A solution to rural New York’s housing problems could lie in manufactured homes.
A 2023 report found manufactured homes comprise around 2.5% of New York’s housing stock. In rural counties, it jumps to more than 10%.
Local and state groups have been working to improve this form of housing.
Ben Carver, director of manufactured homes for Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services, said the benefits of manufactured homes boil down to economics.
“Manufactured houses are substantially less expensive than a traditional stick-built home,” Carver pointed out. “They offer, by and large, the same amenities, unless we’re talking about a mansion of some kind, right? They cost less to build. The installation process is maybe a month, as opposed to a year for a stick-built home.”
He noted the stigma of living in aged trailers has kept people from pursuing this kind of housing. But Carver feels the industry has turned a corner, with modern manufactured homes baring little resemblance to what they once were. Stereotypes often overlook the real challenges this kind of housing can face, such as exploitative landlords and deferred maintenance practices.
In 2021, Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services bought Auble’s Trailer Park and has been transforming it into Compass MHC. Work on the project has been arduous since it is new territory for the organization. Carver noted the project differs from others because development usually starts from scratch.
“What we were doing and what we still are doing is this huge infrastructure project,” Carver emphasized. “It means turning the ground inside out so we can replace sewer mains and water mains, electrical infrastructure, and then paving on top of that. But we’re doing it all within the context of someone’s home, and their driveway, and their lawn.”
He added the group is looking to work on other manufactured home projects in the future and is on the lookout for other trailer parks they could improve.
Edwin is a reporter and producer in North Tonawanda, New York. He’s previously reported for the Niagara Gazette and the Ithaca Times. Edwin got an early start in radio interning for WBFO-88.7FM, NPR’s Buffalo affiliate. In 2018, he graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College with a B.A. in Journalism, and in 2022, graduated from Syracuse University with an M.S. in Communications.