Mobile and manufactured homes are the most common unsubsidized, affordable housing in the United States. They are also disproportionately affected by floods and severe weather events. Over 22 million people in the US live in mobile and manufactured housing. When compared to those who live in other types of housing, mobile home residents have higher exposure to natural hazards such as wind and tornadoes, hurricanes, extreme heat & cold, wildfires, and flooding. Mobile homes are also often forgotten when it comes to hazard planning and disaster recovery (and prevention) efforts.
With the threat of severe weather changes coming along, any climate change will only exacerbate these problems. Mobile homes should have extreme weather adaptation plans, individual & community strategies and must lobby for resilience & disaster funding, which would prioritize this unique situation that millions of Americans who live in mobile homes find themselves in.
What can the individual homeowner do?
Here are some things that mobile homeowners can do to prepare for floods and minimize potential damage(s):
Know your local flood risk: Mobile homeowners should find out whether their home is located in a flood zone or near a body of water that could flood. They can do this by contacting their local emergency management agency or checking the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood maps.
Purchase flood insurance or insurance with a flood rider: Homeowners’ insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage, so it’s essential to purchase flood insurance or to find an insurance provider who will provide it within your policy. FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) covers mobile homes and homeowners can also purchase policies through private insurers like CoverTree.
Elevate the home: If possible, mobile homeowners should try elevating their homes to reduce the risk of flood damage. They can do this by placing the home unit on a higher foundation or by building an embankment around it.
Anchor down the home: Mobile homes should be securely anchored to prevent them from being swept away by flood waters. This can be done by installing tie-downs, piers or extra foundational supports that are designed to withstand flooding.
Have a disaster plan: Mobile homeowners should create a disaster plan that includes evacuation routes, emergency contacts, and a plan for securing their property before a flood.
Be alert & informed: During a flood, it’s essential to keep your calm. Be alert to your surroundings, keep away from possible dangers and stay informed about the situation & any evacuation orders that may be issued. You can sign up for emergency alerts from your local emergency agency-in-charge and follow your local news, social media updates and weather reports.
What can mobile home communities do?
Since mobile home communities are made up of many individual homes, preparing for floods requires a more coordinated effort among community leaders, residents and local government. Here are some things that mobile home communities can do to prepare for floods and minimize potential damage(s):
Develop an inclusive emergency plan: Unlike individual emergency plans, community based emergency planning needs to focus on the whole area of the community. There should be an emergency plan in place that includes evacuation routes, emergency contacts, and procedures for securing homes & property before a flood, communicated well in advance to the homeowners.
Install drainage systems: If the local government can’t be lobbied into installing better drainage systems for the community, the homeowner’s association or community leadership can install drainage systems that will help direct floodwaters away from homes and common areas.
Elevate the community: If possible, the entire community can be elevated to reduce the risk of flood damage. This can be done by the local government in order to subsidize costs, especially if the zoning laws of the area are to blame for the location of the mobile home community.
Secure infrastructure: The community should secure infrastructure such as roads, bridges, and utilities to prevent damage during a flood. This can include reinforcing bridges and culverts, anchoring utility poles, and installing backflow prevention valves.
Provide information and resources in advance: The community leaders should provide information and resources, in advance, to residents to help them prepare for floods. This can include information on flood insurance, emergency preparedness, and resources for securing their homes. This can also include community voting on issues, volunteering programs, and specialized budgeting that can help the community plan for floods together.
Maintain communication: During a flood, it’s essential to maintain communication between the residents, law enforcement, aid services, community leaders and local government, in order to keep every one of them informed of the situation and any evacuation orders. The community leaders should have a plan for communicating with residents through text alerts, social media, and/or other means.
What can the local/state/federal government do?
Mobile home communities are often overlooked by the government, aid relief programs and damage assessors, and this has to change. Here are some things that governments, at all levels, can do to help people after they have been affected by a flood:
Create disaster recovery programs: These programs rarely account for the unique social and regulatory barriers facing mobile home residents. Mobile home residents have a higher likelihood to face obstacles in gaining access to federal, state & local assistance. Therefore, each level of government should set up community based disaster recovery programs for mobile home communities and homeowners – especially if the government is responsible for placing a mobile home community in a low-lying area.
Provide access to state sponsored benefits: A large number of government funded disaster relief programs were created with single-family homeowners in mind. However, a large majority of mobile homeowners rely on personal property loans that may not be eligible for benefits, unlike conventional mortgages. Recently, a large number of mobile homeowners were excluded from receiving funds from the mortgage relief programs and eviction moratoriums, granted to US citizens and residents, by the 2020 CARES Act. This needs to be addressed at every level of government, and communities must lobby their local government officials to provide them the same access to benefits that conventional homeowners are given.
Replace appraisal values with cost of repair: Federal disaster recovery payments are supposed to be based on an estimated cost of repair/replacement, in theory. However, how it really works is that home appraisal values can severely cap the limit of assistance the government gives out. This is especially true for older mobile home communities where the repair costs for a home unit can far outvalue the actual appraisal value of the home. The government bodies in charge of doling out payments need to keep this in mind, and strategically plan their payment strategy to help issue repairs to every single homeowner, no matter what home they own.
Provide FEMA & other disaster assistance services: Mobile home communities must have the same access to FEMA resources that traditional homeowners usually get. Even though mobile homeowners may qualify for disaster loans from the SBA, it’s still an amount to be paid back. Since public and private aid providers may not want to assist with disaster relief for a number of reasons, these gaps in funding can further compound the vulnerability of mobile home residents. The government needs to step in and provide access to services as well as compel public & private aid workers to treat mobile home communities the same as they would traditional communities.
Whatever may be the case, if you live in a mobile home or community – stay insured! Getting flood insurance from CoverTree is all easy as 1, 2, 3!