Publication - Research and analysis

Residential Mobile Homes in Scotland

Published: 11 Dec 2007
Part of:
Research
ISBN:
978075596865

This research provides an up-to-date picture on the use of mobile homes as dwellings, examines the nature of the mobile home sector and aims to inform how future policy can be shaped.

85 page PDF

1.5 MB

85 page PDF

1.5 MB

Contents
Residential Mobile Homes in Scotland
Chapter Three Living in a Mobile Home

85 page PDF

1.5 MB

Chapter Three Living in a Mobile Home

Introduction

3.1 This chapter sets out the views and experiences of forty residents who live in park homes on licensed sites and also ten people who live in individual mobile homes that were either unlicensed or exempt from licensing. The first part of the chapter describes the characteristics of the respondents. The chapter then explores the reasons why respondents wanted to live in mobile homes, before discussing any alternative types of accommodation that the respondents considered at the time they moved into their mobile home. Following this, the chapter examines respondents' views on the condition of their homes, including fuel poverty and heating. Finally, the chapter discusses the future aspirations of respondents.

3.2 As noted in the methods, the research aimed to draw upon the views and experiences of a wide range of residents of mobile homes. In relation to park homes on licensed sites, respondents included people who lived on sites listed in the Residential Home Parks Directory, issued by the British Holiday and Home Parks Association. Respondents were also drawn from members of the National Association Park Home Residents. The latter respondents were perhaps more likely to have experienced some difficulty with their park home or site owner. Thus, the fifty residents included in this research cannot be taken as a representative sample of all mobile home residents in Scotland. Instead, the following analysis allows the experiences and views of the respondents to illustrate a range of issues about living in mobile homes.

Characteristics of the respondents

3.3 This section of the report describes the characteristics of the respondents (see Table 3.1 overleaf). Forty respondents were living in park homes on licensed sites. The 10 respondents living in individual mobile homes included a variety of circumstances. For example, three respondents were living in caravans on a temporary basis whilst they built their own homes; one respondent had been homeless and was now renting a caravan, whilst another respondent lived in a portable cabin on his own land. In another instance, a couple lived in a caravan in the summer and rented their bricks and mortar home as a holiday let. Four respondents lived in the Highland Council area, whilst the other 6 were based in Argyll and Bute, including 2 residents on Islay and one lived on Mull.

Household type

3.4 Half the respondents in the park homes were single. Seventeen households were couples and 3 households were couples with children. Of the respondents living in individual mobile homes, 4 households were single people, 3 households were couples and 3 households were couples with children.

Table 3.1 Characteristics of respondents

Household characteristic

Park home resident on licensed site

Resident in individual unit

Household Type

Single

20

4

Couple

17

3

Couple with children

3

3

Total

40

10

Age

Under 50

3

7

50 - 59

10

0

60-69

16

3

70 and over

11

0

Total

40

10

Economic status

Employed

14

6

Unemployed/long term illness

5

2

Retired

20

2

Student

1

0

Total

40

10

Length of Residence

0-5

14

5

6-10

14

4

11-15

5

0

Over 15

7

1

Total

40

10

Age

3.5 Three of the respondents living in park homes were under the age of 49. Ten respondents were between the ages of 50 and 59; 16 respondents were aged between 60 and 69 and 11 were over 70. Respondents living in the individual mobile homes tended to be younger. Of the respondents living in individual mobile homes, 3 were aged between 60 and 69 and the other 7 were aged under 49.

Employment

3.6 Given the age profile of the respondents it was perhaps not surprising that half the respondents living in park homes were retired. Seven were working full-time, a further 7 were working part-time and one respondent was a student. Two respondents were unemployed and 3 respondents noted that they were not working due to ill health.

3.7 Six of the respondents living in individual mobile homes were either in full-time or part-time employment. Two of the respondents were retired and two were unemployed.

Length of residence

3.8 Fourteen of the households in park homes had lived in their current home between 6 and 10 years. Five households had been living in their park home between 11 and 15 years, and 7 households for over 15 years. Three of the respondents had been in their current home for less than a year. Of the respondents living in individual mobile homes, 5 had lived in their home between one and 5 years, and 3 households over 6 years (one of which had lived in their mobile home for over 30 years).

Tenure of previous accommodation

3.9 Twenty-seven of the respondents had previously owned their own homes, prior to moving into a park home or an individual mobile home. Twelve respondents had lived in privately rented accommodation, of which 6 respondents had lived in accommodation that was tied with employment. Five respondents had rented accommodation from a local authority or housing association. One respondent had previously lived in shared ownership accommodation. Four respondents had lived in another park home or individual mobile home. One respondent had been homeless, living in a tent.

