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Opinion: Mobile Homes Are Overlooked as a Way to Quickly Expand Affordable Senior Housing


Modern mobile home
A modern mobile home. Courtesy Manufactured Housing Insitute

There will be nearly 1 million people over the age of 60 living in San Diego County in just 12 years so the dire need for affordable senior housing cannot be overstated. One of the most efficient — and widely overlooked — ways to increase the region’s senior housing inventory is to open more mobile home parks.

However, it has been almost 50 years since a new mobile home park was authorized in San Diego County. It’s past time for local government to approve some.    

It is a known fact that housing affordability significantly contributes to homelessness, especially for seniors. One out of every four homeless adults in San Diego County is 55 or older, and rates of homelessness rise when rental costs begin to exceed 32% of the median income. With the average apartment rent at $2,246 for a studio, $2,504 for one bedroom, $2,825 for two bedrooms. many seniors are simply priced out of the rental market.   

Mobile homes are affordable housing solutions for seniors. They are built in a factory and placed on a trailer chassis to allow them to be moved. One of the biggest advantages of a mobile home is the short building and delivery process.  

These manufactured homes can be set up in as little as seven days, and they are far less expensive than a traditionally constructed home. The cost for an average single-family home in San Diego is approximately $847,000. The average cost of a mobile home is $127,250.   

San Diego currently ranks as the 8th least affordable housing market and is characterized by extremely high home prices, high rental costs, and low vacancy rates, especially for lower-cost units. San Diego County elected leaders have been working on affordable housing solutions for years, but their efforts to meet the high demand has been challenging for a multitude of reasons.

For example, regulatory costs to build a home are high in San Diego, representing between 34% and 51% of the average cost of building, and construction material prices rose by 25% in 2021. So, a less expensive housing alternative makes financial sense.   

With mobile homes the owner leases a space at a mobile home park but owns the home itself. The park provides services such as electricity, water, and sewer that the renter pays for. Mobile home park amenities often mirror those found in condominium or apartment complexes such as swimming pools, gyms, playgrounds and BBQ areas.

The average mobile home community monthly rent in San Diego is around $1,000 and at a price point of $127,250, mobile homes are the most affordable housing option for seniors living on fixed incomes.   

The affordable housing crisis in San Diego has always been a supply and demand issue, so approving new mobile home parks seems to be the quickest and most cost-effective way to increase the supply and meet the demand. However, there will need to be buy-in from communities and cities throughout the county.

Even with traditional affordable housing projects, neighborhoods fight vigorously against them with a NIMBY attitude. When affordable housing options are considered, there is almost always some opposition. The most commonly reported opposition to affordable housing is fear of increased crime, decreased safety and a loss of neighboring property values.   

To meet the housing demands for the region San Diego County needs over 171,000 new housing units in the next ten years. The city of San Diego alone needs to build over 100,000 housing units by 2029 to meet its current and projected housing needs.

To meet these numbers, opening more mobile home parks simply makes sense. Seniors living in San Diego are looking for housing that will allow them to live self-sufficient, independent lives, and local government can help make this happen by approving the more senior mobile home parks within the county.   

Mark Powell is a real estate broker and a former San Diego County Board of Education member. 



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