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The Rise and Fall of the Mobile Home (Manufactured Home)

Jonny5

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This is a great long read covering the whole history of the mobile home, or the "manufactured home" in the current parlance of their manufacturers, or "trailer home" as they were called originally.

The Rise and Fall of the Manufactured Home - Part I
(note this part goes through from the 1920's to about 1970. Part II will likely come out next week, but this part itself is a great read)

It covers everything from their historical origins from homemade camping trailers in the 30's, to growing usage during the World War II, to becoming a permanent part of the housing landscape, and all that entailed from government regulations (they are considered vehicles, not houses for regulation purposes) and the well known social stigma of living in a trailer park.

Some excerpts to whet your appetite.
Almost as soon as trailers appeared, they began to be used for year-round living rather than camping trips, typically by traveling salesman or other itinerant workers. In the 1920s and 30s it was estimated that between 10 and 25% of trailers were used for year-round accommodation. And as unemployment soared and housing starts collapsed during the Great Depression, trailer living became more common.

In 1954, Marshfield Homes debuted a mobile home that was 10 ft wide. The brainchild of Elmer Frey, the 10-wide was too wide to be used as a regular vehicle - it could only be transported by acquiring special permits of limited duration (the original 10-wide was permitted as a construction shack, rather than a trailer.) But the added width gave it additional space and provided enough room for a corridor. The 10-wide was an immediate success, and by 1961 98% of new mobile homes were 10-wides.

The relaxation of highway regulations allowing transportation of larger units made mobile homes competitive as a low-cost housing option, and sales of them exploded. Mobile home sales increased from 90,000 in 1960 to nearly 600,000 in 1972, going from 8% to 22% of annual housing units produced. By 1974 mobile homes were produced by over 300 firms in 800 plants across the country, and across the country 9 million people were living in nearly 4 million mobile homes. 41% of those mobile homes were in trailer parks, which now numbered over 24,000.

Despite their increasing use as permanent housing, the stigma against trailers remained. Anthropological studies of trailer parks referred to them as “trailer slums”, and one municipal official was quoted in an article for Survey magazine: "A new kind of slum, the permanent trailer camp, offering all the bad features of the urban “blight area,”, none of the vacation adventures for which trailers were made. Trailer camp slums are a very real, if as yet unrecognized, menace to our American way of life. They should be eradicated now, even in the face of an acute housing shortage, for the creation of even more slums is not the solution to the problem of housing shortage."
 
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lenaitch

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When I saw the title, my mind went to Prefabricated or Engineered homes, like Royal, Guildcrest, etc., so it seems the terminology is not particularly precise The prevalence of Manufactured Homes in Canada is nowhere near what it is in the US, probably for all sorts of cultural and demographic reasons, so I'm not sure there has been a corresponding 'rise and fall' up here.

No doubt they have an image problem. Many municipalities restrict them to certain areas and condition; I'm not sure there would be many who allow them on freehold lots. They are not built to regular Building Code standards and they are very limited in design options and construction standards, mostly by their need to be transportable. Even if you go with a 'double wide', there is no escaping the limited dimension, including height which results in a low slope roof. I doubt you will find one that even comes close to an R-2000 standard.

Other than traditional trailer parks, they might have a role in so-called tertiary residences, such as 'granny flats' (my buddy had one for his folks) but in many urban areas are likely limited by access (and maybe local bylaws).
 

Jonny5

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When I saw the title, my mind went to Prefabricated or Engineered homes, like Royal, Guildcrest, etc., so it seems the terminology is not particularly precise The prevalence of Manufactured Homes in Canada is nowhere near what it is in the US, probably for all sorts of cultural and demographic reasons, so I'm not sure there has been a corresponding 'rise and fall' up here.

No doubt they have an image problem. Many municipalities restrict them to certain areas and condition; I'm not sure there would be many who allow them on freehold lots. They are not built to regular Building Code standards and they are very limited in design options and construction standards, mostly by their need to be transportable. Even if you go with a 'double wide', there is no escaping the limited dimension, including height which results in a low slope roof. I doubt you will find one that even comes close to an R-2000 standard.

