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  • Writer's pictureJustin Tahilramani

North Carolina's Affordable Housing Revolution: The Case for Mobile Home Parks 

Conceptual Drawing of MHP

In the heart of North Carolina, a quiet revolution is reshaping the concept of affordable housing through the resurgence of newly developed/redeveloped mobile home parks. These communities are not only debunking long-held stereotypes associated with prefabricated homes but are also showcasing their potential to address the critical housing shortages facing the state.


But why Mobile Homes?


As traditional housing prices soar, mobile (“manufactured” to be politically correct) homes offer a beacon of affordability and efficiency. Manufactured homes can be produced for up to 30% less than traditional stick-built homes, largely due to the controlled factory environments that streamlines the building process and significantly reduces waste. The cost efficiency doesn’t end at construction. On average, the cost per square foot for a manufactured home in the U.S. is approximately $55, compared to $114 for a site-built home. This price advantage makes homeownership accessible to a broader segment of the population, challenging the escalating crisis of housing affordability.


In addition to construction efficiencies, mobile home parks maximize land use through higher density, accommodating more homes per acre than typical residential developments. This not only boosts affordability through economies of scale, but also fosters a sense of community among residents. With typical lot sizes ranging from 7,500 to 10,000 square feet—much smaller than the 20,000 to 35,000 square feet for standard single-family lots—these parks are specifically designed to balance form with function.


However, the path to mobile home park development is not devoid of obstacles. Zoning laws in North Carolina historically have been skewed against such communities, often under the pretext of maintaining aesthetic standards or preserving property values. These restrictive policies echo the exclusionary practices of redlining, albeit in a modern form, disproportionately affecting lower-income families who stand to benefit most from the lower cost of manufactured housing.


Current trends suggest a gradual shift, with more progressive zoning laws that reflect the need to diversify housing options. This is a step in the right direction, but much remains to be done to fully integrate mobile home parks into the housing market as a universally respected housing option. Community resistance continues to be a major hurdle.

A recent case in Spring Lake, NC presents a great (and recent) case study where a developer pulled back a conditional use permit for a 300-home park after the completion of engineering and design work due to local  community opposition. This risk not only scares other developers in the market, but also illustrates the ongoing stigma and NIMBYism that pervade public perception when it comes to mobile home parks.

 

Today's manufactured homes rival traditional construction in quality and aesthetics. Complying with stringent HUD Code regulations, these homes are designed to be durable, energy-efficient, and stylish. With amenities comparable to those of site-built homes, modern manufactured homes challenge the outdated stereotypes of yesteryear’s mobile homes. They are not just houses; they are homes, complete with the potential for personalization and the promise of community.


The resurgence of new mobile home park development/redevelopment represents more than a simple alternative housing solution; it reflects a transformative shift in how we perceive and value housing in different forms. As North Carolina, and indeed the nation, grapples with the housing affordability crisis, embracing the potential of mobile homes and mobile home parks can play a pivotal role in providing safe and affordable housing.

As we continue to navigate these changing tides, the integration of mobile home parks into the broader housing market will require persistent effort and policy reform. It is time for policymakers, developers, and communities alike to rethink and embrace these vibrant, efficient, and affordable housing solutions.

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