Mary Lane, of Dumfries, purchased her first home at age 73, the first time she could afford a piece of the American Dream. The $8,500 also bought her independence.

With monthly housing expenses of $408, including lot rental, she can afford to take care of herself, instead of moving in with one of her children or into a nursing home like her older sister and some of her friends.

"There is no way I could pay $600 a month rent or a house payment as much as they cost nowadays," said Lane, 81. "But I wanted to own my own home."

Lane and her neighbors at the Grayson Village Mobile Home Park are worried about their plight and that of other people who turn to mobile homes as a place to raise their families and grow old.

Government officials in Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland and elsewhere are reluctant to allow expansion of mobile home parks and construction of new ones. There is widespread opposition to mobile homes from owners of more conventional houses. Few new mobile home parks are being built and some of those that do exist are threatened with being shut down because some property owners are opting to sell the land for other uses.

Owners of 16 mobile homes in Dumfries were told last week, for example, that they will be evicted in December because the owner, U-Haul, wants to build a rental facility. Many of the mobile home owners can't afford to rent an apartment or purchase a house; many of their homes are old and would not wear well if they were relocated; and most nearby mobile home parks have waiting lists, meaning there is just no place for them to go.

No new parks for manufactured homes -- the name preferred by the industry -- have been constructed in Northern Virginia for more than 10 years, said Ron Dunlap, executive director of the Virginia Manufactured Housing Association. In suburban Maryland, a park is under construction in Howard County, but only two other parks have been built in 10 years, said Leonard Homa, of the Maryland Manufactured Housing Association.

While government officials bemoan the need for affordable housing, they admit they have not seriously considered mobile homes -- the most affordable form of home ownership with prices as low as $10,000 for older units and $40,000 for luxury units -- as a solution.

"People just don't want mobile homes around," said an Arlington planning official who asked not to be identified. "Local governments don't want to address them as affordable housing because they would be forced to see what a sage move it would be to support them."

Most Virginia and Maryland localities have restrictive ordinances or requirements for mobile homes, Dunlap and Homa said. The only friends of mobile homes identified by Homa were Montgomery and Prince George's counties, which allow the homes in residential zones.

Baltimore County is studying a provision to allow the homes in residential zones, he said.

A Virginia law that became effective July 1 requires localities to allow mobile homes at least 19 feet wide in areas zoned for agriculture. Before the law, 15 counties, including Fairfax, Arlington, Prince William and Loudoun counties, prohibited mobile homes on private property, Dunlap said.

Twelve million Americans live in 6.7 million mobile homes around the country, including 200,000 in Virginia and 30,000 in Maryland. In the Washington area, most mobile home residents live in the outer suburbs; about 20 percent of the residents of Dumfries in Prince William County live in mobile homes.

According to industry studies, 18 percent of new mobile home buyers nationally are retired; 35 percent are blue-collar workers and 24 percent are white-collar workers, the fastest-growing segment.

Residents say there is a stigma attached to living in a mobile home that has carried over from the days when they were called "trailers." "People look at them and see the older models that used to blow up in fires and blow away in tornadoes," said Bruce Butterfield, of the Manufactured Housing Institute in Arlington.

"There are a lot of good, honest folks who don't make big incomes that need a place to live, and mobile homes offer them a chance to own," said Ed Graham, a Dumfries Town Council member and mobile home resident. "But mobile homes are being chased out because of preconceived notions about the kinds of people who live in them."

Graham, a paralegal supervisor, and his wife, Mary, a secretary, moved to Grayson Village Mobile Home Park five years ago after he left the Marine Corps and she decided to stay home with her children. They purchased their three-bedroom, 1 1/2-bath mobile home for $13,000; their mortgage payment is $168 and lot rental is $350 a month. They could not have afforded a house, Mary Graham said.

Their mobile home park, which has a clubhouse and swimming pool, is a close-knit community, the Grahams said. Ed Graham organized a group to repair Lane's roof when it began leaking. With an income of less than $600 per month, she could not afford to hire a contractor. Jo Ann Dent, who moved to Grayson with her husband, Charlie, four years ago after they sold their Woodbridge house, visits Lane periodically to see if she's all right.

Trudy Vandenberg, a widow, has lived in the park for 19 years. "This is what I have to hang on to until I die," she said. "It might sound strange, but that's the way it is. With this and my Social Security, I'm doing okay."

"People think only lowlifes, dirtbags, bikers and hippies live here, but there are a lot of families, older residents and some single people who just want to own their own home," said Mary Graham. "We're no different from any other community."

Loudoun planner Ed Gorski acknowledged that his county's mobile home ordinance discourages mobile homes. "The only place mobile homes are allowed is in parks and there is only one park," he said.

Planning officials agreed there is a general perception by many that manufactured homes attract less desirable residents.

An Anne Arundel official who asked not to be identified said the community is resistant to mobile homes, even though the county has determined there is a need for affordable housing. "I'm sure if someone came here and wanted to build a mobile home park, they would be discouraged very highly," the official said.

Ed King, a member of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors, said he has proposed several times, without success, to have provisions for mobile homes adopted in the county's comprehensive plan. He criticized governments for restricting manufactured homes to agricultural zones.

"Agricultural is a political move that accomplishes little or nothing," he said. "You don't have water and sewer lines in agricultural zones and most people can't afford to put those in."

Gorski said states where governments have acted to make it illegal to restrict mobile homes have thriving communities, including New York, Arizona, Massachusetts and Florida.

Florida has mobile home co-ops and mobile home condominium complexes, many including golf courses, stables and shopping centers.

Florida law gives mobile home residents the right of first refusal if park owners decide to sell; 200 parks are now owned by residents.

"I think that's what it's going to take {state laws mandating mobile homes are treated just like more conventional houses} for many municipalities to permit mobile homes on a wholesale {unrestricted} basis," Gorski said.