Appalachia's "Big White Ghettos": Exploring the role of heirs' property in the reproduction of housing vulnerability in eastern KentuckyThis article is part of a larger document. View the larger document here.
Heirs’ property presents obstacles to asset building because such properties have “clouded land titles,” i.e., those that are difficult or impossible to use as collateral for home mortgages. Because of these difficulties, heirs’ property owners may be more likely to purchase manufactured or mobile homes rather than site-constructed ones because mobile home financing can be accomplished with chattel loans. The purchase of a manufactured home as chattel property, when attached to real property classed as heirs’ property, intensifies housing vulnerability because manufactured home values are more likely than site-built homes to depreciate in value; this, in concert with heirs’ property classification inhibits owners’ abilities to use these assets to build wealth. Using secondary parcel data, I examine the association between heirs’ property ownership and manufactured housing in eight counties in central Appalachia (southeastern Kentucky)—Clay, Harlan, Knox, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, McCreary, and Owsley Counties. Contrary to expectations, I found a negative and significant association between heirs’ parcels and manufactured housing presence for six of the eight counties. Further analyses revealed lower assessed property values for heirs’ properties compared to non-heirs’ properties, suggesting that heirs’ properties are less likely to contain any kind of improvements and consequentially are more likely to be underutilized from an economic, asset-enhancing perspective.