Manufactured housing communities, consisting of factory-built, single-family homes that sit on rented land, provide a low-cost homeownership option. This report takes a comprehensive look at this little-studied type of housing in Pennsylvania and finds that:

  • although these communities are more common in rural areas, in Pennsylvania, a slight majority are in urban areas, particularly the suburbs surrounding large and midsize cities.
  • Pennsylvania’s manufactured housing communities are not concentrated in economically distressed areas. Unlike other unsubsidized low-cost housing, these communities in Pennsylvania are generally located in areas with lower poverty rates and higher homeownership rates, compared with the state overall.
  • manufactured housing community homebuyers in Pennsylvania are lower-income than both site-built and manufactured homebuyers who own the land beneath their homes, suggesting this is a more attainable homeownership option for moderate-income households.

Although manufactured housing communities can provide a low-cost path to homeownership, there are risks and drawbacks to this arrangement for homeowners. Homes in land-lease communities have diminished wealth-building potential, since these homeowners can’t rely on stable or increasing land values and may be exposed to increases in lot rents. Residents can also be displaced if the property owner closes the community. Additionally, manufactured homebuyers who do not own their underlying land can’t get traditional mortgages; instead, they are limited to less regulated, higher-cost personal property, or “chattel,” loans.

The report provides information for policymakers and housing practitioners concerned about the shortage of affordable housing, who may consider opportunities to preserve, or even responsibly expand, access to manufactured housing communities.

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