Those are all great questions.
On the tornado risk, we have had a community completely wiped out in a tornado, and all was fixed by the Red Cross and FEMA (in fact, the economics were much better after the tornado than before). The Red Cross and FEMA have been doing a great job on this front for about a century, so I would not really be concerned about having them for a partner in those instances, because they are well funded and well run. Hurricanes, because of their gigantic price tag, are outside the control of the Red Cross and FEMA, and that’s why they are a nightmare (just look at Katrina remediation for example). As with most risks, you can insure your way to victory with tornadoes if you use the correct insurance agent (we use Kurt Kelley at Mobile Insurance, as most people do). He handled the insurance on the park that was destroyed in the tornado, and we ended up, after the insurance payout, with owning the park virtually free and clear. Call him for details on how to do that.
On the future of affordable housing, I am pretty confident that bottom third of Americans demographically is not going anywhere. There are 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring per day, with a social security check that averages $1,200 per month and an average of nearly zero in savings in that bottom third – that’s one of the fastest growing segments of the MH business. In addition, even if minimum wage were to rise (and I think $15 is way too aggressive – that’s nearly double the current rate, and I think $10/hour is more realistic) it will not help anyone afford housing much better. If you were to earn $10 per hour, that’s an annual income of around $20,000 per year which, given a third for housing, is only around $600 per month. That won’t begin to get you a traditional SF (they would not have the down or credit for that anyway) and apartments average $1,150 per month (nearly double the budget). Even at $15 per hour, I think that mobile home parks would be fine. If you’re talking raising it to $40 per hour, then I’m going to start to get worried, but at that point the U.S. will collapse and we’ll be a hunter/gatherer society and renting lots will be the least of y worries.
Finally, I would give mobile homes more respect on their level of play vs. apartments. In an mobile home in a park you get 1) no neighbors knocking on your walls, ceiling or floor 2) a yard 3) the ability to park by your door 4) more of a “community” feel. Apartments deliver none of these items, regardless of price. Most of our tenants come to us because they hate apartment living. In addition, with a mobile home you have the ability to own it, which apartments never offer. So even though you don’t own the land, you are half the way there.
I know that the government has become so pathetic that they think you can mandate prosperity, but you really can’t. If minimum wage rose significantly, employers would simply layoff enough workers to offset that cost. It’s a zero sum game. America will always have a bottom third of earners, and mobile home parks will always be their best housing option.
Before those who don’t engage in the affordable segment of the industry protest, let me remind everyone that there is definitely a more upscale business model to the industry, with ELS as the flag bearer. But the majority of the 50,000 parks in the U.S. are based on the affordable housing model, so that’s why I use that sector in my writings. Yes. we also own doublewide communities with detached garages that look like subdivisions, but I’m trying to talk about the basic park out there.