As an experienced industry professional, former owner of a manufactured home, and academic scholar completing a dissertation on attitudes and perceptions towards manufactured housing, I am appalled by the seemingly acceptable exploitation of low-income residents and lack of corporate social and ethical responsibility conveyed in this article.
Gary Rivlin’s article portrayed Frank Rolfe’s business model and success as the standard for the affordable housing side of the manufactured home industry.
According to peer-reviewed academic research, the negative social construction of low-income families profoundly influence opinions of affordable housing residents (Nguyen et al., 2012).
Contemporary mass media and popular culture, such as Rivlin’s piece, contribute to the negative stigmatization through the depiction of manufactured housing residents as alcoholics, crack heads, drug dealers, wife beaters, sex offenders, and the mentally ill (Kusenbach, 2009).
While Rolfe’s tales of tenants “weirdness” certainly adds humorous entertainment to his lesson of exploiting the poverty class, the damage inflicted through contributing to negative stigmatization of residents is concerning.
Rivlin’s article is a prime example of media coverage that increases misconceptions through inaccurate and outdated information, as well as the omission of information about advancements and improvements.
I am disappointed that The New York Times would contribute to the unflattering depiction of manufactured housing residents and use of deprecating names (i.e. trailer) that reduce social prestige and contribute to negative social perceptions.
According to research by Mimura et al. (2010), accurate media coverage should use proper terminology instead of dated slang words and report truthful and unbiased aspects of the product.
Perhaps Mr. Rivlin should spend some time with one of the industry manufacturers and gain an accurate perspective of the product and targeted consumer market.##
(Editor's Note: A broad, industry based response to the Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U, which includes comments MHI's Chairman Nathan Smith and other industry veterans, is found at this link below.
The story linked above, as the second one below, have both been leading reads on their respective sites.
An exclusive follow up interview with Frank Rolfe about the NYTimes article is linked here.