There’s no logical reason to ban mobile or manufactured homes from the same plots of land that allow stick-built single-family housing; I fully support Rep. Cheryl Golek’s bill, L.D. 337, to amend local zoning laws to allow mobile or manufactured homes on single-family lots.

When asked about their opposition to the idea, most people will hem and haw and maybe say something about safety – even though modern manufactured housing is built to strict safety standards. Or they’ll say something about “neighborhood character.” As if mobiles aren’t, what, pretty enough?

I think what it boils down to is property values – the idea is that living in proximity to manufactured housing will drag down home valuations for the whole neighborhood.

When I was on the planning board for the town of Buxton, some of the most bitter meetings were about a proposed mobile home park. The neighbors of the proposed site were mostly concerned about their own homes’ property values going down, but they weren’t exactly calm about the whole situation. There was also a fear of what sorts of people might move in.

What I find so fascinating about this phenomenon is that it is entirely a psychological problem. If we all decided that a view of a mobile home was a desirable trait, the property values in those neighborhoods that have mobile homes would go up. But we don’t think that mobiles are desirable, because of what – and of who – they represent: low-income housing, a lesser form of housing and homeownership.

Like many things in American society, reaching this understanding feels like pulling the mask off a Scooby-Doo villain. Instead of a monster, it is … stigma! As usual.


Even the assumption that mobile homes depreciate in value, while stick-built homes appreciate, isn’t entirely a settled question. In and of themselves, sure, the homes would depreciate faster. But if they are on their own private land, as opposed to a leased lot, they hold value. Right now, the housing market is so tight that every home is worth something. Also, I didn’t buy a mobile home as an investment to flip. I bought it to have a place to live in. I’ve been living in my 30-year-old mobile for 18 months now, and I have to say I’m pretty satisfied, especially coming from the experience of living in a 200-year-old farmhouse. (Compared to that, 30 years is practically fresh off the lot.)

I’ve dealt with my own internalized stigma around the type of home I own. When people express admiration that I bought a home before I was 30, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, “Well, it’s just a trailer.” As if it doesn’t really count.

I think part of the stigma is generational. For the most part, when I say I’m the homeowner of a single-wide, millennials and Gen Zers just express wide-eyed wonder that I managed to buy a house at all. Boomers and other older folks tend to also be congratulatory, but they also say something like “it’s a great starter home.”

The fact is, when I was looking for a home in the winter and spring of 2022, I was working with a budget of $150,000. That’s a lot of money to find between the couch cushions but in today’s housing market it’s uncompetitive. All the stick-built houses I was looking at needed tens of thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades to make them comfortably livable. That same amount of money was able to buy me a move-in-ready 30-year-old mobile home on its own two acres of land. The only major upgrade needed was a new septic tank, having reached the end of a 30-year lifespan, an issue that crops up just as regularly in stick-built homes. According to the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, building a traditional home in Maine costs around $300,000. And it takes time. You can purchase a brand new single-wide for under $100,000.

There are many upsides to mobiles. A big one is that they are often easier to maintain. Any of the problems you might have coming from an attic or a basement are eliminated when you don’t have an attic or a basement. I had no issues with flooding during the last set of storms. There are a lot fewer places for unwanted critters to get into the house. My home is energy-efficient to heat and cool because it is a one-story rectangle. It’s also well-insulated, especially considering it is 30 years old; more modern builds have even better materials.

I know that a lot of people will be worried about taking “home rule” away from towns, but that’s one of the issues that brought us into a housing crisis in the first place. If everyone focuses on a very narrow view of what is in their immediate best interest, municipalities tend to end up with, well, with the current housing crisis.

But I think it’s possible that the housing crisis has gotten to the point that manufactured homes are going to start losing stigma, at least in Maine – because we value a bargain over just about anything else.

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:
Twitter: @mainemillennial

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