As mobile home owners fight rising housing costs, some of them have hit upon a solution that also helps in the fight against climate change — by banding together and buying the land underneath their homes.

This model of collective ownership, also called resident-owned cooperatives or ROCs, is on the rise. In 2000, there were little more than 200. Today, there are more than 15,000, according to a 2022 study from researchers at the University of California Berkeley, Cornell and MIT.

When residents own the land, they can move more quickly to upgrade infrastructure. That’s where climate change comes in. Renewables — especially solar —  work uniquely well with these types of places, according to Kevin Jones, director at the Institute for Energy and the Environment at the Vermont Law and Graduate School.

“There’s nothing more perfect than these resident-owned communities because they already have a cooperative structure and, generally, commonly own the piece of land,” said Jones.  “[They] are just kind of natural communities to be able to bring the benefits of solar to more low to moderate-income people.”

Mobile home parks — often a misnomer because many homes are anchored to the ground — house more than 22 million Americans and provide a vital form of housing amidst a nationwide housing crisis.

Often, private landlords will delay vital upgrades but continue to collect lot rents, which pay not for the actual property which the resident could rent or own but for the land underneath it. This can result in a system where many owners invest thousands of dollars into paying off their home, but are still beholden to the park owner for lot rents and other fees.

The problem of displacement has been exacerbated in the past decades by private equity’s foray into mobile home park ownership, which often leads to higher increases for  rent, utilities, and other fees while conditions either stay mostly the same or worsen.

Nonprofit organizations like ROCUSA have been essential to providing communities with resources such as low or interest-free loans, grants, and the essential planning knowledge needed to create a co-op.

Read the full article about mobile homes in the fight against climate change by Siri Chilukuri at Grist.