Heat, Housing, and Health+: Understanding Vulnerability and Building Resilience within Manufactured Housing Communities (H3+)


We are a research team studying the intersections of heat, housing and health. We seek up to three (3) research interns to help continue to develop and test a research protocol for assessing home thermal security (HTS) in mobile and manufactured housing (MH) communities in Arizona. HTS is the ability of a household to maintain a stable home thermal environment consistent with basic health, social, and financial needs. Little is known about the thermal conditions people experience in their homes or how the adverse and disproportionate impacts of home heat differ by race, age, gender, and housing type. As the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States, MH is an important housing type in which to study extreme heat, housing insecurity, and public health. Research on HTS is crucial to inform climate adaptation, heat governance, and resilience planning as well as affordable housing policy. Interns will collect preliminary data about thermal insecurity among MH households, help conduct and analyze resident interviews, attend meetings, contribute to publications, and present findings to the public and scholarly audiences.

In the project Heat, Housing, and Health: Understanding Vulnerability and Building Resilience within Manufactured Housing Communities (H3+), we propose to: (1) Complete the thermal insecurity in manufactured housing research under way as part of our existing H3 Project (RII) in which we are developing and testing a research protocol to study thermal (in)security in mobile and manufactured housing; (2) Assemble a multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional research team focused on the convergent vulnerabilities and resilience challenges associated with heat, housing and health, allowing us to scale up from Pima County to statewide and regional (US Southwest and borderlands) analysis, and to apply for a major NSF or other external grant funding. The proposed project aligns with NSF interest in slow-onset hazards, addresses pressing social needs with respect to affordable housing and public health, and contributes to research coalescing around extreme heat at the University of Arizona. To connect extreme heat research on campus and advance our collaboration with ASU and other institutions, we will hold a workshop (including student interns) on heat, housing, and health with the goal of developing an NSF proposal during or before Spring 2022. The extramural competitiveness of our research will be enhanced by the preliminary data we are currently collecting in Pima County. This data will be analyzed with the assistance of VIP interns / student researchers. 

Issues Involved or Addressed

The justice dimensions of climate change with its disproportionate impacts on low-income communities and communities of color are beginning to be better understood (Shonkoff and Morello-Frosch, 2011; Harlan et al., 2013; Schlosberg and Collins, 2014). However, research on the unequal risks of heat (and extreme heat) on low-income and marginalized communities has been largely neglected, mirrored by a lack of policy solutions to address heat-related challenges (Wilder et al., 2016; Kear et al., 2019; Kear et al., 2020; Hondula et al., 2015). At the same time, research on environmental and economic vulnerability of manufactured housing and mobile homes (MH) is severely lacking, despite MH being a concentrated site where socio-economic vulnerabilities occur with potential cascading effects (Kear et al., 2019; Sullivan, 2018). 

At the nexus of multiple environmental, financial, and social risks, MH is an important housing type in which to study the compounding effects of extreme heat, housing insecurity, and COVID-19 for several reasons. 

For example, manufactured housing represents 10 percent of all housing stock in Pima County, and Tucson ranks as the seventh-highest city in the nation for MH housing concentration. Thirty-five percent of this MH housing-type in the county is classified as mobile homes, factory-built housing constructed prior to 1976 that does not meet contemporary safety, health, and efficiency standards. MH is the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the US (Sullivan, 2018) at a time of recession and rising housing cost-burden. MH residents are disproportionately affected by extreme heat stress (Philipps et al. under review). For example, last year in Maricopa County, 40 percent of indoor heat-associated deaths occurred in MH (MCDPH 2020), despite accounting for only five percent of housing units.

Key Research Questions:

  • What are the converging vulnerabilities facing MH residents and households?
  • How do MH residents understand and build resilience to the converging challenges they face?
  • What are the public health and public policy innovations and advances that could help communities build resilience?

Urban heat-related deaths exceed those from any other US weather-related hazard (CDC 2020), are projected to increase in decades to come (Sheridan et al., 2012; Kingsley et al., 2016), and disproportionately occur among elderly and marginalized populations (Harlan et al., 2013; Hondula et al., 2015). Nearly half of these deaths are associated with indoor heat exposure. However, little is known about the thermal conditions people experience (Kuras et al., 2017) in their homes or how the adverse and disproportionate impacts of home heat differ by geography, occupation, race, age, gender, and housing type. Home heat risk, despite growing research on extreme heat across a variety of natural and social science disciplines, remains understudied and unaddressed by hazard mitigation planning and governance processes. One reason for this knowledge-action gap is that home heat stress is a function of a complex set of climatological, geographical, epidemiological, and socio-technical factors. Tackling this complex problem requires a convergence approach that draws on knowledge, methods, and expertise from multiple disciplines. Interns will benefit from the opportunity to work with a  transdisciplinary team studying the connections between heat and health in manufactured and mobile housing.

Methods and Tech

We are recruiting interns for Fall 2021-2022 for 5 hours/week (3 internship credits) who will contribute in the following ways and gain valuable training as part of a hands-on research team:

  • Coding transcribed interviews using qualitative analysis software
  • Conducting literature reviews and summaries in preparation for research presentations and publications
  • Participating in research team and collaborator meetings
  • Creating infographics summarizing survey data and key findings
  • Writing research participant profiles for the project website
  • Assisting with planning and facilitating public workshops
  • Assisting with planning and facilitating the collaborators’ meeting(s) to develop the NSF or other major external funding
  • Developing their own independent research (if desired), potentially as part of an honors project, a thesis, or for a major conference such as the AAG or AGU

Desired Skills and Abilities

  • Willingness to work as part of a research team and attend weekly/biweekly meetings with faculty and graduate student members of the team
  • Good writing and clear communication skills; basic computer skills
  • Bilingual (in Spanish/English)

Team Advisors

Mark Kear, PhD (H3 Project PI)

Margaret Wilder, PhD (H3 Project Co-PI)

Ladd Keith, PhD

Patricia Solís, PhD

David Hondula, PhD

Team Interns

Hope Njeri

David Wang