Tenure of respondents

3.10 Most respondents owned their home. The majority of households who lived on licensed sites owned their park home and rented the stance from the park owner. Two respondents on licensed sites rented their home from the park owner.

3.11 Of the 10 respondents who lived in individual mobile homes, 6 owned their home. Two owned their caravans, and rented or leased the land on which the caravan was situated. Two respondents rented their caravans from landlords. One respondent owned his own land, but rented a portable cabin, and the final respondents owned their house, an adjacent caravan and the land on which both were situated, and vacated their house each summer to let out as holiday accommodation, moving into the caravan to live during the tourist season.

3.12 Baxter et al (1997) suggested that people who occupy mobile homes tend to have a low awareness of their rights with regard to security of tenure. The respondents who rented their homes had a variety of agreements with their landlords. Two respondents, who lived on licensed sites, had Short Assured Tenancies. Three respondents who lived in individual mobile homes had more informal arrangements with their landlords. One respondent did not have a written tenancy, but instead had a verbal agreement with their landlord. In another instance, the landlord had drawn up their own tenancy agreement, citing one week's notice to quit. In all cases, the respondents noted that they were on good terms with their landlord. However, one of the respondents with a more informal arrangement commented on the security of tenure that they enjoyed,

"I've got a contract. It says it can give one week's notice, so basically they can turn around and say 'right we want to you out by next weekend'. And I suppose I would have to go. Or I would have to be nasty and go to the CAB and demand my rights to stay here. But hopefully it'll never come to that…. It's just something the man wrote out himself. I would have preferred to have a proper Short Assured Tenancy, giving me a guaranteed six months or something" (renter).

3.13 However, renting from a private landlord, even with a Short Assured Tenancy, would evidently not suit everyone. One respondent had bought their caravan, and leased the land on which it was sited. This respondent felt the lease provided much greater security in comparison with renting from a private landlord,

"There is some private renting round here. No idea how much, but it's all six month leases, and well, we wouldn't feel secure. We lease this piece of land and we feel more secure than we've felt for years" (owner; leases the land).

Reasons for living in mobile homes

3.14 Respondents described a variety of reasons for wanting to live in mobile homes, and often there wasn't a single reason, but rather a combination of motivations for moving into mobile homes.

3.15 The most common factor across the case study areas was financial reasons. In the Midlothian case study, most respondents had moved from Edinburgh, where many noted that house prices were too high for them to afford to move into the type of accommodation they were looking for. Living in a park home offered opportunities for a style of living that these respondents could not afford in other parts of the housing market. Respondents had often lived in tenements, either owned or in some cases these were ex council properties that had been bought under the Right to Buy. Alternatively respondents had rented property such as flats from the local authority. Similarly, in accessible rural and remote rural areas in the other two case study areas house prices were viewed as way beyond what respondents could afford, or would require substantial renovation. In remote rural areas in particular, the supply of affordable alternatives to either rent or buy was viewed as problematic (and this issue is explored in more detail in the next section of the chapter - alternative accommodation).

3.16 A group of respondents noted that they had reached a stage in their lives when either they did not want to take on a mortgage, or had been turned down for a mortgage because of their advanced years. In two cases, respondents stated that it was not the cost of a mortgage itself that was prohibitive, but the associated costs of home ownership which put them off moving to another house or flat, such as the price of mortgage protection insurance for an older person, or council tax.

3.17 Further, respondents highlighted that moving into a mobile home enabled them to live mortgage free,

"I had a mortgage on the flat and now I've bought the mobile home I don't have the mortgage. OK, so I've got to pay ground rent, but it's swings and roundabouts because the ground rent is cheaper than the mortgage" (owner; rents a stance).

In other instances, financial considerations resulted from a separation or divorce and the respondent needed somewhere to live.

3.18 One important reason associated with wanting to leave previous accommodation was to escape 'bad neighbours' or a 'rough area'. This group of respondents most often had either rented accommodation from a local authority or a housing association, or had lived in properties that had been bought from the local authority as part of the Right to Buy. These respondents emphasised the peace and quiet that could be enjoyed as part of park home living.

3.19 Another associated factor noted by respondents was the feeling of security to be had by living in a park home. To a certain extent, the feeling of security was derived from being in a community of people who were of similar age,

"We lived in Manchester in a bad area. It was the thought of being able to live somewhere without children and people our own age. It was about security. There's always someone around, and we all look out for one another. It's just a nice little community where we are here. We all know one another and it's just secure. I feel so content and so secure" (owner; rents a stance).

