Vintage trailer park home at El Cosmico by Enabler.

Could mobile homes hold the secret to housing affordability?

18 October 2018
Alexandra McRobert to road-trip the US pursuing alternative housing models
PhD Candidate Alexandra McRobert has been awarded a Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship, a program supporting young NSW architects to pursue research in cities and communities around the world.
Alexandra McRobert receives Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship

Gerard Reinmuth presents Alexandra McRobert with the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship.


A scholarship program supporting architectural travel and research could contribute to the future of housing affordability in Australia. Recent recipient Alexandra McRobert will use the Byera Hadley Travelling Scholarship to further her PhD research with the Innovation in Applied Design Lab, which examines how prefabrication in the housing sector can increase affordability.

“Australia is in the midst of a housing affordability crisis, with housing prices in Sydney reaching almost 13 times the average household income. There has been little research into innovative and alternative affordable housing typologies that address holistic issues of land use and planning as well as ownership, design and construction.”

Travelling from Los Angeles to Chicago via the East Coast in a recreational vehicle (RV), Alexandra aims to visit manufacturers, retailers, community providers, and residents of manufactured and mobile housing. Her goal is to develop a holistic understanding of the financial, architectural, and ethnographic facets of this industry, to discover how mobile and manufactured housing might provide an alternative to traditional housing during times of housing stress and unaffordability.

“My PhD research is focused on the way we can better utilise prefabrication for housing affordability. I have been researching manufactured housing and mobile homes as a case study for my thesis, which is where I got the inspiration to explore this idea further, and really see how we might be able to implement it better in Australia.”

Alexandra’s research to date has led her to believe we might soon see some changes in Australia’s housing market.

As more and more people are locked out of the market, we are looking for innovative ways to provide more affordable and diverse housing options.

She explains: “Models like the Baugruppens in Germany, Nightingale in Melbourne, and even micro apartments and tiny houses, are really gaining traction with a generation that isn’t afraid to engage with the market themselves. Learning from existing models like the manufactured housing industry in the US can allow us to think about alternative tenure and ownership, outside of the traditional owner-occupier model.”

Due to finish her PhD in the first half of 2019, Alexandra also completed her Bachelor of Design in Architecture (2010) and Master of Architecture (2014) at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning.


Top image: Customized travel trailer by Enabler for El Cosmisco, Marfa. Photo: Nick Simonite.

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