‘Lives in a Trailer’: Energy justice and manufactured housing communities’ vulnerability and resilience

Authors: Margaret Wilder*, University of Arizona, Mark Kear, University of Arizona
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Human-Environment Geography, Environment
Keywords: extreme heat, energy poverty, energy equity, mobile home, affordable housing
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In southern Arizona’s Pima County, thousands of mobile homes (pre-fabricated housing manufactured prior to 1976 and non-compliant with current safety regulations) beckon to low-income families in need of affordable housing options. Arizona is third-worst nationally in affordable housing. Yet a chasm exists between the promises of affordability and the reality encountered. One in ten residences in this region is manufactured housing—and of these, 35 percent are mobile homes, often located in greenspace deserts.

As a climate hotspot, temperatures in southern Arizona are expected to increase dramatically by mid-century. The concentration of manufactured housing, lack of urban green space, and increasingly extreme high temperatures combines to create multi-layered vulnerabilities and exposure to chronic and acute risk, creating heightened concern about energy poverty and underscoring the need to work for energy justice (Bouzarovski and Simcock, 2017). A common meaning of energy poverty is a situation in which more than ten percent of household income is spent on utility costs and is related to particular geographies involving networked materialities and socio-economic relations (Popke and Harrison, 2011; Day and Walker 2013). Energy poverty is often analyzed as a cold-region issue relating to energy for household heating but research has largely neglected warm-region issues relating to extreme heat.

This paper, based on a two-year study, presents preliminary findings from our research including interviews of manufactured housing residents and other community stakeholders. We examine how environmental vulnerability and resilience are both constructed in a broad political economic context and experienced at the household level.

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