3.20 For some residents, park homes offered good value for money in relation to the space they had available, which compared favourably with the size of their previous accommodation,

"I have a good sized lounge - it's bigger than the lounge was in my flat. The bedrooms could be a bit bigger, but then the bedrooms in my flat weren't very big. In my flat, the bathroom didn't have a window. It had a fan, and I hated it. Well, I've got a window here" (owner; rents a stance).

" I might add it's a pretty decent size. I have two double bedrooms. The kitchen's bigger than anything I've ever had in a flat, and sometimes I found they were quite claustrophobic, especially living in a town, especially in one bedroom flats. I was never particularly happy. But it's better here, there's a lot of greenery and the neighbours do my garden" (owner; rents a stance).

3.21 Another group of respondents described moving for lifestyle reasons, and that moving to a park home provided the opportunity to live in a picturesque location in an affordable way. These respondents emphasised the attractive qualities of the environment they lived in. In most cases, they stressed that they would not have been able to afford to live in these kinds of areas if park homes were not available. Either house prices were beyond their reach, or properties that were affordable required considerable investment in terms of refurbishment.

3.22 Chapter two highlighted the relatively high proportion of households living in mobile homes who reported long term limiting illnesses. Eleven of the interviews with respondents revealed that poor health was indeed an important motivation for acquiring a mobile home. There were a variety of factors associated with health and the perceived benefits of mobile home living as a viable response.

3.23 Some respondents highlighted that poor health meant that they had sought to reduce their overheads by moving to a park home. This move was seen as a way of cutting down housing costs and achieving greater financial security in the face of the loss of income resulting from an onset of poor health. For example, a couple of respondents commented that buying a park home meant that they could live mortgage free.

3.24 Another reason for buying a park home was that they were viewed as more accessible for disabled people. Similarly, park homes could be readily adapted to meet the needs of disabled people. As one respondent commented,

"We sold the house and what we made on the house allowed us to buy this and do it up the way we wanted it. We bought it as a shell and converted inside to suit me - no problem adapting it. It's brilliant inside. I've got it the way I want it. The floors are on one level. As far as I'm concerned I couldn't get anything better anywhere else, because it's been done as I want it. The house itself, I wouldn't change it, it suits exactly what I need" (owner; rents a stance).

"My husband wasn't very well and we had stairs in the last place. We had also been broken into. So we decided to move but we couldn't find a house for the same price. This was the nearest thing that we could buy that was alike, but had no stairs. It has two bedrooms and a small garden and it's beautiful - perfect" (owner; rents a stance).

Alternative accommodation

3.25 Respondents were asked if they had considered any other forms of accommodation at the time they had moved into their mobile home. The majority of respondents had considered other options, but noted a variety of reasons for not pursuing other types of accommodation, closely linked to the points raised in the section above. One of the main reasons was that other types of accommodation were viewed as either unaffordable, or in undesirable areas. Further, as noted above, alternative accommodation was sometimes viewed as disabling for respondents with impairments or suffering ill health - park homes were seen as more accessible and more easily adapted.

3.26 A small number of respondents commented that a mobile home was their first choice accommodation,

"We retired back to Scotland. We went to an exhibition and fell in love with them. It was everything we needed and could afford at the time. We had previously just thought about getting an ordinary caravan and spending ten months there and then two months away - going to the sun" (owner; rents a stance).

3.27 In the rural and remote areas a recurring theme was the lack of a viable alternative in terms of other types of accommodation. As one respondent in an individual mobile home noted,

"There wasn't an option if I wanted to stay in this particular area. There's a town maybe 25 miles away, probably with rental flats around there. But I'm based here as I wanted to stay in this area. There really isn't anything around. This is the only option - live in a caravan"( renter).

3.28 A couple of respondents reflected on the role of individual mobile homes as a significant component of very localised housing systems in rural and remote areas,

"I think it's an interesting point that people who come here and visit can't believe just how many caravans there are. I think if people have got the ground, and they've permission they will put one on. Either for a holiday let but you'll usually find some one living in it. But people are amazed at how many there are of all different shapes and sizes and ages" (owner; owns the land).

As one respondent in an individual mobile home rather ruefully noted,

"Most of the people staying in the caravans around here are working here. They're the ones building the new houses for the incomers who have the money. So it's slightly ironic" (renter).

