to Tyler Cowen.