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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mobile homes, partially manufactured "kit" homes, and owner-built homes : an analysis of three low-cost alternatives for new housing in rural areas Perong, Susan Ilene


This thesis investigates the mobile home dominance of the low-cost housing market in rural areas. The scope was limited to new housing choices available to a rural resident owning or intending to purchase an existing lot. Three potentially lower-cost housing alternatives that utilize labor-saving procedures were selected for examination and analysis: (1) the totally manufactured "mobile home," (2) the partially manufactured pre-cut "kit home," and (3) the self-help "owner-built home." An extensive literature search and analyses of all three options was conducted with special focus on the advantages/disadvantages of each option and the problems unique to each alternative. As academic literature on kit homes was extremely limited, interviews (seven manufacturers) and a survey (thirty-eight manufacturers) were conducted in order to collect direct data. Although the interview/survey procedure was too small to be considered a scientific study, it did provide the direct information needed to complete the analyses of the kit home industry's potential to provide low-cost rural housing and also aided in the identification of industry-specific obstacles. The study and analysis confirmed the fact that rural housing is distinct from urban, with its unique rural financing and delivery mechanism problems. This distinction has resulted in the US and Canadian federal governments developing several mobile home/contractor-built housing programs for the rural, less affluent home purchaser. In addition, the study confirmed that owner-building in all forms is common and well suited to rural areas, and that the kit home industry (which combines the advantages of manufacturing with the labor-saving of owner-building) flourishes in the middle-/high-income homebuilding rural market. In addition, the survey and analysis demonstrated the following: - The kit home industry has the potential to provide low-cost housing for the less affluent rural resident and is currently doing so on a limited scale. - This diverse and varied industry is faced with several industry-specific obstacles (i.e., marketing and bank/ governmental opposition to owner-building). - An opportunity exists to reduce the owner-building risk by utilizing the kit manufacturer as an intermediary with its unique and extensive dealer/contractor networks and owner-builder instruction programs. This involves the use of owner/manufacturer contracts and completion guarantees; thus, the risk is shared between the lender (federal or bank), manufacturer, and owner-builder. This thesis challenges the existing federal and financial institutional anti-owner building policy that ignores kit home potential to be a cost-effective housing alternative for the less affluent rural resident. The general conclusion of the analysis is that the mobile home dominance of the lowest cost new housing market in rural areas is not due to it being the only low-cost option available, but predominately due to it possessing a distinct financing advantage. Financial and governmental institutional obstacles against owner-building only impact the partially manufactured "kit" home and self-help options, making them less available to the less affluent potential home purchaser. The result is the dominance of the mobile home in the lowest cost rural market.

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