3.29 In another instance a couple had a house on a smallholding, but due to poor health the respondents had decided to move out of the house each summer and let it out for holiday accommodation, moving into a mobile home during this period. Their house was their only significant asset and became the most important source of income for them in the summer months,

"We didn't have much option really. We needed the money to pay the rent and bills. If I could have afforded to stay in the house, I would have stayed in the house. I just couldn't afford to stay in it" (owner; own the land).

3.30 In two remote rural locations within one of the case study areas, there were concentrations of individual mobile homes because landowners were sympathetic to the housing needs of local people, and allowed a number of mobile homes on their land. As one respondent noted,

"I've known about this for a long time. The Laird has had these dwellings here for a long time and he's housing a lot of people - and been famous for it. And I used to socialise here so I've always known about it" (owner; leases the land).

3.31 One respondent described the housing market on the island where they lived, noting that the very limited supply of housing meant that the only two viable alternatives available to them were to transport a kit house onto the island, which was felt to be too expensive, or to buy a caravan, and transport that to the island.

3.32 A small group of respondents who lived in individual mobile homes in remote and rural areas also noted the very limited supply of housing where they lived. An important route into acquiring a home was to get hold of a piece of land and to build their own home. Three respondents were doing precisely that. However, an agency felt that households on lower incomes were gradually being squeezed out of even this approach. This agency noted that in recent years land prices had increased dramatically. This view was echoed by one of the respondents in an individual mobile home living in a remote rural area,

"Prices are going up to two hundred thousand. They've just gone silly. Even the price of land - an idea would have been to maybe rent a piece of land, and then maybe buy the land and from there to progress to building your own house. That was kind of my idea. But even the land prices have rocketed. You're looking at maybe eighty thousand for a plot, so now you're really getting priced out. So I've got stuck with renting" (renter).

Condition of the dwellings

3.33 The diversity of the characteristics of the sector are encapsulated in the impact of mobile homes on health. Chapter Two highlighted that households reporting a long term limiting illness were over represented in mobile homes. Some of the respondents, as noted earlier in this chapter, had made a positive choice to move to a park home because of their impairments or poor health. In these cases, park homes offered a solution in terms of improved accessibility around the home and neighbourhood, as well as a home that could be readily adapted to suit an individual's needs. However, previous research has also highlighted that mobile homes themselves may contribute to poor health (Laing and Lindsay, 1980). The research by Laing and Lindsay (1980) noted evidence from the then Badenoch and Strathspey District Council that GP's in that area highlighted that mobile homes were unsuitable for prolonged residential use particularly where young people were involved. This point was reiterated by a respondent in the current research, who noted that her mother had had to move out of her mobile home for health reasons on the advice of her GP.

Condensation

3.34 The majority of respondents in both park homes and individual mobile homes did not report any problems with condensation. However, nine respondents in park homes described the presence of condensation in their homes, although it was evident that there was considerable variation in the extent to which condensation occurred or was considered a difficulty by these latter respondents. For some of these respondents, condensation was a very minor issue,

"The walls are very thin. I wouldn't say I have a problem with it - just occasionally in the winter" (owner; rents a stance).

3.35 Two respondents in park homes noted that condensation had been a problem when they had first moved in, but that it had subsequently been sorted out by having double glazing put in. However, for other people, condensation was an ongoing issue that affected the quality of their lives,

"I have had problems with condensation. It can be bad. The bedroom is the most problem place, and in my wardrobes, I have problems with my clothes and bags" (owner; rents a stance).

3.36 Four respondents in park homes had bought dehumidifiers to help clear the level of moisture in the air. Two park home respondents reported poor standards of work that had been undertaken during the occupation of their home by previous owners. For example, the exterior of one park home had been cladded and the person who undertook the work covered up all the vents. In another instance, a park home had been boxed in, but insufficient ventilation meant that air had not been allowed to circulate underneath the park home.

3.37 Four respondents who lived in individual mobile homes reported the presence of damp,

"We have the usual problems with condensation and damp. It's a lot better than it could be because we're not using the gas fire and we just open up the windows every morning. I certainly couldn't dry any washing in the caravan. If you're careful and have ventilation when you're cooking then it's not so bad. With damp, we've got a few spots - the bathroom's always a problem. But I clean that up with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, and that keeps it at bay for a couple of weeks. You wouldn't be able to store any clothes that you're not wearing all the time" (owner; owns the land).

