I’m pretty new to this forum and I am also an immigrant (to Canada), so there are some areas that are a bit “dark” for me. One of them is mobile/manufactured homes and whether they are a good idea for a family looking into downsizing and building resilience.
A bit of background first: after reading (and watching) the Crash Course and also many other books, such as The Long Emergency, Peak Everything, The End of Growth, The Long Descent , The Great Disruption and now, Radical Homemakers (and many other prep books on survival, permaculture, vegetable gardening, city farming, baking, preserving, etc., I built a whole library), I am still dubious about what’s the best plan.
Let me explain: for one, I don’t have money to decide to move to a more resilient community or a rural setting. Second, my husband doesn’t completely “buy” this and thinks that yes, it will happen, but there is nothing we could possible do to prepare as whatever happens will be too big and extensive to try to be “safe” by ourselves. I have tried to meet like-minded people in my own community and have failed huge: nobody cared for a community garden, and there are no transition groups close enough to join. I am also too busy with my job, my children and the huge debt the family has to be able to spend more time trying to start something by my own (as I said, I tried a community garden, even contacted the city, posted flyers and held a presentation, but it didn’t work. Not a single person supported my idea...)
Our current situation as a family is this: we are four, no family or friends around. Both parents work full-time and no easy way out from this situation for now, at least until we pay our huge debt. We are also immigrants, which makes all more difficult: from making friends to building community. I volunteer a lot, in three different groups, but the interaction has not passed beyond being great volunteer pals. I do volunteering with Disaster Management and Preparedness, at a local university and with refugees. This helps me to keep updated, trained and resilient.
We have a 30+ year mortgage for a townhouse where we pay $1350/month + $250 for strata fee/month. We pay around $150/month for electricity, which includes heating, etc. Although we are technically owners of our land, we are not: we cannot make changes to the house, water, drainage or power system and e cannot have any type of livestock or grow vegetables in our yard. I do grow vegetables in pots, but it is obviously not enough. Our heating and cooking are all dependent on electricity and we cannot change that as it is part of the strata system.
While reading an unrelated article today, I learned about mobile/manufactured homes. They can cost as little as $39,000 (for a family of four) and as much as $99,000, so the mortgage may be anything from $150 to $500/month. The pad rent (that may also be purchased in some of the cases) may be from $300 to $900 but includes water, sewage, garbage and recycling collection and electricity.
These houses are smaller and are usually inside a park, but some are very nice and look very decent. These parks are somewhat a community of people already built, which could be positive or negative, depending on their views.
In our current complex, we barely know our neighbours. People tend to stay inside or go somewhere else using their cars. Children rarely play outside and we cannot say there is any sense of “community”. So we wouldn’t be missing much.
I am seriously starting to consider this change as something we could do in one or two years to save money and become more resilient, but I’m not sure if this would be considered a good option. These houses don’t allow many changes in infrastructure either, but neither allows our current house.
By moving to one of these houses, we would save up to $750/month or more, depending on the size and location, that we could use to build skills, buy a stock of tools and food, or even save for a land where we can move in the future...
Also, I have seen that some of these houses allow for wood fire places and stoves, which may be convenient if we start having power outages or problems with other ways of heating and cooking.
I would like to hear from people who have direct or indirect experience with these types of houses or have some opinion to share...
Thanks in advance...
Most of our populace has been well-conditioned to think and act within an ever-tightening box of regulation, rules, bureaucracies, etc. You sound like you have already taken the firsts steps in leaving these restrictions behind, but in doing so, have found yourself somewhat alone. This is perfectly natural. Most of the people around you are cannon fodder, to put it bluntly. They are so completely mentally enslaved to the system that is collapsing around them, they will not see or believe it until it is far too late. However, I am SURE there are a few others near you that are starting to see the light, you might just have to find them.
This is only if you are dead-set on staying. I think a much better route is to simply leave. Where you live, you are surrounded by automatons. Human beings NEED community, if you cannot build one there, go where one exists already or is at least open to it.
If I was in your position, I would for a manufactured home on a little bit of property, say 1/2 acre. More would be better. Or, a manu. home near a vacant lot/open area that might be used for gardening. To really be able to produce food for yourselves, you need some space and experience growing. Farming is not simple. If you wait until you need the garden, you will likely fail due to problems that would have been worked out during the first 2-3 years of soil building, experimental plantings, etc. Having a stockpile of seeds, but no experience growing, is like buying a hammer and thinking you are now qualified to build a house.
Newer manufactured homes have a couple advantages over traditional, stick-built homes. They are mobile. They are made in climate-controlled buildings, which means mold/mildew issues are usually non-existant. They have plumbing that is readily accessible from underneath. This last advantage applies to post-pier homes too. Accessible plumbing means you can easily upgrade to a gray water system, something that is very expensive to do with a slab.
One last word on regulations- you may find a huge disparity between what is allowed on paper, and what is allowed in practice. I have code violations on my property (all related to being prepared, being efficient and being a good steward of the land) and I'm not being hassled. In my area, it's because I do not appear to have money. Our code inpsectors typically limit their enforcement to those with obvious dollars and not well-connected to the county government. After living here for many years and watching the goings-on, I've learned it's far better to ask for forgiveness than permission. It's actually illegal to paint the interior of your house without a permit here!
Whatever you do, maintain solidarity within your family. If you can't do it at home, you can't do it in the community. Lead by example! Best of luck,
I agree with the comments TicTac1 has made! Especially about the need for community. We cannot do "everything" ourselves. It takes a group, each with their own skills/talents/interestes, to build a community. It sounds like you have reached out in various ways and been unsuccessful.
Of course, in my "early days" of awareness of "Peak Everything" I would tend to dump on everyone, because I was still in shock and disbelief. Finally realised I would have more success connecting if I approached it more .... sideways. Building resilence for bad weather/power outages; growing quality food uncontaiminated by chemicals, creating healthy soil, etc.; Children who are exposed to livestock have the lowest asthma/allergy rates, etc. are all lead-ins to community involvement that don't hit people over the head with "collapse" of our current system.
But, I would move if given your set-up... it appears to have NO redeaming features.
New manufactured homes are often constructed with better insulation packages, energy efficent appliances, (yes, get that wood burning stove).... but in a "park" you are going to run into a lot of restrictions. I'd be looking for something that gives you a bit of land to work with. Fairly cheaply, you can even find "park models" that have full size kitchens/bathrooms, that are considered "moible homes" that can be placed on land. Then you could add to it as needed.
We used a 5th wheel trailer for two years, on raw land, as we put in the different systems we needed (water, off grid power, sewer, gray water, gardens, livestock). More challenging to do if you do not have a committed partner. But with the dollars you save on mortagage costs, you could use that toward putting in the systems to be more self-sufficent.
1) Research the area you want to be in (already has some community groups going)
2) Check out leasing land (long-term lease) that you can put a "unit" on
3) Build yourself a path to work on, bit by bit, so it doesn't feel so hopeless!
good luck! go for it...
The Farmer's Wife
When I moved out on my own I first went the route of a small mobile home in a trailer park. I was able to buy the trailer for $1500 which was cheap even then. It was a 500 sq/ft unit, smaller than most people want, but was fine for me living alone. The lot rent was around $200 a month. I lived there for about 5 years before I had saved up enough to buy property, which again had a mobile home on it. This was before the whole property bubble really got going, but my mortgage ended up being $262.20 a month. I was shocked to see it was little more than what I had been paying for years. So I have to recommend that it is worth looking into buying the land with the mobile home. You might find the costs similar but with the bonus of actually working towards having it paid off.
I'm still living in that second trailer on 1.5 acres. Both I've owned were older and poorly insulated. I've since adapted mine to be super insulated and added a wood stove. In my ideal world I would own or build home with a real foundation instead of the mobile home. I think this is mostly because I could get better access to plumbing and I feel like I would have less trouble with mice getting inside. However, I'm not at all unhappy with having gone the route I did and living in the mobile home, esp. since it is all paid for now, meaning NO monthly rent or mortgage payments.
