How the Yellowstone Floods Laid Bare a Housing Crisis

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Communities in the American West are facing a double crisis as the rising cost of housing is compounded by historic flooding. In Carbon County, Montana, the median home price outstrips the budget of a low- to medium-income worker by more than $100,000. Writing in High Country News, Nick Mott describes the damage incurred by residents during this year’s catastrophic floods.

To make ends meet, many Montanans live in manufactured housing, which can be much less expensive to purchase and maintain than site-built homes. But “Across Montana, about one in five mobile homes are at a high risk of flooding — higher than the national average of one in seven.” In Fromberg, a small town in Carbon County hit hard by this year’s megafloods, few residents have flood insurance. “Mobile home residents earn roughly half of the median annual income of the average American family living in a single-family home. That makes it even harder for them to prepare for and recover from disasters like floods.” Meanwhile, mobile home park owners have little incentive to make financially costly investments to make communities safer.

Mott points out that the recent floods illuminated a host of other issues straining the communities of workers living near Yellowstone and in similar areas. As climate change exacerbates extreme weather conditions and investors buy up mobile home parks for profit, mobile home residents and low-income workers are increasingly more vulnerable to losing their homes and livelihoods.