"You do get problems with condensation, especially in the winter time it's pretty bad. Just try and get the place aired. That's why we use electric heating. Caravans often have gas heating, but people don't use it because it causes the condensation" (owner; owns the land).

Space

3.38 Most respondents reported that the space in their homes was adequate for their needs. Only four respondents in park homes stated that space was a problem. However, six of the respondents in individual mobile homes felt that space was inadequate, as noted by two respondents,

"There's no work surface to prepare food on. I just use the top of the fridge. There is a table, but all my belongings are piled up on it" (renter).

"We usually shift some stuff from the house into the spare room. You haven't got much room in it. We've also got to do the laundry for the self catering in the caravan, so it's not really ideal. We get used to it. You've just got to put up with these kinds of things" (owner; croft).

3.39 These results need to be placed in the context of the group of respondents who took part in the research, who tended to be single people or couples. The small number of families who took part in the research tended to be more circumspect about space. Nevertheless, it is also important to note that a number of other respondents stated that they had more space in their current accommodation compared with their previous 'bricks and mortar' homes, which had often been flats.

Fuel Poverty and Heating

3.40 The Scottish Government (2006c) highlighted the impact of fuel poverty on vulnerable groups such as older people, people with a disability or long term illness. Evidence from the 2001 Census showed that both these groups were over represented in mobile homes.

3.41 The Scottish Government defined fuel poverty as,

" a household is in fuel poverty if it would be required to spend more than 10% of its income (including Housing Benefit or Income Support for Mortgage Interest) on all household fuel use." (Scottish Government, 2006c, p4).

3.42 A combination of factors can lead to fuel poverty of which the most significant are low incomes, fuel costs and energy efficiency. Research has highlighted that mobile homes exhibit very low standards of energy efficiency and are also responsible for significant emissions of carbon dioxide (Preston and Jones, 2004). Fuel costs can also be significant in relation to mobile homes because of the type of fuel that are available to residents of mobile homes, and also the basis on which fuel is available. Only a couple of the respondents in this research had access to mains gas. It was much more common for respondents to use Liquefied Petroleum Gas ( LPG), or solid fuel which tend to be more expensive than other types of fuel (Preston and Jones, 2004). As one respondent in a park home noted,

"I've got LPG - although it's quite expensive. I don't use it much because of the price of it. It's £1.50 per unit. So I do use it, but not a great deal. Just when the grandchildren come down, I put it on. I have halogen heaters, but it can get cold" (owner; rents the stance).

Further, gas and electricity can be more expensive on park home sites because supplies are charged to site owners at the commercial, rather than domestic rate, the costs of which are often passed on to residents. One characteristic of park home living is that residents often do not enjoy the market choice that is available to people living in bricks and mortar with regard to energy suppliers. Instead, residents are reliant on the site owner.

3.43 A distinction could be drawn between respondents who lived in park homes and those residents who lived in mobile homes that were never designed for permanent residential occupation and who tended to live in the individual mobile homes. The following comments illustrated some of the experiences of these latter respondents,

"I had the pipes freeze up last winter. I went away for the week and the temperature went down to minus ten. Even though the water was turned off it's difficult to drain the pipes and they are exposed underneath the caravan. I had about five leaks when I came back, but they got the plumber out the next day. The caravan is open underneath and the owner has said they will get round to doing it. The other caravan has skirting round it and they have put heating coils round the pipes to come on when it dips below freezing" (renter).

"On a fine day it's fine. But if it's wet and cold, it's not very nice really. It's really cold, you know? They're really cold and you couldn't stay in them the winter really. Even just now (May) we've got an electric blanket on, you know" (owner; owns the land).

"The worst thing about it is the winter time. It's heating the place. Because it's a caravan there's no real insulation in it. Your heating bills go through the roof in winter" (renter, owns the land).

"There's a lot of draughts - there's half a dozen vents. And the windows aren't double glazed. There's a draught around the door. It's in a pretty sheltered position, so I was surprised when it froze up. I came in one day and the toilet was frozen. The cistern was frozen so I didn't have water for a few days because I was waiting for it to thaw out before I could turn the water back on" (renter).

3.44 In contrast, other respondents, mainly the park home residents, felt that their homes were perfectly adequate with regard to warmth, often having insulation and double glazing. Indeed, a number of respondents, both in park homes and individual mobile homes, commented on measures they had taken to improve the energy efficiency of their homes,

"The heating is fine. If you can afford the coal, it's certainly not cold. But when we came we put pine cladding with insulation between. And put a pitched roof on with cladding. But the floor does get cold, because you get a hearty wind blowing beneath you. It gets hot in the summer, but you just open a window" (owner; rents a stance).

