By Cory Doctorow at 7:00 pm Thu, Jul 19, 2012
This 1958 ad for the latest model mobile homes has me totally sold -- that place looks better than my flat!
There’s a fascinating bit in Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie where he describes mobile homes and mobile home people.
I got the impression that back then (very early 60s) they were more affluent and worldly than the stereotype, at least, of today’s mobile home denizens. Skilled workers bringing their homes to where the jobs were.
It seems that the ‘trailer trash hick’ sterotype came up around the time of Regan.
My sister lived in a mobile home for a few years. She called it “a room with a skew.” There wasn’t a right angle in the whole goddamn place and it shook and wailed like a banshee in a good thunderstorm.
I’ll bet your flat doesn’t have those features.
Mobile homes, a way to get poor white trash to sign a 30 year note on their own jail cell.
Or, affordable housing far more decent than the shacks of yesteryear.
My parents’ vacation home is a trailer a few yards from the Indian River in Florida. Most of their neighbors are nice older people who just can’t afford a bigger place.
The lot they are on is pretty laid back. The trailer park next door is really strict about lawns, ornaments, outbuildings . . . like the home owners’ association in an uptight subdivision.
There was a time when a trailer was considered an affordable option for downsizing at retirement, but still gave you space from your neighbors. Unlike condos.
It’s kinda amazing that the early dreams of architects of the Bauhaus school..and others. Visioned a factory made modular ‘machine’ for living. Cheap and affordable for the masses.
And when we got that with mobile home parks and manufactured homes that fulfilled all the practical requirements. It was and is derided as ‘trailer trash’. Because hey “no architect required”.
Just throw in some Pete Mondrian style window shades…and paint them like big lego blocks…the ‘cool crowd’ would love it.
It’s a travesty of a concept: disposable homes. Something that starts depreciating the moment it rolls off the assembly line and is meant to be shredded and replaced in 10-15 years. It was also meant to erode the ability to own homes and land, as the vast majority of trailer residents own neither their prison cell or the land it sits on.
An Airstream travel trailer is a thing of beauty. While not a ‘mobile home’..it was an still is a classic. I know a few people with classic ones that are their full time home now. Not disposable, a a treasure. Especially one that the folks refrubed the interior with classic Formica ‘banana/boomerang’ space age pattern and curved teak wood on the interior.
The thing is that what you might deride today as ‘trash’ today…will be oh so fashionable a bit latter. I cringed when seeing a refub on “This Old House” in the 80’s, and they took out perfectly good patterned linoleum–a blue fleck pattern, and ‘boomerange/satellite pattern” on the kitchen tile work. Just chopped up and replaced with ‘harvest green’ Orange counter tops..and composite wood print flooring.
There is a wide variety of mobile home lifestyles. And where I live at least, they last more like 40 years. We have a lot of retired folks in very nice trailer parks, er, mobile home communities, that are neat as a button. We also have the extremely run-down ones with 50 year old trailers that haven’t seen a maintenance man in half that time.
I got to spend a couple nights in a 1959 Sparton that was out-of-this-world cool.
There are loads of mobile homes here from the 1950s and 1960s. Have you seen the quality of stick-built homes lately?
I disagree, mainly because that was not the original intent of the Mobile homes (Mobile from Mobile, Alabama, not as in moveable). The original intent was to alleviate a housing shortage by making homes that did not require a foundation, could be wheeled into position and then set upon a foundation.
I spent some of my childhood years in just such a trailer park, and the residents did own their home, as well as the plot of land it was located on. Many had nice brick foundations, and it wasn’t until the late 1970’s that those neighbourhoods fell into disrepute due to more housing being available as well as more people being able to afford real homes.
The average home built on a foundation is disposable too, depending on your definition of longevity. A “mobile” home could last 50 years or so. Whether much of today’s construction will last that long is unknown. Even so, most stick built homes of any era will probably not go longer than 200 years.
Funny you should say “disposable homes,” today’s new developments are certainly made to be disposable. They are built quickly and cheaply, and do not stand the test of time. Our first home was a starter in a new development, and we called it the “trailer park,” because it felt just like that – disposable. Now, ten years later, that neighbourhood (which we’ve thankfully moved out of) looks like a ghetto. I’m currently living in a house built in 1964 which is sturdy and beautiful, with thoughtful design. They just don’t make them like they used to!
Just don’t plant a vegetable garden in front of your mobile home. It might upset your neighbors (there goes the neighborhood).
I got really confused for a sec because I read it as ‘Knitted out mobile homes’ and the boxy moire scan pattern made everything look like it was made of yarn.
This will be all some of us can afford once we retire.
Trailers are great low cost housing, as long as Mr Big Bad Wolf aka a tornado stays away.
And you don’t have to pay lot rent. That’s where they get you. Unless you own your own land, the lot rent will never go away.
My husband used to work for a bank that did LOTS of lending for stuff like this for those that did own their own land (land contract type stuff). He learned a bit about the difference between the mobile home park scenario and putting it on your own land. You DON’T save money if you’re in a trailer park.
The PVC off-gassing in that room is practically palatable. That woman is truly enjoying that new-cancer smell though, good on her.
I feel a need to say- based on some of the comments here- most mobile homes are actually very nice. They tend to be cheaper to rent than apartments with a LOT more room, and they are certainly a lot cheaper to buy than a standard home. They are also easier to maintain than most houses, and if installed right- are just as safe and quiet. Some (okay many) mobile home parks are godawful, but in many cases they are no worse than apartment complexes in the same area. I’m looking at moving into my third mobile home in ten years. It’s brand-new and will cost the same per month as the cheapest apartments in the area, but give me at least 300 square ft. more room, with nobody above, below, or sharing a wall with me. Once you get over the stereotyping- many people who live in mobile homes have no desire to ever live in an apartment again, and many see no advantage to moving into a regular house.
I have a tiny kitchen and I am totally WANTING those hanging shelves over the counter. Where o’ where can I find some like that or learn to build some for myself?
Dig those yellow appliances! Cool-o!
You should be reading Fred Clark’s coverage of legal attacks against mobile home owners at Slacktivist. These homes are far more affordable to buy than other houses. The problem is that they aren’t actually mobile (You can’t just hook them up to a truck and drive off. “Manufactured homes” is more of an accurate way to put it.) and the people who own them don’t usually own the land they sit on. It’s a system that’s ripe for abuse, including slum lord land owners who don’t do necessary maintenance, raise the land rental rates every year, and basically screw their tenants as hard as they can until somebody wants to build a Wal-Mart on that land … and then everybody gets kicked out with very little notice.
Instead of making fun of trailer parks and the people who own mobile homes, you should be supporting their fight to gain the right to purchase the land their homes sit on. Increasingly, states are taking action on this … making it easier for co-ops of home owners to get loans together, and instituting legislation that forces landowners to offer the land to the people living there first (and give them a reasonable amount of time to secure the necessary financing).
If you support the 99% and you support Occupy, you should be supporting these people.
You can read more here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/tag/manufactured-housing/
What, no one’s mentioned Trailer Park Boys?
My family and I live in a trailer. We like it. You upscale urban/suburban types have a problem with that?
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