Evictions in Mobile Home Parks: Insights from Texas and Florida

Evictions in Mobile Home Parks: Insights from Texas and Florida
Esther Sullivan
American Sociological Review
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Manufactured housing is the nation’s fastest-growing form of new housing and is home to about 18 million Americans, making it the largest unsubsidized source of affordable housing. Given that one-third of mobile homes are in land-lease parks where residents rent the land their home sits on, many residents are at risk of eviction. Previous research on evictions has focused on rental housing, rather than lot rentals. This study broadens the scope by examining the closure of mobile home parks and their evicted residents.

The study is an ethnography of two communities in Florida and in Texas. The two states have the nation’s largest mobile home populations but have different regulations. Texans in mobile home communities can be evicted with only 30 days’ notice and are not entitled to compensation. Florida, on the other hand, has a state agency called the Florida Mobile Home Relocation Corporation to oversee park closures and has a compensation fund for displaced homeowners. Author Esther Sullivan spent two years living in closing mobile home parks in both states before, during, and after evictions took place. In those two years, Sullivan spent time with residents and spoke with private contractors, agency officials, and state representatives. Findings suggest that evictions produced financial upheaval for mobile home park residents, and Florida’s protective state interventions created a longer relocation process than Texas’s laissez-faire approach.

Key findings

  • Texas mobile home residents experienced a shortened, less disruptive relocation process because they determined the terms and timing of their move. Florida mobile home residents experienced a longer, more complicated relocation because of the more state-regulated process that deferred to market actors and underwrote their services, and those residents felt helpless in their lack of control in their move’s timing.
  • When private actors were involved in Florida’s relocation process, residents felt disempowered and confused. They feared that if they did not accept the developer’s assistance, they would receive no help.
  • 7 percent and 19.8 percent of mobile home residents in Texas and Florida, respectively, live in poverty.

Policy implications

  • Policies should promote collective ownership through cooperative parks, community land trusts, or public ownership to eliminate the consequences of “halfway homeownership” that exist when a household owns its home but can be evicted from the land the home is on.
  • To ensure safe reinstallation of homes and a shortened relocation period after a mobile home park closure, states should implement a mandatory and streamlined inspection process.
  • States should provide relocation assistance in proportion to the actual cost of relocation to increase transparency in the marketplace and home relocation services and reduce the power of private actors administering state aid.
  • When mobile home parks close, a minimum six-month eviction notice paired with a connection to state-managed relocation support would benefit residents.

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