- There's a pejorative that we can still use without being called out, and it's trailer trash.
People laugh or think it's funny.
But it's not to people who live in parks, and yet we still do it.
And that's, like, the first goal of the film in many ways, was to break that stereotype, to make you think twice about this type of home and the value of it and the value of the people who live there.
That park next door to Google headquarters is in act one for a reason.
You know, it's to say, "Well, you think you know what a mobile home park looks like?
You think you know who lives there?
Let's just go visit, find the young families whose parents work in high tech but they can't afford a site-built house in Silicon Valley."
I'm Sara Terry.
I'm the director of "A Decent Home."
"A Decent Home" is a look at affordable housing through a landscape that's mostly ignored: mobile home parks.
And it's a critique of who we're becoming as Americans when the wealthiest of the wealthy start buying up those parks because they can make huge returns on their money.
And the people who live in the parks have few defenses.
They own their homes, and they rent the land they live on.
(child and homeowner laughing) - [Homeowner] This is my backyard.
I call it my sanctuary.
I love to come here and just take in calmness and just let the rest of the day go.
- I have been super concerned about the wealth gap.
And I think the wealth gap is an insult to our humanity.
You know, it speaks volumes about what we value in the world, what we have prized.
And when I read an article in 2015 about Mobile Home University, there was a little kicker in that article that just floored me.
The Carlisle Group, which is one of the largest private equity firms in the world, they were starting to buy mobile home parks.
And the rest of the world of private equity was watching.
And that was a slam-your-feet-on-the-ground moment, going, "Who are we becoming as Americans?"
I can't live in a world like that without saying something.
A decent home is enough, right?
People need decent homes.
Communities need decent homes so that people can thrive.
It was decent, not over the top, not tent homes, not, you know, a million things.
And it was really interesting 'cause around the time I made that name change, decency began to come more into the cultural conversation again.
I think it flies in the face of elitism.
You know, we're struggling, as Americans, with what it means to be decent.
- We are not just dollar signs on a lot number.
We are a real community, real people, and we're fighting this.
- Why I'm being your narrator, you know?
And that took a lot of finessing and fine-tuning without it becoming, I didn't want it to be about me, but I had to let you know why I cared.
I've never lived in a mobile home, but housing instability is an issue I know well.
I nearly lost my home in the toxic mortgage meltdown of 2008.
I've spent more than half of my income on housing.
I belong to the 1/3 of Americans who spend way more than they can afford on home.
And it's a conversation that I challenge in some ways.
Like, who are you to tell the story?
Well, you know what?
I'm a concerned human being.
I care, you know?
And I think, in many ways, that is enough.
I think you'll find that everybody who is somebody who's trying to buy a park or take advantage of park residents, (laughing) they're totally shameless about doing it.
- [Reporter] Sean, do you know how much money you're gonna get for the park?
- Between 100 million to 300 million.
- And it took me forever to realize, well, but that's because our culture says, "You're making more money when you sold that property for twice what you paid for it?
It's why Frank Rolfe says, like, "You don't wanna know your customer's names.
They're not your friends.
This is a business."
- We're fighting to stay in our home.
- No duty of this council is more important than serving its working people.
- These people are coming in to make money off of the backs of people that have worked all their lives to have what they do have.
They're the most vulnerable in society in most cases.
And there's people that are taking advantage of this situation, are some of the richest people.
- [Sara] So some people would say that's just how capitalism works.
(uplifting music) - Treating people fairly is how life works.
- We all have a complicated relationship with the American Dream, a term that, I think, only came out after the Depression, if I'm not mistaken.
It doesn't have a long history.
I think we have to understand that what we call the American Dream has never truly existed except for a very small group of people.
The American Dream was built on things we did to the original inhabitants of America and what we did, you know, when we enslaved people.
You don't get to have an American Dream without having done those things.
And I think you have to acknowledge it.
I think the American dream of home ownership is like a figment of the imagination for a lot of people today.
And I don't think that's a bad thing.
We can write new narratives.
We don't have to live in a narrative of greed.
And I don't think we should be afraid to think that the American dream could be multi-family homes or multi-generational homes.
And I hope the film empowers more people to go, "Oh, I wanna be part of a new narrative."
(partygoers chattering) - [Homeowner] You can't put a person down because what they can afford.
To me, everybody is equal.
It's just, some people have more money than others.
(bittersweet music) (fireworks crackling and popping) - [Homeowner] You just do the best you can.
Work hard every day, and you get something to call your own.
And that's something everybody should be proud of.
(partygoers chattering) - [Homeowner] You know, personally, I think I am living my American Dream right now.
It's as simple as that.
(fireworks pattering) (fireworks popping) (fireworks crackling)