An easier path to communal living.
I grew up in coastal California, a land of dreams and dreamers where follow through can be harder to come by. So many amazing things to do!
My friends have often talked about staying close to each other, raising families together, and sharing some land. Getting a group of friends to move from one bar to another is often called herding cats. Starting a residential community with friends or family? A little tougher.
People used to live with grandparents, in-laws, and cousins all under that same roof. Close knit housing, where people live and cooperate together, has all but vanished in the last century. Communities have been replaced by single-occupancy apartment buildings and single family homes. Neither of these are bad things, but the physical space that they create does not naturally foster close relationships between neighbors. There should be another easily accessible housing option.
Friends are always moving and getting new jobs, so trying to bring together a few sets of lives that are constantly in flux is challenging. Most people that I know have never been able to create the shared living paradise that they envisioned. Now they have kids and even less time to dedicate to that dream.
While looking for an easier alternative, I found mobile home parks.
Mobile home parks almost perfectly fit the model of co-housing, a “community of private homes clustered around shared space.” Co-housing has been my preferred community method since I first lived on a shared property. Everyone has their own private home with easy access to the shared public areas.
With the birth of the tiny home movement some people are seeing the advantage to downsized living. The barriers to entry are small. A mobile home is the least expensive house you can buy, period. No mortgage. The barriers to exit are also small. Less possessions. It’s easy to sell your home and move when you own it outright and it only costs the buyer $15,000. Moving into a mobile home takes a day, remodeling it takes a week or two, three at the maximum. And get this, they can be actually NICE and INVENTIVE.
Most parks don’t yet have the cooperation built into them. But the nature of a mobile home park is that everyone is in everyone else’s business. Your walls are thin, homes are close together, and the community is usually pretty tight knit, whether they want to be or not. So the only reason why somebody might want to live in a mobile home park even if they don’t want to live in community is because parks are cheaper than apartments.
If you take the naturally occurring community of a mobile home park and add some cooperation, here is what you get: one shared riding lawn mower, one large community work garage. A picnic and BBQ area where people can gather after work. A projector for outside movies in the summer and a garden. One baby-sitter and dog-sitter. Kids that walk together to school. Each person has their own home and their own space, but the community areas are close and shared by everyone.
I repeat, I don’t think this should be the only housing option in the United States. It’s great that people can live in houses and apartments by themselves or with their family if they choose to. I just wanted to find an option for those of us who want to live within a tighter community.
Believe it or not, mobile home parks used to be upscale. They were for people who could afford to travel with their own hotel room towed behind their car or truck. As mobile homes were built bigger and wider, they were increasingly difficult and expensive to tow and became more permanent fixtures. Soon after they were the least expensive form of housing available and they have remained that way since.
I now own and operate three mobile home parks and have two more under contract. I am learning with each new park what it takes to seed a community spirit within the park.
When my friends have options around the country of places to move where they can own their own private home and live as inexpensively as humanly possible within a community that shares resources I will consider that a success.