At a time when affordable housing in the United States, even in Dallas, is hard to find, a new report says manufactured homes, commonly referred to as “mobile homes,” could be the solution.
Today, mobile homes are the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the U.S., with one in ten mobile home households living below the poverty line, according to Apartment List.
In Dallas, the median cost live in a mobile home is $696 per month, compared to $1,132 to live in a non-mobile home. On average, mobile home residents spend 40.5 percent less on housing costs than those living in non-mobile homes.
But the report found the number of mobile homes is decreasing at a time when affordable housing for low-income families is most needed, with the share of mobile homes in the United States at its lowest level since the 1980s. In 2016, three percent of Dallas households lived in mobile homes, down from 4.4 percent in 20150.
Sydney Bennet, senior research associate for Apartment List, told the Dallas Business Journal there has been a 31 percent decrease in the share of households living in mobile homes in Dallas.
“Dallas, as with every other large urban city, has seen a drop in their share of households living mobile homes over the past decade and a half, in part because of rising land values and the ability to build other types of housing,” Bennet said. “The more expensive a metro is, you tend to see an even bigger gap and lack of options for the poorest families.”
The number of mobile homes took off after World War II to meet the growing demand for affordable housing and in 1980, when President Ronald Reagan cut the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In the 2000s, mobile home sales dropped off, as loans for traditional homes were more readily available.
Mobile homes are faster and cheaper to build than traditional homes. Whereas high construction costs and labor shortages mean builders can’t build fast enough to meet demand, mobile homes are built in factories, transported to a site, and installed. Mobile homes cost as little as $45,000, compared to the median price of $323,000 for a new site-built home, according to Curbed.
“When you look at the cost of a mobile home, you realize how hard it is to find other properties at that same price point that can house a family,” Bennet said.
But mobile home owners face similar problems to renters, such as rent increases and evictions. Moving a mobile home is difficult and costs $5,000 on average, or nearly two months of pay for the average mobile home household. Mobile homeowners often do not own land and must take out Chattel mortgages, which often come with higher interest rates than standard mortgages, on their homes.
In January, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored mortgage lenders, announced it would purchase 30,000 manufactured housing loans over the next three years in response to a “duty to serve under-served markets” rule issued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency.