Do Trailer Parks and Mobile Homes Have a Future As Affordable Housing?

The future of manufactured homes may reinvent the form of something that already widely exists- trailer parks. All across the United States, these small homes are being reimagined by architects by utilizing more sustainable materials, inventive construction techniques, and value engineering to create affordable homes and reinvent the once negative connotation that surrounded this housing typology.

Trailer parks became widely known across the United States after World War II, where they were often organized around military bases and construction sites. Designed to be temporary, they quickly gained a sense of permanence, especially in the modern day. It’s estimated that over ten million Americans, often young blue-collar workers live in these trailers. However, these parks were looked down upon due to their mass-produced and industrial nature. Trailer homes are mass-produced, and sacrifice craftsmen qualities in favor of cost savings. Many architects claimed that trailer homes had no place in the mainstream design vocabulary, and with planners picking up on these notions, trailer park communities began to feel regulated to less desirable neighborhoods. Additionally, trailers are located on leased land, preventing residents from owning the lots on which they reside.

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© Trailer Florida Life

In the present day, trailer parks represent the ever-elusive dream of homeownership, regardless of economic class. They’re a symbol of being able to have some sort of space for yourself, even despite the enduring stereotypes that promote them as inadequate homes for “lower-class” communities. Upwards of 70 percent of neighborhoods today ban trailers from privately owned lots, only further segregating those for whom living in a trailer is the only option.

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Typical Master Plan of Trailer Park

Breaking down the stereotype around these homes is a quick way to provide affordable housing. The image that people have ingrained in their minds is far from the reality of the types of trailers that are being produced today. Almost a decade ago, the price of a manufactured home was $64,000, compared to a single-family home which on average cost $325,000. Many of these manufactured homes are also better for the environment than single-family homes since there is less material and waste used in building them, and because it takes less energy to heat and cool due to their size. The work is also safer since parts are constructed in a modular manner in which they build design elements and then install them. Despite the positive aspects, there are significantly fewer of these homes being built in recent years. Manufactured home builders in the 1980s produced nearly 200,000 units a year, but after 2010, less than 60,000 have been built.

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The Stacks from Ready Player One. Image © Ready Player One

Architects are also turning to a solution that looks like it’s been pulled right out of a science fiction movie. In the movie Ready Player One, a far away dystopia, the main character lived among stacked mobile homes, dubbed “the Stacks”. While “the Stacks” seems like an improbable feat of design, something similar may not be too far off in the future- as we rethink innovative ways to design manufactured homes, but in a vertical way. The idea comes from the metabolism movement in which plug-n-play homes can be easily arranged and removed based on the needs of residents. The infrastructure is built around each of the homes, giving them a strengthened sense of community and accessibility. Vertical manufactured homes have been revised time and type again, creating a hybrid trailer/skyscraper typology, but it has yet to join the mainstream world of design.

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Tornado Towers. Image © Print by Dan Black

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Cite: Kaley Overstreet. "Do Trailer Parks and Mobile Homes Have a Future As Affordable Housing?" 15 Feb 2022. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

Royal Manor Mobile Home Park. Image Courtesy of MH Village


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