In Florida’s Lakeland-Winter Haven metro area, you’ll spot a slew of mobile home communities geared toward the 55-and-over crowd. One such place is Winter Haven MHC, whose amenities include a lake, a swimming pool, shuffleboard courts, RV storage, billiards tables, event space and libraries.

In a bid to entice new residents, Winter Haven MHC says on its website: “Nature lovers will delight in the variety of flora and fauna — from majestic cypress trees and blooming azaleas to egrets, osprey and otters.”

Mobile Home Hub

Retirees flocking to Lakeland-Winter Haven — like those who’ve taken up residence at Winter Haven MHC — have helped make it the mobile home mecca of America.

A LawnStarter review of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that last year, 21.5 percent of all homes in Lakeland-Winter Haven, including houses, apartments and condos, were mobile homes. That’s the highest percentage among the country’s 100 largest metro areas. By contrast, 6.4 percent of all U.S. homes in 2015 were mobile homes, according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

manufactured home pool

Swimming pools are among the amenities at manufactured home communities.
Photo: Equity LifeStyle Properties

The Census Bureau classifies them as “mobile homes,” but the modern versions actually are known as manufactured homes. Technically, the term “mobile home” is supposed to be applied only if the structure was built before July 15, 1976; after that date, the appropriate term is “manufactured home.” For this article, we’re mostly sticking with “mobile home.”

L.A. “Tony” Kovach, publisher of two trade publications covering the manufactured housing industry, MHLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com, says one factor that contributes to Lakeland-Winter Haven’s status as a mobile home hub is that it’s a magnet for retirees. In the Lakeland-Winter Haven area, 26 percent of residents are in the 60-and-over group; nationally, that number is 21 percent.

Inexpensive Housing

Many residents of mobile home communities are retired Social Security recipients whose fixed incomes demand that they seek out affordable housing. Across the U.S., the average retiree pulls in only about $16,200 a year in Social Security benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. As such, mobile homes are an attractive housing option. The average sale price of a mobile home is $68,000, compared with the average sale price of $360,600 for a traditional single-family home, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute.

mobile home

Mobile homes are an affordable housing option for retirees.
Photo: Clayton Homes of Lakeland

Depending on the location, per-square-foot construction costs for a manufactured home can be up to 35 percent lower than the construction costs for a comparable single-family home, says Patti Boerger, vice president of communications at the Manufactured Housing Institute.

“Millions of Americans struggle with rent payments, but still want a lawn. For them, mobile homes are the cheapest form of housing available,” Priceonomics says.

What follows is our ranking of the leading places that embrace this inexpensive form of housing — the Top 12 Mobile Home Meccas of America. Four of the 12 meccas are in Florida.

1. Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL

Lakeland mobile home

Photo: Trulia

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 21.5%

2. McAllen, TX

McAllen mobile home

Photo: Winter Texan Mobile Home Sales

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 14.6%

3. Columbia, SC

Columbia SC mobile home

Photo: Mitula

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 13%

4. Augusta, GA

Augusta GA mobile home

Photo: Zillow

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 12.8%

5. Greenville, SC

Greenville SC mobile home

Photo: MHVillage

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 12.6%

6. Tucson, AZ

Tucson mobile home

Photo: Desert Pueblo Mobile Home Park

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 12.4%

7. North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL

Sarasota mobile home

Photo: Business Observer

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 12.1%

8 (tie). Baton Rouge, LA

Baton Rouge mobile home

Photo: Southern Heritage Homes of Louisiana

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 11.5%

8 (tie). Charleston, SC

Charleston SC

Photo: Zillow

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 11.5%

10. Winston-Salem, NC

Winston-Salem mobile home

Photo: HotPads

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 11%

11. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, FL

Daytona Beach mobile home

Photo: Zillow

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 10%

12. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL

Fort Myers mobile home

Photo: Southwind Village Mobile Home Park

Share of mobile homes vs. all homes: 9.8%

Top photo: Stratus Risk Underwriters

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