Better To Live In During A Pandemic: Apartments or Mobile Homes?

2020 has been a year for most people. In fact, thanks to the ongoing pandemic, people are asking themselves questions they never thought they would have to ask themselves in their lifetime. For instance, many people are wondering, is it better to live in an apartment or mobile home during a pandemic? Well, the answer to that question is a complicated one. On the surface, both apartments for rent and mobile homes for rent are considered multifamily housing. As a result, many people assume that both living situations afford the same protections and governmental assistance during a pandemic. However, the truth is that mobile or manufactured housing has been treated a little differently over the past 11 to 12 months.

That said, in terms of affordability and accessibility to support from neighbors as well as the surrounding community, both apartment living and mobile home living rank about the same. Nevertheless, there is no denying the fact that a significant number of people that live in mobile home communities or apartment complexes are essential workers, teachers, young professionals, students, and families that are all trying to make ends meet. Consequently, when millions of people lost their jobs and couldn't afford to pay their rent or mortgages, many apartment renters and mobile home residents were among the millions.

Manufactured Homes Residents Work In Industries And Occupations That Are Most Vulnerable To COVID-19

Moreover, studies have indicated that individuals who are looking for mobile homes for sale or who have purchased a manufactured residence are more likely to work in industries and occupations that are most vulnerable to COVID-19. The same is true for those who choose to rent a mobile home. In fact, according to the Urban Institute, approximately 13.5 percent of manufactured homeowners are service workers, whereas only 8.2 percent of single-family homeowners work in the various service industries. Furthermore, 20 percent of renters of manufactured homes are also highly susceptible, in comparison to other property types except that of renters in two-to-four-unit buildings.

In contrast, people who are looking for apartments for rent or currently leasing an apartment home are less likely to work in said industries and have been able to work from home if their job was one that could be done remotely. Here, individuals who live in 5 to 50+ unit multifamily housing developments are actually among the least vulnerable or least likely to work in industries that increase their chances of contracting COVID-19.

Increasing the Likelihood that COVID-19 Will Spread

One would think that people living in multi-unit housing would be more likely to contract COVID-19 or cause the virus to spread. But here, it appears that many people living in large apartment communities are less likely to come into contact with the virus, especially if they can work from home and practice social distancing when they go outside for the necessities. Furthermore, despite high touch surfaces and common areas, many apartment communities are doing everything humanly possible to ensure that there is not an outbreak within their communities.

On the other hand, those who reside in mobile or manufactured home communities appear to be increasing their risk of contracting the disease due to their occupations and outside contact with the general public. However, at least here, there are far less common areas or high touch surfaces like elevators or single points of entry that everyone must come into contact with. Consequently, if you do not work in a vulnerable industry and practice social distancing, along with other health/safety protocols, then you should not be at higher risk just because you live in a mobile or manufactured home. That said, where things get a little tricky is when it comes to governmental assistance.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

While the government issued out stimulus checks and put a hold on evictions, many people were still left unprotected or ineligible for Coronavirus Aid. For starters, most manufactured homeowners did not qualify for CARES Act forbearance relief. Unfortunately, since more than 77 percent of all new manufactured homes are titled personal property rather than real estate, the CARES Act did not apply. Furthermore, for the few mobile or manufactured homes that were titled as personal property, only the homes that were secured with Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Title 1 loans qualify for CARES Act forbearance. What’s more, manufactured home borrowers, who often have low incomes, generally, receive forbearance on less favorable terms (if they are entitled to a forbearance) than wealthier borrowers with federally backed mortgages.

Similarly, individuals who are renting a mobile home did not receive immediate relief. In fact, the CARES Act eviction moratorium did not apply to most renters in manufactured homes—barring two exceptions: the manufactured home parks financed with federally backed mortgages (currently only 2,400 out of 45,000 meet this requirement) and the few investor-owned properties or communities with federal loans.

Clearly, those living in apartment complexes or individuals with mortgages on traditionally built homes did not have this issue. Thus, in this regard, until the legislation is fixed, living in an apartment complex might be the better option.

What This All Means

All hope is not lost for those who are residing in a mobile or manufactured home, however. The good news is that there is talk of new legislation—the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. In the event that the HEROES Act is passed, benefits of federal forbearance programs would be extended to households without federally backed mortgages. Plus, similar forbearance and repayment programs for personal debt would also apply. This would then ensure that chattel loans on manufactured homes were included.

Overall, having the HEROES Act and the CARES Act in place matters because people will likely lose their homes without it. According to researchers from the Johns Hopkins University, Boston University, and Wake Forest University School of Law, if more people lose their homes or are evicted, there will likely be a spike in cases. In fact, between March and September, it was reported that as many as 433,700 excess cases of Covid-19 and additional 10,700 deaths were the result of lifting state mortarium’s and moving forward with eviction proceedings.

Take Away

Thus, at the end of the day, with what we know now, it is hard to say for sure which living situation is safer during an ongoing pandemic. As briefly discussed, there are several factors that come into play when dealing with a contagious disease or virus. At the moment, however, due to the lack of governmental assistance for people who live in a mobile home or manufactured home community and the increased possibility of exposure to COVID-19, it might be fair to say that mobile home living is not as safe as apartment living appears to be. 

Hopefully, over the next few months, the world will be able to get a handle on the ongoing pandemic, and an FDA-approved vaccine will be available. But, until then, one thing is clear—government assistance needs to be provided to everyone, not just a select few. If not, the massive displacement of renters and homeowners, in addition to the hardship that comes with losing one’s home and job, will likely continue to add to the current public health crisis. Thus, in order to prevent more newly homeless people from being forced into shelters or tight quarters with relatives, ultimately increasing the risk of spread of COVID-19, everyone needs to get on the same page about pandemic relief, stimulus checks, and available aid.

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