Manufactured homes represent a pathway to affordable homeownership for millions of Americans, but their ability to be an investment or wealth-building vehicle remains tenuous in many states. Whether a manufactured home is a real asset for a family depends in large part on land tenure security. In some states, if the home is located on rented ground – in a manufactured home community (or “mobile home park”), for example – the homeowner can be evicted from the community at the community owner’s whim.
The precarious status of a manufactured home on rented land can turn it into a financial disaster instead of an asset. Manufactured home community sites are scarce in many areas, so a homeowner who is evicted from the community may not be able to find a new site for the home. Even if sites are available, the home may be too old to meet minimum requirements of a new community or may be damaged in transit, which could force the homeowner to abandon it altogether.
Resident ownership of communities is one of the most effective strategies for helping low-income homeowners build assets. Land tenure security is essential if residents of manufactured home communities are to have the opportunity to buy their communities. In order to pursue resident ownership, residents must be free to meet, to go door-to-door within the community, to form homeowner associations and to advocate for policies that promote resident ownership, without fearing eviction or other retaliation for these activities.