The affordable-housing shortage in the nation has become an acute crisis in Maine. Trailer parks for mobile homes, often overlooked as a source of affordable housing, need protection.

An American flag is displayed on a mobile home in Pine Grove Village, a mobile home park between Ocean Park Road and Old Orchard Road in Old Orchard Beach. Mobile homes make up about 8 percent of the housing stock in Maine.

Some 22 million Americans live in trailer parks, many of them senior citizens, veterans and people with disabilities. Many are employed but their income puts them just above the poverty level. Since the federal government cut support for affordable housing, trailer parks with manufactured homes have filled the gap. While the federal government has not tracked them, it’s estimated that there are 2.7 million manufactured homes in 45,600 parks in 49 states.

Mobile homes make up a higher share of the housing stock in Maine than in any other state in the northeastern U.S. In 2020, 62,000 of the state’s 747,000 housing units were mobile homes, about 8 percent. Trailer parks throughout the country face a housing crisis of their own, threatened by rising demand, costs, rents and profit-driven investors. In some Maine counties, the price of mobile homes has skyrocketed in the pandemic.

During the past decade, several of the biggest private equity and real estate investment firms have spent billions buying mobile home parks. They immediately raise rents on a “captive tenancy,” because 80 percent of the homes sit on foundations and many would be damaged by moving. The cost of moving ranges from $5,000 to $10,000; the median income of residents of mobile homes is $30,000.

According to materials for investors prepared by Mobile Home University, one of the largest owners of parks, the fact that tenants can’t afford the cost of moving “keeps revenue stable and makes it easy to raise rents without losing any occupancy.”

But many residents cannot afford the increased rent and are forced to move or are evicted. As parks have been gobbled up by corporate wealth, evictions have grown. In many states, mobile home park owners led in filings for evictions.


Trailer park residents also lose their homes when local governments – looking to increase their tax base or responding to promises of additional jobs – sell the land to developers. Like many states, Maine requires a mere 45-day notice for eviction. The developer or city may or may not provide funds for moving. Any help is usually insufficient, especially for owners of homes left behind to be demolished.

In August, a U.S. Senate hearing, “The Rent Eats First,” addressed the long-standing shortage of available housing for low-income renters. It thoroughly aired the predatory behavior of institutional investors and corporate landlords evicting thousands during the pandemic. But the Democrats’ Inflation Reduction Act excluded investments to curb skyrocketing rents and protect affordable housing.

Meanwhile, companies buying communities have increasingly taken advantage of billions of dollars of low-interest loans backed by the federal government. When a company raises the rent on a trailer park, it increases the property’s value on paper. The firm then borrows more federal money and buys more mobile home parks. The federal government thus exacerbates the affordable-housing crisis and feeds money to Wall Street.

But David is fighting back against Goliath. Websites such as Prosperity Now provide legal and financial advice to trailer park residents to buy the land from the owners of the park. The nonprofit ROC USA (resident-owned communities) has sponsored roughly 240 trailer parks, from Maine to California, to buy their property.

Nineteen states have laws that help residents become park or lot owners, but laws protecting residents vary by state. A handful of states in the West are considering laws to provide equity and protection for mobile home residents.

As of 2021, New England had 175 community-owned parks, 143 in New Hampshire assisted by the ROC-affiliated Community Loan Fund. That year, the 30-year-old Genesis Fund, based in Brunswick, helped Maine gain its ninth resident-owned trailer park.

Given the severity of Maine’s affordable-housing crisis, it behooves the governor and Legislature to consider measures to protect mobile home residents and to assist in the increase of resident-owned communities.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.