Thanks to all for your suggestions and feedback.
To tictac1: I enjoyed reading your comments on “mental slavery”. I have always been a bit out of the system type of person, and that’s why I work and volunteer in the areas I do. What you mention about regulations and laws, although true in certain cases, is not applicable to all the cases. When I moved to this complex (we bought the townhouse on plans because we were told it was cheaper that way), we had no idea of how the things functioned here in Canada. The strata rules at that time were tighter and they wouldn’t allow you to do anything on what they call “common property” (the yard I have to pay for so the landscapers can cut the lawn and flowers). With the years, they have relaxed a bit and now they allowed me to surrender my “right” to landscaping so I can take care of my own yard (I still have to pay the same monthly amount though, as it includes water, garbage removal and common property repairs and maintenance). This means I have been able to grow other flowers and bushes, so I have started growing edible flowers (LOL) , peppers and three tomatoes (hidden), as well as many other plants on pots all over my deck, which is very big.
Unfortunately, the “police” is not the actual police or city officers, but the same neighbours who are part of the strata council and are jealous about anything we do that looks “different” or “not allowed” according to the strata by-laws.
To Farmer’s Wife: thanks for your ideas. I probably gave up too fast on this community because I have been hurt before. When I put up my flyers inviting neighbours to start a community garden, somebody destroyed my flyers with an evidently evil attitude. Some people responded via email, but when I called them to a real life meeting, one by one excused with a different thing, and I ended up with nobody. I did a presentation at my children’s school PAC and I noticed right away nobody was engaged: the questions were that of reluctant and even opposed people, and I felt like a loser. I will try again using other approaches, as you say. I learned how to bake bread and I make good banana bread and apple pies, so I may share with my neighbours (bad that I don’t grow my own bananas or apples). But I have planned, as you say, start visiting the local market more often and attending more local fairs. In regards to the house, paying our huge debt is priority, but knowing that a mobile home may be a solution is very refreshing, even when temporary. I actually have a community targeted, they have their own transition town and money, and they are mostly farmers and/or craft people.
To David Huang: thanks for sharing your experience. I was afraid that living in a mobile park would be some type of stigma. Since I posted this, I have also talked to people around me and learned that yes, there is a stigma attached in some areas (that everybody living in a mobile park are poor, drug addict or living on government support, etc.), but not in all. Some have the stigmas that are only for older people. I have no problems with stigmas (I’m an immigrant and have had enough of that, what has made me somewhat thick skinned), but I was concerned about the reality behind that and how that would affect my children. However, I have also learned that there are many well maintained mobile houses and park communities that are actually very resilient, self-sufficient and well organized as a community, which is in fact a good thing.
Knowing that these types of houses are so affordable is really reassuring as we have a huge debt and may not be able to continue paying for this house in the future if any of us lose the job.
I think my plans are taking shape: I may save to buy land in the community I have already researched (and visited last July), and then I may buy a mobile house to put in there. Now I have to work hard in convincing my husband that this will work...
G'Day, Go for it! Get a mobile or manufactured home.
In Oz, people put their noses up on them. My parents lived in one. It was great. I can't say the construction was of the highest order, but it was good 'nuff'. Seem like everyone in Oz wants the following:
Now, consider this is the most isolated places on the planet. Got to be nuts! Might as well live in NYC! . In Oz, Variable interest loans are the go. $500/mo for a $50k note at 10% interest. I'll never forget that because that is what I had to pay 20 years ago for a house. Now, consider the payments on some of the $800k Sh*t boxes they're flogging on the website above. On top of that, in Oz, one would be paying 50% income tax too. When I see stuff, like the website above, I just get pissed off!
