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Manufactured Housing


Modern manufactured housing originated with the advent of homemade travel trailers in the 1920s. Factory-built trailers soon appeared, and by the late 1940s manufacturers were producing trailers up to 30 feet long, complete with bathrooms. Many would be used as permanent housing, and in the post-war era house trailers soon sheltered millions of Americans. They included large numbers of West Virginians.

According to the West Virginia Manufactured Housing Association, 63 percent of all new housing located in the state in the 40 years after 1961 was manufactured or factory-built housing. The popularity of manufactured housing in West Virginia appears to be decreasing, however. There were 130,652 manufactured homes in West Virginia in 2010, 14.9 percent of all housing units. That was down from 142,728 in 2010, 16.9 percent of all housing units.

Most of the factory-built homes in West Virginia are manufactured in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and northern Indiana. In 2002, Excel Homes built a factory at Ghent, Raleigh County, with plans to build more than 1,000 modular homes annually. However, it shut down in 2007.

The distribution of factory-built housing in West Virginia is widespread but uneven, with the southern coalfields and several rural counties in the state’s midsection having much higher numbers of manufactured homes as a percentage of all housing units. Of the seven counties with 25 percent or more manufactured housing in 2010, all were south of Parkersburg. In 2010, Ohio County had the lowest ratio, 3.7 percent, with Lincoln and Boone counties having the highest percentage, at 35.8 percent and 32 percent respectively. The counties with the lowest ratio of factory-built homes were the more urbanized counties, due in part to zoning restrictions.

Based on the American Community Survey 2016-2020 5-Year Estimates, 17.8 percent of West Virginia’s houses (130,551 total) are factory built, about 2 1/2 times the national average. Manufactured housing may be partly responsible for the fact that West Virginia, despite below-average income and relatively high levels of poverty, had a 73.9 percent homeownership rate in 2020, one of the highest in the United States. The West Virginia Housing Development Fund maintains that the popularity of factory-built homes is a contributing factor to this strong socioeconomic indicator. Because older mobile homes are available for as little as several thousand dollars, individuals with lower incomes have the opportunity to purchase these used units. The average price of new units is also much lower than the average prices of new and existing site-built houses. The majority of the factory-built homes in the state are owner-occupied, with only 23 percent being rented quarters. More than three fourths of West Virginia’s manufactured houses are sited on their own real estate.

Written by Michael Tod Ralstin