'Unsafe At Any Speed' And 'Mobile' Homes'
Why are 'mobile homes,' otherwise known as manufactured homes, so unsafe in adverse weather events?
Consumer advocate Ralph Nader’s 1965 book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” argued car manufacturers resisted including safety features (i.e. seat belts) in cars because they didn’t want to spend the money.
I thought of Nader’s book, which prompted change, when I saw news photographs today of ‘mobile homes’ in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
Hundreds of mobile homes in Suncoast Estates in North Fort Meyers were severely damaged. Some were destroyed. Lucky tenants just lost roofs. Almost all of these tin can dwellings were shaken up like a ball bearing in a blender.
And it was all completely predictable.
In fact, it was essentially predicted.
Weather.com reports many Florida counties issued emergency evacuation orders for specific zones deemed vulnerable “as well as residents in any zone living in mobile homes and trailers.”
About 30% of all mobile homes are occupied by people age 60+, including a dispropotionate number (around 60%) of older women. Almost all occupants of mobile homes are low-income people who can’t afford better housing options. Why don’t their lives matter?
Meanwhile, a recent reports showed there have been 153 heat-associated deaths in the Phoenix area so far this year, with 238 under investigation. Mobile homes figure prominently.
“Despite the fact that only about 5% of the housing in the county is in mobile homes and manufactured homes… historically about 30% of the indoor heat-associated deaths in the county have been in trailers,” said Dr. Patricia Solis, Executive Director of the Knowledge Exchange For Resilience and Associate Research Professor at Arizona State University.
It’s time for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Manufactured Housing Programs, which regulates the construction of mobile homes, to take action to fulfill it’s mission:
“The mission of the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs is to execute responsible regulation and solutions-oriented oversight and monitoring to protect consumers and preserve and promote the affordability, quality, durability, and safety of manufactured homes nationwide.”
Nader’s book targeted a car that was the equivalent of a tin can on wheels, the Corvair, a mass-produced bare bones Chevrolet that was involved in fatal car crashes that might have been avoided with some simple and cheap safety mechanisms.