Other than traditional trailer parks, they might have a role in so-called tertiary residences, such as 'granny flats' (my buddy had one for his folks) but in many urban areas are likely limited by access (and maybe local bylaws).
Good point on the thread title. I took it from the article, but changed it now so it's in the more commonly used language.
 

mburrrrr

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Part II
Part I was more interesting. I was expecting more in part II.
 

Admiral Beez

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I was surprised when I moved to Fredericton, NB in 2004 how many people lived in trailer parks. A local told me that since they don't have apartment buildings, anyone without the means to buy a house would instead live in a mobile home on a rented lot.

Homes in Atlantic Canada, even permanent ones seem to be poorly constructed to withstand the hurricanes and storms that are increasingly hitting the area. Newfoundland may be called the Rock, but they build their houses out of clapboard and twigs. Coming from Cabbagetown, where every house is a fortress of two or three layers of brick, I found that a brick or stone house is a rare thing in Atlantic Canada.
 

lenaitch

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I was surprised when I moved to Fredericton, NB in 2004 how many people lived in trailer parks. A local told me that since they don't have apartment buildings, anyone without the means to buy a house would instead live in a mobile home on a rented lot.

Homes in Atlantic Canada, even permanent ones seem to be poorly constructed to withstand the hurricanes and storms that are increasingly hitting the area. Newfoundland may be called the Rock, but they build their houses out of clapboard and twigs. Coming from Cabbagetown, where every house is a fortress of two or three layers of brick, I found that a brick or stone house is a rare thing in Atlantic Canada.
In the early stages, you built with what you have on hand. Toronto and surroundings has (had) an abundance of the right type of clay to make bricks and a big enough emerging market nearby to justify somebody - several somebodies - building a kiln. In eastern Ontario it was limestone. Even in most of rural and northern Ontario, lumber was local, easy to transport and mill.

In Atlantic Canada, they have lots of wood. It has never been an economic powerhouse so, for most homebuilders, the cost to ship in brick was, and probably still is, prohibitive and likely not enough of a market to support a decent skilled trade base.

Older brick houses, like in your neighbourhood, are solid brick. Don't confuse them with brick veneer of most houses since the 1950s. It is totally anecdotal from the news coverage, of Fiona but most of the serious damage I have seen is from storm surge and, to a lesser amount, roof damage from wind. It doesn't matter what the house is clad in to have the roof ripped off.

I'd have to be convinced that, all other things being equal, a solid brick house would fare better than a wood framed one. Building standards are better, but they still have a way to go to address the increased storm activity we will likely see, but that will come at a cost and still won't address grandfathering. Florida has some strong building code elements, but we still see devastation regularly in the news.
 

Admiral Beez

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In Atlantic Canada, they have lots of wood. It has never been an economic powerhouse so, for most homebuilders, the cost to ship in brick was, and probably still is, prohibitive and likely not enough of a market to support a decent skilled trade base.

Older brick houses, like in your neighbourhood, are solid brick. Don't confuse them with brick veneer of most houses since the 1950s.
Your post reminded me of Marysville in Fredericton. The workers housing was solid brick and reminded me of Cabbagetown. It was a rougher area when I lived there, but it’s gentrified nicely since.


7bridgehotel.jpg
 

lenaitch

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Your post reminded me of Marysville in Fredericton. The workers housing was solid brick and reminded me of Cabbagetown. It was a rougher area when I lived there, but it’s gentrified nicely since.


7bridgehotel.jpg
Yes. Corporate or institutional built. It was an expression of wealth - they could afford to have the brick and tradespersons brought in.
 

ShonTron

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Saint John always looked like a down-and-out city, despite the massive 1970s urban renewal schemes. Not because of its mostly wooden housing stock (Halifax and St. John's don't have the same feel), but because it all looks so weathered and unmaintained. There are a lot of trailer parks around Saint John too, but it seems the most common rental stock are these cheap-looking multiplex building complexes on the outskirts. No wonder Trailer Park Boys was set and filmed in the Maritimes.
 

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