NewsSoutheast Valley NewsMesa News


Arizona researchers look for ways to decrease heat deaths in trailers

Posted at 7:42 AM, Apr 23, 2021

Mobile homes are one of the last affordable homeownership options for low-income workers and limited-income seniors.

Maricopa County residents who live in them are dying at higher rates due to heat-related causes when compared to other types of housing, according to researchers with Arizona State University.

County data shows there were 45 indoor heat deaths in 2020. Of those, 13, nearly one-third, of the deaths were inside of trailers.

Researchers say it's a persistent trend.

From 2008 to 2018, 30 percent of heat-related deaths on average occurred inside manufactured homes and mobile homes, according to Patricia Solis with the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience at ASU. She says the trend is especially troubling because those types of homes only account for five percent of the county housing stock.

In 2018, Solis and a group of researchers began looking into how they can reduce overall heat deaths.

Data showed concentrations of heat-related deaths in mobile home locations in Mesa where utility assistance for low-income was not received. That is where they began looking.

They spent the summer of 2019 monitoring temperatures inside of 50 trailers around the Valley.

Another issue is that many mobile homeowners are on a sitewide meter, which means the park owner is the utility customer--not the residents and they aren't eligible for income-based programs through the utility company.

"People are dying, they're falling between the cracks of this assistance that we have because we just didn't see them," Solis said.

Now they do.

"We have a group of stakeholders that we've been working with, to try to design some solutions," she said.

They've alerted cities, utilities and park owners who Solis says have been responding with outreach about keeping cool.

But with more than 87,000 mobile homes in Maricopa County, she said the issue needs major policy changes to include this population and the money to fund it.

"Those are the kinds of things we can prevent, we can do something about that if we can pinpoint where they are and where they're most vulnerable."