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Policy implications of localised stigma: A case study of consumer vulnerabilities experienced by mobile home park residents

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Purpose
This paper contributes to knowledge in the area of consumer vulnerability with respect to housing by detailing a study of residents of a large mobile home park (MHP) in a small town in the Southeastern United States. Residents of mobile home parks inhabit some of the most stigmatised residential locations in the United States, and this stigma, in addition to poverty, contributes to their vulnerability.
Design/methodology/approach
This empirical project used qualitative methodology including in-depth interviews with 14 residents of a single large mobile home park located in a small town in the Southeastern United States, and interviews with the town's manager and engineer. Field note data were collected at a meeting of the town council. Analysis was accomplished using interpretive, hermeneutic analysis where a priori and emergent themes arising out of the qualitative data were examined.
Findings
MHP residents experience vulnerability from multiple sources including juxtaposition with other residents experiencing poverty and stigma, criminal victimisation, and poor management of the MHP, and actions by the town (termed structural vulnerability). But interestingly, we found that some residents perceived a tight-knit community that resulted from the shared experience of living in a MHP. We describe an intended action by the town council that resulted in structural vulnerability - the attempted removal of the MHP from the town. MHP residents allied with MHP management and bonded together to speak out against the action. We use the findings from this study to make several recommendations to address consumer vulnerability of MHPs.
Limitations
This project studies the vulnerability of consumers in one MHP, hence the main limitation relates to external validity - MHP residents in other locations might experience vulnerability differently from our study's participants. The specificity of municipal regulation has the potential to affect MHP residents differently, although we believe that the experience of poverty and stigma is universal to MHP residents.
Implications
This study has provided empirical evidence that provides insight into consumer vulnerability experienced by MHP residents, and has recommended policy specifics to improve the experience and agency of these vulnerable consumers.
Contribution
MHP residents experience consumer vulnerability both directly through substandard living conditions and indirectly through stigma and poverty juxtaposition. This paper suggests the importance of living situation as a source of consumer vulnerability, and makes recommendations that, if adopted, will serve to ameliorate the experience of vulnerability by MHP residents.
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Keywords: CONSUMER VULNERABILITY; CRIME; LAND USE; MOBILE HOME PARK; POVERTY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2019

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