Container homes are just the worst version of manufactured home imaginable. It would be better if someone could relaunch those flat-pack homes Sears used to sell that people could put up and then finish the inside of. I would love to see a maker community built from a true manufactured home trend instead of these more art focused fixtures.
And then there are the architects who make buildings that just look like they’re made out of containers.
“Flat pack” implies it was a straightforward thing to put together. Those Sears homes were literally a huge pile of lumber and blueprints. You were building a house from scratch, you just didn’t have to buy all the wood yourself. It took many years to build if you tried to do it yourself. That wouldn’t be practical today because the average person could never get through all the building inspections and doesn’t hold the licenses needed to do plumbing, electrical, gas, sewer, and so on.
The thing is, manufactured homes are a solved problem already. What people used to call “trailers” (no longer because there are negative connotations now) are lived in by many millions of people and are a great solution for low income housing. They are civilized, comfortable, and don’t take up a lot of space. The only reason they aren’t more popular is, once again land use. The rental agreements that mobile home parks have with their tenants are extremely predatory. If some simple regulation would fix that broken industry, manufactured homes would be a great option for a lot more people.
Everyone needs to stop focusing on the structure. Cheap homes are a solved problem. Figuring out where to put them is the unsolved part.
I guess I meant a re-envisioning or a renaissance of a shippable home. I am a huge advocate of manufactured homes, and have been for a very long time even on this site as the tiny boutique home trend kicked up. But one of the more real problems and costs with them is they have to be run through local retailers and storage logistics because the large portions of the home that have to be physically in one place. I just Wonder if there could be a shippable build it yourself type home again.
And yeah all the “natural areas” around me are privately owned and just not developed yet. Virtually all of them by the handful of real estate oligarchies that have been buying up anything possible in US cities and suburbs. Master planned community is probably my least favorite combination of words for housing.
That’s a good point and a good question! It seems like probably yes? I don’t know a lot about the manufactured home industry, but being relatively small there are probably entrenched players there controlling a lot of it.
Not to accuse an American literary icon of being even half so irksome as any of today’s lifestyle social media influencers; but it’s not like LARPing on your wealthier friend’s property, with some help from mom, in order to learn valuable lessons about simplicity and self-reliance hasn’t been a thing since 1850 or so.
I Thoreau-ly agree with you. I love Walden and transcendentalism in general, but there’s a direct line of unacknowledged privilege that runs through that American school of philosophy and its offshoots right to the present day.
I suspect it may be just a lot easier these days to ship complete sections to site to be bolted together (or whatever). The logistics don’t seem much simpler for warehousing and shipping components.
I’d love to give him the benefit of the doubt; but the section “Baker Farm” where he gets on a desperately poor irish immigrant farmhand about how he could be so much less squalid if he just embraced simple living, stopped renting a hovel and (in what seems like foreshadowing of the “3d printing and/or tiny houses will solve homelessness!” vein of today) just paid the relatively low construction cost of Thoreau’s own cozy pad, um, somewhere where he’d be allowed to do that despite having neither real estate nor social capital is downright painful in terms of unchecked privilege. (While he is happy to enjoy the meagre hospitality they voluntarily extend to him; despite having nothing)
At least he gives them credit for being hardworking, rather than just diving straight into blaming shiftlessness and squalid irish fecundity; but damn, not someone I’d want tackling social issues with systemic components.
It’s especially unfortunate because there are a variety of things (sometimes targeted more or less exclusively at the poor, sometimes targeted more generally but within the means of the non-poor but not the poor) where the lessons of simplicity, deliberation, weighing of what is actually necessary, keeping a close eye on what the true costs are, would likely be helpful(in concert with regulatory action against things like the overtly usurious consumer credit segment of the financial sector; ‘food deserts’ etc.); but that potential is not going to be realized by people who compare building a nice little cabin on land they get for free to enduring a shit shack on land you work like a dog to be allowed to use until you are no longer useful with a straight face.
And from what I understand they’re generally a lot cheaper than attempting to build something from shipping containers, while doing all the stuff the shipping containers supposedly “solve”. While actually being nice to live in, and far more flexible in terms of layout as a house. My grandmother lived in one for years. It was far nicer than most apartments I’ve lived in.
As for the flat pack/sears kit house thing. Those also still exist. Either as “flat pack”, pre-manufactured wall, ceiling and floor panels. Or as pre-built sections of single or multiple rooms. Designed to be bolted or nailed together on site. There are even versions we use to throw up large apartment and office buildings on the quick.
You do any amount of road tripping, particularly through the US. You’ll see that stuff getting trucked up and down the highways.
It’s just you don’t go and buy that at Costco to assemble yourself. It’s booked through a builder or developer. Like you said that end is a solved problem. You want a modular, prebuilt house you have options, you want a cheaper or faster construction method it’s a solved problem. But if you want that you’ve already solved the “own land” problem.
It’s a really interesting industry. Some fun tidbits:
- The “mobile” in “mobile home” isn’t about mobility, it’s bc the first factory to gain decent market share, Sweet Homes, was outside Mobile, Alabama. They aren’t meant to be moved around, really, after being sited.
- Starting about 20 years ago, a bunch of smaller manufacturers came onto the scene, addressing the issues with shoddy materials and construction that had plagued some of the bigger guys. (I have photos of the ductwork straight from the factory that make me want to sue someone!) The products were pricier, but also more energy efficient, so kind of a trade off.
I don’t know what the deal is with the valuation, though. It’s really classist that they necessarily lose value, like a car, instead of gain value, like most homes. Might be tied to the land use/rental set up.
In terms of “mobile homes” part of the idea is that they’re legally classified as vehicles, which lowers the taxes and skates some of the building regulations.
My grandmother’s home had wheels under it, right where it was bolted to the slab/pylons. It was titled as an RV, and could be registered as such.
It’s part and parcel of the shoddy construction. You don’t have to necessarily hit the structural marks for “house”. But it’s also part of why they are cheaper.
It would be great if someone made those exact models, too, rather than just copying the concept. Because back then they still put thought into ornamental details and coherent architectural styles, which is something I’m missing from modern residential homes.
I think the majority of “gained value” of most homes comes from the land, not the structure, so this makes sense to me for homes that are located on rented land. But this article goes into a lot more detail:
I wasn’t clear. What I meant was, I’m not sure how much or from what side lobbying might have had to do with that decision.
ETA - thanks @Otherbrother , I’ll check that out.
You get an upvote for the Last Starfighter gif. Intersteller!
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