Faced with ever-increasing rents, uncertainty about tenant status and exorbitant home prices, more and more young people are turning to mobile homes. However, this solution to the housing crisis is not applicable on a large scale with the reluctance of municipalities to create new spaces to accommodate them.
“It’s almost all seniors who live here, it’s quiet, says Mélodie Boivin, 23, who bought a mobile home in Laval last September with her husband, Samuel Morneau-Cusson. But we see more and more strollers. The houses that were bought this year are pretty much all young people. »
After having experienced all sorts of misadventures on the rental market – unsanitary conditions, disrespectful neighbors, disproportionate rent increases – they wanted to become landlords. The couple quickly found, however, that the prices listed for Laval homes were beyond their means. The median price of single-family homes there crossed $500,000 in 2022, according to Centris statistics.
Samuel’s father lived in a mobile home and offered them a tour of the neighborhood, seeing an opportunity for the young couple to access property. “I was reluctant because I had a lot of prejudices,” admits Mélodie. It refers in particular to the Bougons, a now cult family who live in a mobile home in an eponymous series. “The rotten house, the stove rings to light the cigarettes… that wasn’t what I wanted. But I quickly realized it wasn’t like on TV. »
After a few door-to-door visits, the young couple unearthed the rare pearl: a turnkey two-bedroom mobile home, with a four-season solarium and a large grassy yard. The mortgage? $230,000, or monthly payments of about $1,400, to which must be added the rental of their land, at $280 per month. The total is equivalent, according to their calculations, to an amount barely higher than the price of a decent rent in Laval.
A changing clientele
At the time these lines were written, the median price of the 297 mobile homes listed on Centris across Quebec was $160,000.
It is this affordability that is pushing more and more young families to turn to mobile homes, believes Éric Lachapelle, CEO of Multi Domaines. His company, which owns 16 of these parks in Quebec, had to increase the frequency of water supply and emptying of the septic tank in the Gatineau mobile home park.
“It’s the same infrastructure as before, we haven’t added any houses, it’s really the clientele that has changed,” he explains. There are no longer one or two people per house; new buyers are mostly families. »
When asked if the craze brought to the attention of the Duty is anecdotal, the real estate investor is unequivocal. “We are complete, complete, complete. We turn people away every week, but there aren’t any places. »
Like single-family homes, mobile home prices have also increased recently, notes Éric Lachapelle. For example, those of the park of Saint-André-d’Argenteuil, in the Laurentians, are displayed “at least” $ 180,000 this year, or about $ 70,000 more than in 2020, according to his observations.
A question of revenue for cities
“Between an apartment where you can hear the neighbors upstairs and where you have no land and a mobile home, for me, the choice would be easy,” says the investor. Mélodie, for her part, praises the mutual aid of the neighborhood to try to explain what attracts so many young people to this way of life.
Precisely, his neighbor Cynthia, met while she was gardening, is a single mother with two teenagers. She chose to move from a house to a mobile home in December for the low maintenance and expense that this solution entails. “It’s cheaper than a condo, but I’m at home. Everything costs more now; housing, food, not to mention interest rates…”
One thing is certain, regardless of the popularity of mobile homes, it is currently not possible to apply this model on a larger scale to counter the housing crisis, according to Éric Lachapelle. “The parks, they are already there and they will stay, he pleads. Just to enlarge them is a constant struggle, so opening new ones would be impossible. We are told that the zoning does not allow it. »
Cities get less revenue from land zoned “mobile home” than residential, he said. “In the suburbs of Montreal, a small new bungalow costs at least $550,000. It’s incomparable with a $200,000 mobile home, and the land, which is worth, say, $50,000. »
However, the factory construction of these dwellings would make the execution of such a project extremely fast, estimates Mr. Lachapelle. “We could really respond to a need quickly and deliver quality. These are beautiful new homes that owners don’t have to put a penny on for 15 years. »
Even though hundreds of mobile home owners have been evicted over the past decades in Quebec, the park owner believes that this risk is slim for his tenants since this is his main investment niche. “I’m not going to sell one and keep the other 15, it doesn’t make sense. »