"They're excellent. These days they are made like a house. These ones I'm staying in are older ones - they are just holiday homes and they hadn't got double glazing or central heating. But I've put all that in" (owner; rents a stance).

3.45 Respondents were asked to comment on the extent to which they felt that their heating bills were affordable or not, and to estimate the proportion of their income that they spent on heating their homes. Nineteen respondents, living in both park homes and individual mobile homes, estimated that their heating bills were either 10 per cent or more of their total incomes,

"The Council Tax and heating are the biggest bills. But you've got to do it because they've really got to be heated. And you don't have a choice really especially with children. But we do all sit on the sofa, get a duvet and cuddle up - which is quite nice" (owner; owns the land).

"Between the diesel generator and the coal, I would say it's about 30% of my income. The problem with the diesel is that you have to find the money to buy it in bulk. So it's not like a bag of coal where you can get a bag for seven pounds. You have to buy a £1000 worth of diesel. So I have to work most of the summer to buy the diesel to do me for the rest of the year" (leases the property; owns the land).

"It's adequate; it's just the cost of it. Put it this way, over winter we usually get a three monthly account for the gas and it's usually 800 pounds. That's half of one of our pensions. And that's a lot of money, which is why we're going to change" (owner; owns the land).

3.46 One respondent noted that the only reason her heating bill was less than ten per cent of her income was because she did not turn on the heating,

"It is OK, but I have to go to bed with a hot water bottle, because I can't afford to put it on. That's just me. I'm an oldie, you see. The bottles cost £75 and last about three weeks in winter, so I just go to bed early - it's not much fun. It should be more than ten per cent. But I don't put it on, because I'm frightened of using the gas. I'm frightened of the heating - of the gas bill" (owner; rents a stance).

This point was also reiterated by a respondent on another site,

"A lot of people on this park don't use their gas because of the price of it. You use it when you first come in, until you get your first big bill. You just couldn't afford that. You couldn't keep that up" (owner; rents a stance).

3.47 A related issue about the weather in parts of Scotland was not just the potential cold, but also the wind, which can occasionally lead to tragic consequences such as the fatality of a mobile home resident on Skye in 2005. An agency in the Highland case study area noted that a couple of caravans had been severely damaged in a storm in January 2006 in their locality. These caravans had been located on the coast, but were usually sheltered from the prevailing winds. However, strong winds from an unusual direction had caused the problems which, although nobody was hurt, did result in the displacement of the occupiers. Similarly, another agency in Argyll and Bute noted that a resident of a mobile home had gone to stay with her sister one night during a violent storm last winter (2005/6), only to return to it the following day to see that it had been destroyed.

3.48 Four respondents living in individual mobile homes in the Highland and Argyll and Bute case study areas commented on their concerns about the weather in their area of Scotland,

"There's some horrendous winds you get here. And there have been some caravans damaged by storms and things. We've got a big metal container in front of it to protect us and have tied down everything possible. It's fine" (owner; croft).

"It's actually quite sheltered here. It's been chosen for that reason. It's not so bad. It's exposed from the North, but you don't get so many gales from the north end. It's mostly from the South West. Since the new roof has been on it feels slightly more safe" (renter).

"It's slightly exposed and I do get the wind, so in winter it's not so good, but it's well strapped down. That's the only thing, when it's windy and heavy rain it does rock about a bit, but I've got used to that now" (renter).

"When it rains it's like being in a tent - you can hear everything. But you get used to that, that's OK, but it's the high winds that are quite frightening. We put all of the stone from the cottage that was there before round the caravan and that has made a difference. I think it's quite secure now. Before, I couldn't sleep thinking: it's going to go; it's going to go. And it's quite scary"(owner; owns the land).

3.49 Thus, the limitations of living in caravans not intended for permanent residential occupation were amply demonstrated by the views of the occupants who lived in them. These limitations were exacerbated by the weather conditions in particular areas of Scotland, especially during the winter months. The evidence from this research suggested that it is those respondents living in individual mobile homes, both owners and renters alike, who were the most susceptible to the cold and wind.

