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A recent segment on CBS News chronicled a mobile home park in New Mexico, and one of the two mobile home parks on the beach in Malibu. What do these two properties have in common? Quite a bit, actually—the affordable housing shortage has many faces.

The quest for the lower cost option

Millions of Americans cannot afford the rent and mortgages they are paying. They need lower cost options that allow the percentage of income spent on housing to decline to the one-third that the government says is vital to have a balanced budget. This is true both at the highest end of the housing spectrum, all the way down to folks earning minimum wage. There are as many households upside down in their McMansions as there are in apartments. The desire for lower cost housing is universal. In the parks in Malibu, mobile home residents are paying $500,000 to $1,000,000, while their stick-built neighbors are paying $5,000,000 to $10,000,000 for the same location.

A desire for detached housing with yard

Americans prefer the traditional detached dwelling with yard. That’s the American dream we’ve all been taught. We like the privacy of having no neighbors up against our walls, ceilings and floors. And we like having the privacy of a private yard and the ability to park near our door. Apartments and condominiums just do not offer these conveniences. That’s why the mobile home is more desirable than apartments and condominiums – it’s not the way we want to live. A mobile home with a yard on the beach in Malibu has a superior quality of life to an apartment or condo nearby.

Some people choose a good deal even when they can afford more

While many people in traditional mobile home parks do not have other options, the folks who live in the parks in Malibu could obviously afford something different. There are certainly condominiums that they could buy for $1,000,000. But they see the “value” of the mobile home park. It’s no different than when you get excited over finding a great value on a piece of furniture at an estate sale. Sure, you might be able to afford something more expensive, but why waste money? Americans love a good deal, and mobile home parks can offer that.

A very misunderstood housing option

Mobile home parks in Malibu are certainly as misunderstood as mobile home parks in Topeka, Kansas. The stigma of mobile home park living still lingers, even when the price point exceeds $1 million. That’s why many people don’t even look at mobile homes, which is a shame, since the lifestyle is often superior to other housing options. Even Frank Lloyd Wright designed a mobile home – and mobile home park – at one time. Americans have forgotten the roots of the heritage of parks, and the fact that mobile homes, in the 1950s, had higher demographics than stick-built homes.

Conclusion

The CBS News report on mobile home parks shocked many viewers. They assumed that mobile home parks were simply a bastion of lower-income households. They had no idea that movie start such as Pam Anderson lived in mobile home parks in Malibu, and that mobile homes in these parks could cost over $1 million. In fact, there is a mobile home currently on the market in Malibu for over $2 million. There are many faces to affordable housing, and most Americans are absolutely unaware of this.