The closure of the Arrowhead Village mobile home park has highlighted the potential instability of living in a mobile home, but such closures are “a lot more common than most people would think,” said Esther Sullivan, a professor of sociology at the University of Colorado, Denver who studies mobile home use.
This is because the owners of mobile homes often fall victim to having neither the security of a traditional homeowner nor the protection that most apartment renters can rely on.
“Local development pressures, a lack of land, and aging mobile homes,” essentially spell doom for mobile home owners, Sullivan said.
Often, Sullivan said, this leads to a community that is dealing with problems of affordable housing all the while not preserving the affordable housing they already have.
They are a central but often ignored piece of the affordable housing market, Sullivan said. Nationally, mobile homes make up 70 percent of housing that costs less than $150,000.
According to census data, 10 percent of Coconino County reside in mobile homes, 4 percentage points higher than the national average.
According to numbers from the city of Flagstaff, within city limits there are approximately 2,300 mobile homes in about 19 mobile home parks. For the most part, however, it is the state and not the city that governs the use of mobile homes, said city housing director Sarah Darr.
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And Arizona has minimal protections for mobile home owners while having a fairly high number of parks statewide at 2,279.
Sullivan said in most cases in which mobile home parks are closed, residents find out only after a local council has allowed for a rezoning. But this was not the case with Arrowhead Village.
The land the village sits on is still zoned for the use of mobile homes and the developer, Kings House Inc., will have to receive a rezoning or a conditional use permit from council if they want to use the land for anything else.
Across the United States, Sullivan said there has been “an incredible increase” in those living in mobile homes on individual lots, especially in the West and states like Texas and Florida. But the land devoted to formal parks has been stagnant or even seen a reduction. Very few people, even those who see the benefits of building mobile home parks, are happy to see a new park being constructed next door, Sullivan said, adding, “They are stigmatized.”
This has meant that, much like in Flagstaff, when parks close around the U.S., it can be very difficult for residents to relocate, even if they can move their homes.
And at a time when the funding for affordable housing has been cut drastically at a federal level, “mobile homes provide the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in this country,” Sullivan said.