3.50 Nevertheless, it is important to note that although respondents were well aware of the drawbacks, there was clearly a sense that for the majority, living in a mobile home offered many positives. The circumstances and conditions of caravans was relative only to the other types of accommodation that were realistically available to these households, and the difficulties described by respondents need to be seen in this context. This point is not to suggest that accommodation of poor quality is in any way acceptable, but that enforcement of standards is only half the story if there isn't a viable alternative for people to remain living in the locality of their choosing. For example, one respondent noted that whilst there were such limitations with living in a caravan that it could only be viewed as a temporary measure, she also noted that their caravan was preferable to the damp and mould in their previous home which had been a privately rented house. As noted in the previous chapter, residential occupation of caravans is indicative of housing stress in many localities.

Access to services

3.51 One issue about the location of mobile homes was that there may be the potential for greater problems in terms of access to services because of where they are sited, either individual mobile homes in isolated locations, or park homes on sites on the edge of urban centres. However, a more significant factor appeared to be whether or not respondents lived in remote rural areas, rather than the actual location of a mobile home itself. In this respect, a distinction could be drawn between respondents living in remote rural areas and those households living in urban areas, or readily accessible to urban centres in relation to views on access to services. Most respondents living in remote rural areas seemed quite philosophical about access to services, accepting that living in these areas brought with it trade offs in terms of the availability of services. All these respondents had access to a car, which was viewed as essential. However, one household was concerned about changes to their pension payments and the implications of this change for access to their money,

"We're lucky because we have a doctor's surgery in the village. We have two shops: a Post Office and a general store. Every so often we go to Oban to stock up, or Tobermory. We get our pension via the post office. It's the only cash we can get. You're looking at nearly 100 pounds to go to Oban to get to the bank to get cash out" (owner; owns the land).

3.52 Many of the respondents living in urban or accessible rural areas commented positively on the choices available to them in terms of using private or public transport to get to services. Indeed, in the Midlothian case study, the location of park home sites happened to be near the development of retail parks on the edge of Edinburgh,

"We're in an ideal spot. And this is something we didn't foresee when we moved out here. We are a ten minute walk from a retail park. The first shop we reach is IKEA - what can I say? Ten minutes and we have all the shops there. Transport is very good. With the buses in 20 minutes we can be in the centre of Edinburgh"(owner; rents the stance).

3.53 However, not all respondents living in urban or accessible rural areas felt that services were readily accessible, and this, not surprisingly, depended on car ownership. The significance of car ownership was reflected in the views of a couple of respondents living in park homes who commented on the importance of being able to continue driving into later life. One respondent noted that she would eventually have to give up her car, but was confident that she would be able to rely on neighbours for help. Another respondent commented,

"The bus service stops at the gates. The supermarket is four miles away. I'm hanging on to the car. It's hopeless without a car" (owner; rents the stance).

Future aspirations

3.54 Demographic trends in Scotland potentially suggest a growing demand for park home living. The Scottish Government (2006b) highlighted that between 2004 and 2031 that the number of people at or above the state pension age is projected to rise by more than 35%, reaching 1.31 million persons in 2031. The number of people aged 75 and over is projected to rise by 75% from 0.37 million in 2004 to 0.65 million by 2031. Given the popularity of park homes amongst older people, it would seem reasonable to infer an increased demand for this type of accommodation.

3.55 Future intentions and aspirations were inevitably bound up closely with attitudes towards living in mobile homes and experiences of this form of accommodation or living on park home sites. The large majority of respondents living in park homes expressed considerable satisfaction with living in a mobile home. These residents were most likely to want to continue living in this form of accommodation. However, this view was not universal amongst all respondents in park homes,

"I would never regard a mobile home as a permanent dwelling. Basically because no matter how good they are, they're still little huts on wheels. And take away the wheels and put this little hut on the ground, this would be regarded as not very good accommodation. They're nice enough, don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with them. It's just that they're temporary" (owner; rents a stance).

3.56 Even those respondents who experienced difficulties with site owners often reported considerable satisfaction with their homes. Nevertheless, in contrast, one respondent in a park home commented that her negative experiences with a site owner meant that she wanted to move to another type of accommodation. This respondent had applied to the local authority for council accommodation. Certainly of the small number of respondents who were actively looking to move, most had their name down either with the local authority for council accommodation or with housing associations. However, a number of other respondents felt that they were trapped where they were, either because of a view that they could not afford to buy another home or a feeling that they would not be eligible for social rented accommodation,

"I'm not keen on housing association or the council - there are long waiting lists. I own my own home and a housing association would laugh me out of the building. While you've got your own home, the council aren't likely to give you one. I don't fancy living in a rabbit hutch anyway, which is what a lot of council bungalows are" (owner; rents a stance).