Silviatic, I can tell you that the mobile home park I lived in for a while was sort of middle of the road, neither the worst park around nor the best. My neighbors fit that catagory as well. Some fit the description "trailer trash" while others were truly great people. I had a nice retired couple living on one side of me. They would happily accept UPS package deliveries for me when I was away. My neighbor on the other side would mow my yard for me. I would do theirs when they were away as well as shovel snow from their walk in the winter. I tend to be a real introvert, especially back then, but the environment seemed to invite some sense of communtiy developing. I really did little to encourage community building back then, yet it happened regardless. I have to wonder what it would have been like if I had actually tried.
All that said, there was, and I feel still is, a certain stigma attached to living in a trailer park. It seems less so with a trailer on land. With a trailer on land I think it gets judged more on how well the place is kept up than whether it's a mobile home or not. However, mobile homes are pretty common where I live. Many are like mine, adapted and/or built onto so it becomes harder to tell from the outside that they are a mobile home.
Just a quick note from someone who does not live in tornado alley and is surrounded by a large percentage of trailer homes here in South Carolina. Anyone who lives in an area with lots of tornadoes should not consider a trailer home, in my opinion.
Back in NY, at least on Long Island, trailer homes were completely relegated to trailer parks by zoning. I had elderly church members who lived in one so I saw this first hand when I dropped them off in my car. That trailer park was a way for landowners to oppress the poor: the common charges were like $500 a month just to park a mobile home there, and the stigma was intense. (Yet it was not the worst place to live, if you could afford it, and at one point as an abandoned single parent I hoped to rise far enough on the socioeconomic scale to live in a trailer home.)
Here in SC there I've seen no zoning whatsoever, except in the nearby state capitol. Trailer homes are an established way of life, and a part of the economic cycle. Young people starting out often use them as housing, people new to a community often rent them while finding a permanent place to live, elderly people on budgets often sell their homes and use them to keep living expenses down. Trailer parks range from ones with little gardens, nice cars, and a community park to haunted looking nasty ones with half the windows broken - but really, the term trailer park here is a misnomer. No zoning. A lot of people have large pieces of land and the trailers on the property start out as a place for their married kids or elderly parents, and from what I can see when the relatives move on they rent them to others. The dirt roads between them eventually get paved. It just sort of happens.
And then, there is the ultimate trailer home: the double-wide. This is the size of a nice three-bedroom, two-bath home with an eat-in kitchen and a formal dining room. People who own these own the land they are on and you can only tell they are trailer homes with some effort. No stigma at all, but still not as nice as what they call a "stick built," or traditional home. Manufactured or kit homes are considered stick-built, right along with traditionally built homes. I've looked at a lot of them as my folks shopped for one when they retired. Kit homes take advantage of modular construction, a way to keep costs down and quality high. If I was considering buying a kit home I'd get a home inspection on it, same as any house, but the fact that is was manufactured would not negatively affect my choice. I'd be more interested in the land it was on: does it have its own water source? Is the land good for gardening?
The main advantages of a manufactured home over even a double-wide seem to be their tax advantages and their sturdiness. In America at least, banks and insurers consider a mobile home a vehicle, with non-deductible interest charges, and it depreciates like a car. Not that houses have not been falling in value recently, but you cannot write off the interest on a car loan any more than you can write off the interest on a trailer home - even a fancy double-wide. With a manufactured home the annual savings due to the mortgage interest deduction are as substantial as those for a traditionally-built home.
And in a wind storm I'd rather be in a stick-built home of any sort, with the plumbing solidly tethering me to the foundation. Remember the movie Twister? They ended up hanging onto pipes. In a tornado, the bathroom with it's maze of metal plumbing is considered the safest room in the house. Trailer homes don't have that advantage.
Just my 2 cents.
Just a quick note, plumbing has not been done in metal for a long time, ABS has been used for drainage for years. Also, even in older homes cast iron is common and I would not trust that to hang on to, as it ages it can deteriorate badly. Bathrooms are considered the safer room in a home because they are generally in towards the center of the home.
I spent 2 years apprenticing as a plumber, and have worked in the plumbing/waterworks wholesale business for 10 years.
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