Progressivism needs to grow mobile
Nearly 10 percent of Americans – more than 30 million people- now live in mobile homes. Recently, my wife and I became two of them.
by Christopher Bifani
July 27, 2013
We had been living in a $1,000 per month (rent plus utilities) Wilmington, NC site-built house whose owner, following five years of our tenancy, chose to re-occupy. We had to go. With little savings, two dogs and three cats our options were limited. Other rental houses were too expensive and apartments that would accept our menagerie were non-existent.
Luckily, we found a 1968 40’x12’ fixer-upper with an 8’x16’screen porch for four grand ($2500 purchase price and $1500 renovations). Now we’re on Lot 16 in a tree-packed RV park in Holden Beach, midway between the Myrtles and Wilmington, - ground zero of Trailer-land.
Holden is a quasi-resort town which still has anti-Obama billboards mixed in with the Repent signs on the main drag nearly a year past the election. It has its share of million dollar homes on the waterfront but two miles inland, where we are, the stock is mostly working-class.
We scraped up the cash to buy our little piece of the American Dream upfront and now pay a monthly lot fee of just $400 which includes electricity, water, sewer, cable TV and internet. Tax is a small vehicle assessment. Our monthly expenses dropped by more than $600! Much of the anxiety we felt about the economy has been mitigated. If one of us were to lose our job, we’d still scrape by.
Mobile home dwellers, we learned, were green before green was cool.
Mobiles cost far less to heat and chill, though heating efficiency of older homes is far from optimal especially in northern states.
Mobiles hold less crap so rampant consumerism must always be balanced against what will ultimately fit in the space.
They tend to be on dirt lots along gravel roads so their placement does not contribute to groundwater issues the way large asphalt developments do.
They require fewer resources to construct and maintain.
And you don’t have to cut down as many trees to place them. In fact the more trees around them, the better protected from extreme weather they are.
Mobile home residency is concentrated in the south, is largely white and lower income, and its occupants tend to be more conservative than people of similar income in apartments or site-built homes – perhaps due to where most mobile homes are, along the so-called bible belt. In the Carolinas, home to the nation’s highest percentages of mobile home occupancy – 19% in SC, 17% in NC – they represent the most affordable, and plentiful housing available.
Progressives, who tend to be concentrated in states where mobile home occupancy is lowest, for the most part have little contact with, or understanding of, this rapidly growing demographic, and vice versa, despite the obvious benefits which progressive policies could provide to them: Ending the wars, rescuing the environment, extending public education to the “14th”grade, to name a few.
In my experience as a community journalist in Ohio, Carolina and Jersey I've reported firsthand how republicans and democrats alike come together to engineer zoning and planning policies designed to keep“trailers” out of their jurisdictions. Liberals, under the banner of quality affordable housing advocacy, tend to lump trailers on the same heap of sub-standard living arrangements with slums, squatter buildings and the tent cities of the homeless.
And so, in the necessary hunt for coalition, has the left written off mobile home Americans – at its peril? In purple states like Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida their numbers are more than sufficient to swing any – hell, every - election. The mobile home electorate sits squarely under the tent of the 99%, but vote with the 1% far more reliably than their urban/suburban low income peers.
They turn the tide in the exurban counties that ultimately decide the composition of state legislatures which in turn gerrymander districts into safe havens for the right, all the while suffering many of the same injustices and prejudices as the urban poor. Trailer parks are disparaged in our popular culture as much, perhaps more so, than the ghettos of the inner city.
However, mobile home communities are diversifying to include more minorities, immigrants, faiths, and sexual preferences. As the emerging dominant rung of low-income housing, in the south at least, it's inevitable. And this emerging diversity can open these huge fertile fields of mostly white but marginalized citizenry to new ideas, and more progressive thought.
To be warned, though, libertarianism and the Tea Party are already here.
In previous Free Press commentary, I argue a key to preventing the poor from organizing for social justice is to keep them too busy and tired making ends meet to act. But $12-per-hour mobile homeowners have much more disposable income than $12-per-hour apartment dwellers, and thus might not need idealism-sapping second jobs to stay afloat. Mobile home communities also have a much greater percentage of retirees than other lower-income neighborhoods. In other words, there is a valuable pool of feet on the ground and eyes on the news to be mined, as well as the votes.
As I walk my quite happy dogs down our dirt lane to the park mailboxes it occurs to me:
How well we engage, educate and energize “trailer treasure” may make or break American progressivism. Because if and when a viable third party emerges – Green, Tea or perhaps Green-Tea – it will brew right here, in the trailer parks.
Recent Environment Articles
Mansfield Council votes in support of fracking waste ban in Ohio
December 4, 2013
Bill Baker, Frack Free Ohio
And so the fracking cover up begins
December 4, 2013
Bob Fitrakis and Gerry Bello
Ohio communities unite to blockade a "Toxic Trespasser"
November 24, 2013
John Bergen, (440) 935-5477 firstname.lastname@example.org
How the City of Columbus could save us from radioactive fracking waste -- but will they?
November 23, 2013
Pandora's Atomic Box Score: On the Nuclear industry's total meltdown
November 13, 2013
Where were you when they told us the world as we know it is over?
November 5, 2013
ODNR proposes elimination of important habitat protections in 8,000-acre Shawnee Forest Backcountry Area; Feds plan to open entire Blue Rock State Forest to fracking
July 29, 2013
Progressivism needs to grow mobile
July 27, 2013
Radiation expert exposes danger to Ohioans from fracking waste: Better public protection needed from State and Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District
July 26, 2013
Obama’s climate change plan: Not enough steps forward
July 5, 2013
Obama's climate proposals fall dangerously short, ignore time-critical opportunity to revive the economy
June 26, 2013
Jill Stein, President, Green Shadow Cabinet
Ohio government officials activating a radioactive fracking waste time bomb: Local grassroots leaders weigh in on disposing radioactive fracking waste in Ohio
June 18, 2013
Solar and wind energy in an ever-hotter planet
May 2, 2013
Is there fracking fraud and lease flipping in Kasich’s Ohio?
April 18, 2013
A Future Stuck in the Pipeline
April 6, 2013
Last chances to reign in catastrophic climate change
March 30, 2013
Renowned experts will address fracking at conference
March 27, 2013
Ohio residents shut down fracking waste storage facility
February 19, 2013
Sierra Club and Franklin County reach agreement on keeping sewage out of waterways
February 17, 2013
Ben Wickizer, Ohio Sierra Club Conservation Program Coordinator
48 leaders arrested in historic act of civil disobedience to stop Keystone XL pipeline
February 13, 2013
Welcome to Radioactive Ohio - URGENT! COMMENTS NEEDED BY FEB. 11! ALERT!
January 14, 2013
CPUC San Onofre investigation begins
January 14, 2013
Ecological Options Network
NEWGreen: Radioactive Wakeup Call for the Great Lakes!
January 8, 2013
Ohio Sierra Club Nuclear Free Committee
Read Environment Articles by Year:
2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000