3.57 A small number of residents felt that they were in a more invidious position. As one respondent noted,

"Because of my wife's health we would need to be close to town in a single storey dwelling. But now we're trapped because we're in a chalet worth about 35-45,000 pounds. We're trapped in that respect. The owner would like us to walk away. The owner is not allowing sales with people moving into existing homes. He just wants people off. A couple of people have managed to sell, where their home has been removed to somewhere else, but only at a considerable loss" (owner; rents a stance).

3.58 One issue is the extent to which such accommodation necessarily remains affordable to people on lower incomes. A couple of respondents noted the increase in the quality and standard of new park homes that were being located on their sites, but also commented on the cost of the new park homes.

3.59 One respondent in a remote rural area reflected on his chances of obtaining alternative accommodation,

Respondent: "There's not many private landlords round here. I look at the papers every week, and every single one says 'No DSS'. So it's very difficult to find a landlord who'll accept Housing Benefit. So I think I'll be stuck here until either I get a full-time job and can afford to rent a place privately, or I get offered a place from a housing association".

Interviewer: "what about the council"?

Respondent: "(groans) I'll be an old man before I get something off the council. I'm a single male so the council doesn't really care….when I first started hassling the council I was living in a tent. And they told me that I wasn't homeless because I was living in a tent" (renter).

Perceptions of mobile homes

3.60 A number of respondents reflected on perceptions of mobile homes within broader society. Often respondents expressed frustration or exasperation at attitudes which they encountered amongst people with regard to living in mobile homes:

" We sometimes feel that people look down on us because we live in mobile homes, and believe you me there's no need for people to do that. A lot of us like myself have decent jobs. I'm a professional person. There's a lot of people come here because of circumstances like myself who couldn't afford a proper house as I call it, and we all enjoy living here. But there is still a lot of prejudice against mobile homes" (Owner, rents the stance).

3.61 Occasionally respondents felt that negative perceptions of mobile homes coloured the attitudes of service providers in statutory agencies such as local authorities:

"W e pay rates like anybody else and it's no different from anything else in a way, we're not treated any differently. But sometimes they (the council) kind of object to mobile homes. I think the fact that it kind of fits in with the rest of the scenery, it shouldn't make any difference. It would be more affordable for people in our position, you know - pensioners" (Owner, owns the land).

3.62 One agency noted that a number of businesses had experienced difficulty in getting clear guidance from local authorities about the siting of mobile homes on their land, or the implications of having mobile homes on their land with regard to Council Tax. Two of the residents also noted problems in requesting guidance from authorities about issues such as Council Tax. One respondent noted,

"The council don't seem to understand the concept of a residential caravan when it comes to claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. Every year you get the same questions. There's this performance every year, and there's delays because there's letters having to go backwards and forwards to confirm this and confirm that. That's a pain really. It's just a hassle every year" (renter).

Conclusions

3.63 Affordability of accommodation was a significant driver in prompting people to consider mobile homes in both urban and rural areas alike. However, in remote rural areas it tended to be the lack of any viable alternative to rent or buy a home, including a reported lack of affordable housing for respondents in these areas. Respondents who had lived within the Edinburgh housing market area commented on the prohibitive cost of buying or renting bricks and mortar. However in contrast to respondents in the remote rural locations, many of these respondents had rejected the possibility of moving into social rented accommodation, not because there was anything wrong with the accommodation per se, but as a result of negative perceptions of the areas and of antisocial behaviour. Indeed, mobile homes offered an affordable style of living for respondents who wanted to leave areas which they felt were blighted by crime and anti-social behaviour.

3.64 The majority of respondents were very satisfied with living in mobile homes, although this feeling was not universal. Positive aspects of living in mobile homes included:

  • More affordable accommodation, not just in terms of buying a home, but also maintenance, running costs - and less housework;
  • An opportunity to live in very attractive locations that would otherwise be unaffordable;
  • Living in a neighbourhood with like minded individuals, often with a strong sense of community;
  • A safe environment, mostly free from anti-social behaviour;
  • Accommodation that was accessible and readily adapted to suit a resident's needs.

Negative factors associated with mobile homes included:

  • Vulnerability to bad weather;
  • Expensiveness to heat;
  • Living in caravans that were not intended for permanent residential occupation;
  • Living in park homes could be affected by poor relations with the park owner.

3.65 The factors identified above affected both people who owned their homes, as well as private tenants, and their experiences illustrated that there was considerable diversity with regard to the condition of their homes. The small number of respondents in this research who rented their homes all described relations with their landlords as good, although these respondents varied as to whether or not they had written tenancy agreements.