Manufactured home parks: freedom and affordability
by Lilianne Fuller
Make no mistake, a manufactured home is not a trailer nor is it a mobile home. So referring to a manufactured home park as trailer park is a way to insult a resident and bring about a stern lecture on the difference between the two. A manufactured home is a type of prefabricated house that is assembled in a factory and moved to a site. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) consider manufactured housing to be quality housing at an affordable price. Today’s units aren’t mobile at all and the older ones, especially those that have sat on a pad for upwards of 40 years, are virtually unmovable.
In the Lower Mainland there are 82 “manufactrued home” parks and the majority of them are designated age 45 and 55 plus. Housing costs in British Columbia have shot through the roof so when baby boomers George and Julie decided to downsize they wrestled with a decision. Should they go into a gated community, a condo or a townhouse? The couple enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle, so a condo was out. Next was a townhouse or gated community. But with a desire to travel more, they found that choice was far more expensive than another alternative: a manufactured home in a park. “So for our lifestyle and finances, a manufactured home is perfect, we really like living here and we get to travel lots too,” explains Julie, with a smile.
Far less expensive than a traditional house, these homes are a good option for seniors. Manufactured home parks are like small communities. Most hold a monthly social meeting to discuss business and plan social activities. On a regular basis there’s flea markets, craft sales, potluck dinners and picnics in the summer. Since she moved from Winnipeg in 1984, Pat McEachern has lived in a manufactured home park and she prefers it to privately run retirement complexes. “I’m 88 and I believe living here keeps a senior healthy both mentally and physically,” McEachern shares. “I much prefer what I have here to one of the big retirement facilities.”
Seniors housing advocate Triple A Housing Society considers manufactured home parks a good example of their mandate for housing to be Affordable, Accessible, and Appropriate. In 2014 they hosted a Housing Summit called: Acting Now. Housing For Our Aging Population. The subsequent report on the summit stated: “The idealness of manufactured home parks comes across in its affordability, accessibility, and appropriateness to independent living and aging-in-place.”
Land values are increasing and some parks in the Lower Mainland are being sold for re-development. But seeing the value in this kind of housing, Langley Township Council brought about a manufactured home park policy in 2015 that adds an extra layer of protection for the residents. “Township Council wants to retain and protect the manufactured home parks. Our Housing Action Plan has an objective to ‘preserve and improve the quality of existing rental housing’ including manufactured home parks,” says Mayor Jack Froese. Today, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Surrey and Coquitlam have similar policies.
But McEachern, a past president of the now defunct Central Fraser Valley Manufactured Home Owners Association (CFVMHOA) points out: “Housing costs in the Lower Mainland are very high and other than a handful of subsidized assisted living facilities, most of the privately run homes charge upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 per month. Who can afford that?” McEachern advises homeowners to get active and ensure they have a voice in the upcoming redevelopment proposals for their community. Manufactured home park resident Laurie Anne agrees: “We won’t see it (re-development) in our lifetime, but I agree with Pat. Homeowners need to remain actively involved in the process.”
For those who want to enjoy a comfortable and active lifestyle well into their 80s or 90s, a manufactured home park could be just what the doctor ordered. There’s lots of fresh air, camaraderie, and independence. At 93 years young, Ella, a very long term resident in Fernridge Park attributes her longevity to living in what she terms “as a little piece of heaven.”