Manufactured homes an affordable housing alternative made invisible by class bias, trash stereotype

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      When people go house-hunting, they mostly look for one of three types of homes.

      It’s either a single-family detached home or a townhouse or condo, depending on their budget and choice of location.

      Buyers often do not think of searching for a manufactured home.

      A manufactured home is a complete home built at a fabrication facility. It is transported on a flatbed truck and installed by crane in a manufactured-home community.

      Today, manufactured homes are built to a rigid Canadian national standard. This means that these are designed to last as long as a fixed-building home.

      Also, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation provides mortgage insurance. Because of this, buyers are able to get financing from banks and other lenders.

      Buyers typically do not know that a manufactured home is an affordable option. It’s cheaper to buy and maintain this type of home.

      Part of the reason for this is that governments do not talk about these homes.

      Housing-continuum models presented by the B.C. government as well as municipalities like the City of Vancouver rarely mention manufactured homes.

      The Straight sought out representatives of two organizations involved in this type of housing.

      One is the Manufactured Home Park Owners Alliance of B.C. MHPOABC members own and operate housing sites. They are landlords to residents and owners of manufactured homes.

      The second is the Lower Mainland Manufactured Home Owners Association. LMMHOA members own manufactured homes and pay rent on the pads where their homes are located.

      MHPOABC executive director Al Kemp and LMMHOA president Glen Beauchamp explained in separate phone interviews that manufactured homes give buyers more house for their buck.

      Kemp and Beauchamp also pointed out that manufactured homes today are very much different from the inferior trailer homes that existed mostly during the 1960s and 1970s.

      Today’s manufactured homes do not have wheels and hitches for towing. They are meant to stay just like a fixed-building home.

      “I call manufactured homes the invisible affordable-housing alternative, and that’s really true,” Kemp told the Straight.

      Beauchamp, for his part, said that many manufactured-home communities are designed for families with young children. They have community halls and playgrounds.

      A brand-new manufactured home can be purchased for anywhere between $150,000 and $300,000.

      “There’s nothing else that you can compare with at that dollar price,” Beauchamp told the Straight.

      As of November 2020, the benchmark price of a condo unit in cities covered by the Real Estate Board of Greater Vancouver was $676,500. In areas under the Fraser Valley Real Estate Board, it’s $435,900.

      Last summer, Kemp illustrated within an article in a rental-business publication how manufactured homes are more affordable. He used as an example a manufactured home priced at $213,000.

      His assumptions were: $855 monthly for mortgage; $645 for monthly site rent; $90 for property tax; insurance payment of $60; $100 for municipal water and garbage; and $150 spent on power. It all comes to $1,900 a month.

      For comparison, Kemp used a $650,000 home. Including a $2,500 monthly mortgage payment, the cost came to more than $3,400 per month.

      Kemp noted that although most of the cheaper and older trailer homes have disappeared, some of the prejudice against residents lingers on.

      “You talk to politicians and many in the media and all they can think of is, you know, Trailer Park Boys or trailer trash, that sort of thing,” he said.

      To illustrate, Kemp said that MHPOABC sets up a booth during the annual conventions of the Union of B.C. Municipalities. He recalled one time when a mayor stopped by. Although Kemp knew how many manufactured-home communities were located in the mayor’s town, he asked the official, just to start a conversation, how many were there.

      “He said, ‘There’s three. I’d like to get rid of all four of them,’ ” Kemp related.

      In another account, Kemp recalled that he met a couple of times with a now former provincial government minister in charge of housing in B.C.

      He explained to the official how manufactured homes can bridge the gap between renting and owning a fixed-building home.

      “She refused to talk to me after that. We invited her to open one of our conferences, and the invitation was about four months in advance, and her assistant came back and said, ‘No, she’s not available,’ ” Kemp said.

      “Well, I don’t think anybody can say, ‘I’m not available four months from now,’ ” he continued. “So, you know, that’s part of the attitude.”

      It comes down to one thing, he said.

      “It is a form of a class bias. It’s a stereotype,” Kemp said.

      It brings to mind an infamous putdown in the U.S. during the 1990s.  James Carville, an advisor to Hillary Clinton, made the remark after Paula Jones sued then-president Bill Clinton for sexual harassment. Carville, a Democratic operative, said: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”

      According to Kemp, there are 900 manufactured-home communities in B.C.

      Beauchamp’s LMMHOA represents residents in 71 manufactured-home communities from Coquitlam to Aggasiz, on the north side of the Fraser River, and Surrey to Hope, on the south side.

      Their homes occupy 4,100 lots, with many of these spots measuring between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet each. A manufactured home is usually 1,300 to 1,500 square feet, which means that many of these lots have a good deal of open outdoor space.

      “There’s some garden area. You got a place for your dogs; you got a place for kids to run. You actually got a yard,” Beauchamp said.