The State of Manufactured Housing in the Alabama Black Belt

The Black Belt region of the southern United States originally referred to the large stretch of dark and fertile soil running from Virginia down to Texas. In Alabama’s part of the region, slavery and cotton during the mid-19th century made it one of the most affluent and politically powerful areas in the United States. The region was also home to many key moments of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-twentieth century, including the Montgomery bus boycotts, the Greensboro sit-ins and the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.

But as its rich soil eroded and the legacy of oppression endured, the last several decades of the Black Belt have been marked by a multitude of social and economic challenges, with access to safe and affordable housing among them.

One solution to this nation-wide challenge is manufactured housing. At less than half the average cost per square foot than site-built homes, manufactured homes are the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the country. In new data and policy snapshots from Prosperity Now, assess the state of manufactured housing in the Alabama Black Belt region.

The data snapshot reports on a comprehensive set of indicators that illustrate manufactured housing in the Black Belt. Among other facts, it shows that:

  • Over 20% of all residents in the Black Belt live in manufactured homes, compared to just 13% in all of Alabama and under 6% in the U.S. overall.
  • Housing costs for manufactured homeowners in the region are significantly less than those for all owners and renters, and low- and moderate-income households spend far less on housing as a percentage of their income for manufactured homes than other types of housing.
  • Roughly 17% of all manufactured homes in the region were created before 1979 and likely before the implementation of HUD building standards in 1976. This means they are also likely to need repairs or replacement.

The policy snapshot adds important context to this data by highlighting the relatively few state policies to support manufactured homeowners. For example:

  • While Alabama provides some protection against retaliation from community owners in land-lease communities, the state offers virtually no other protections for residents of manufactured homes.
  • Though two out of three of Alabama’s affordable financing programs for potential homebuyers don’t outright exclude manufactured home purchases, there is a distinct lack of participating lenders in the area. This means that many manufactured homes in the area may be financed with personal property loans as opposed to mortgages, which can lead to a loss in home value for the owners.

It is important that community advocates and policymakers in the Black Belt recognize the advantages of and challenges facing manufactured housing while addressing affordable housing issues in the region. For more details about the state of manufactured housing in the Alabama Black Belt, see our corresponding data snapshot and policy snapshot.

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