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Manufactured Housing: Not Just a Trailer Anymore

Manufactured housing is getting increased attention as an affordable option for lower- and moderate- income people. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recentlypublished "A Community Guide to Factory-Built Housing," targeted to "nonprofit development groups that provide housing in urban areas." Noting the "tremendous need for new homes in America's cities and towns," HUD states that "Manufactured and modular housing-the most common forms of factory-built housing-are now common alternatives to traditionally constructed homesà" Technological innovations by the manufactured housing industry are cited by HUD as making it possible to maintain both quality and affordability in factory-built housing.

In an article published last year in Fannie Mae Foundation's journal Housing Policy Debate, authors Julia O. Beamish et al. said: "While images of 'newly wed or nearly dead' may once have been the typical profile of the 'trailer' or 'mobile home' resident, the reality is that 2 out of every 10 new home starts are manufactured housing, and new owners represent all age groups and every economic status and lifestyle." [Read Not a Trailer Anymore: Perceptions of Manufactured Housing" (full text PDF file) or a Findings Summary.]

HomeSight, a community development corporation in Seattle, found a way to provide affordable housing for moderate-income families in an increasingly expensive housing market by using a stacked, two-story configuration of factory-built housing. The Noji Gardens development has drawn a lot of attention, even being featured in a story on CNN (see link the CNN story and other news coverage on the Noji Gardens page of HomeSight's Web site). Read a feature article about Noji Gardens on the KnowledgePlex; the development is also cited as a model in a report on a series of affordable housing roundtables sponsored by the National Housing Conference.

As further evidence of the increasing respectability of factory-built housing, The State of the Nation's Housing 2002, to be published June 25 by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University [a KnowledgePlex Founding Partner], will for the first time include a section on manufactured housing. Watch the KnowledgePlex for release of the report and a subsequent live chat with one of the authors.

More on the KnowledgePlex

In "Why Advocates Need to Rethink Manufactured Housing," an article published in Housing Policy Debate, Richard Genz argues that although manufactured homes are "a major source of unsubsidized, low-cost housing," a long-time bias against such housing has bred inattention that has "perpetuated bad bargains in financing, legal protection, quality, and appreciation."

"Manufacturing Affordability?" published by the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation [a KnowledgePlex Founding Partner] suggests "the market for manufactured homes, formerly referred to as mobile homes, is changing" and explores the use of manufactured housing "as an affordable housing choice and an urban infill strategy."

"Manufactured Housing: A Study of Power and Reform in Industry Regulation" is a case study of the National Commission on Manufactured Housing and its attempt to reform the regulatory system. It describes the importance of manufactured housing as an affordable alternative to site-built housing and tells how efforts to reform the regulatory system through a consensus process initially succeeded but ultimately failed.

"An Anatomy of the Low-Income Homeownership Boom in the 1990s" cites manufactured housing as playing "a particularly important role in satisfying low-income buyers housing demand." Published by the Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University, this working paper states: "More than one-quarter of such [low-income] buyers purchased manufactured homes nationwide in 1997, and in the South in 1997 fully 40 percent bought them."

On KnowledgePlex Founding Partner Sites

American Planning Association

APA recognizes in its "Policy Guide on Factory Built Housing" that "Factory built housing plays an increasing role in the provision of housing in all market segments in the United States." The guide urges communities, through the planning process, to assess existing planning provisions for factory-built housing and to design and implement new provisions where necessary.

Joint Center for Housing Studies, Harvard University

"The Future of Manufactured Housing" provides a look at the history and evolution of manufactured housing.

Housing Assistance Council (HAC)

HAC's mission is to help provide affordable housing is rural areas; since manufactured housing is especially common in nonmetropolitan areas, HAC has a variety of resources available on the topic.

"Manufactured Housing in Nonmetropolitan Areas: A Data Review"

"Characteristics of Mobile Home Residents In Nonmetropolitan Areas"

"Manufactured/Mobile Homes in Nonmetro Areas"

Other Resources

PATH, a public-private partnership for "advancing housing technology," is managed and supported by HUD.

Manufactured Housing Institute

The Manufactured Housing Institute provides a variety of general and statistical information about manufactured housing.

"Little Known Facts About Manufactured Housing"

"Industry Economic Statistics"

"Quick Facts"-The latest trends and information on the manufactured housing industry.