So back in the before time, by which I mean somewhere toward the end of 2019, I happily agreed to join an “author meets critics” panel at the Pacific Sociological Association meetings to discuss Esther Sullivan‘s book Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place. The meeting would’ve been in Eugene, Oregon at the end of March in 2020. By February I was already reading the tea leaves and doubting it was going to happen.
I canceled and stayed home, and shortly afterward everything fell apart (possible I should’ve gone with option 4). Fortunately we ended up trying again, and returning to a virtual “author meets critics” panel last month, giving us all just enough time to become intimately accustomed with zoom. Below I just wanted to post my presentation slides from the panel in case they’re useful for encouraging local or comparative research on mobile home parks, and also just to further advertise Esther’s great book.
My first substantive slide drew attention to a comment at the end of the book about the right to housing (which I’d recently been exploring as an orientation for YIMBY activism), unfavorably comparing the USA to other countries. There’s a tendency sometimes to overlook other countries’ issues and problems in critiquing our own, so here I just wanted to point out that Canada’s “guarantee” of a human right to housing is not so guaranteed.
Given the book’s focus on mobile home parks in the USA, I also wanted to open up space for comparing the US case to the Canadian case, starting with some figures establishing how mobile homes (and their parks) are less common here than in the US (where they make up ~ 6% of housing stock) but we’ve still got them!
Esther’s book is great for focusing on US state regulations and documenting how they matter, so I dove into BC’s regulations (guidebook here) to compare. I argued the comparison was especially interesting insofar as BC represented something of the ideal model of best practices Esther suggested US state regulations ought to emulate.
Esther also wrote about how mobile homes get rezoned for development and zoned out of municipalities altogether, and zoning is like my favourite topic ever, so I took the opportunity to show off our integrated Zoning Map of Metro Vancouver and highlight a City Council report on Mobile Home Parks, Zoning, and Redevelopment in Surrey.
Next I dove a little further into Surrey’s zoning and policies, which sought to go beyond provincial protections vis-a-vis conversions at the time.
I was able to track down one such conversion to walk through as a case study, exploring a prior sale and various conditions imposed upon the rezoning.
Still, even following what seems like Esther’s suggested best practices for such conversions, there remained many unhappy former residents.
I noted a few other relevant issues, including a recent court case affirming tenant rights for RV owners in BC, Nick Chretien‘s thesis on informal van and RV living around Vancouver (successfully defended just weeks later, and soon to be posted free on-line!), and Vancouver’s Temporary Modular Housing program.
Finally I offered a few questions for Esther, all of which she answered quite capably, but which I’ll keep live, in part because I’m still wrestling with my own answers.
And of course I’ll end where I began, by plugging Esther’s award-winning book!