We Need to Level the Housing Market Playing Field

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Negative perceptions and stereotypes have long plagued manufactured homes, impeding their full potential in the housing market. However, it’s time to challenge these misconceptions and recognize modern manufactured homes’ value. Today’s HUD Code manufactured homes have evolved significantly from their predecessors, providing diverse configurations and higher-quality housing options. To fully unlock the benefits of manufactured homes, Congress and policymakers must take steps to level the playing field and expand housing options for more families and individuals.

Uniform Regulation

Despite over 8.4 million manufactured homes across the country, manufactured housing remains underrepresented in housing policy discussions. This is partly due to the concentration of policymakers and thought leaders in expensive coastal cities where manufactured homes are less prevalent. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge manufactured homes’ affordability and comfort, making them a viable option for many Americans.

Regulated nationally by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), manufactured homes adhere to the HUD Code. This uniform regulation ensures consistent design standards across the country and enables economies of scale that would only be attainable if each state and locality had its codes. However, the HUD Code can also be a double-edged sword. Some local zoning codes use uniform design elements to create regulations that exclude manufactured homes from specific areas.

Measures for Fair Competition

To level the playing field, several measures can be taken. As the regulator of interstate commerce, Congress can preempt unreasonable constraints on the movement of manufactured homes and incentivize fair competition between HUD Code and site-built homes. As the building code regulator, HUD can facilitate greater flexibility in home design, blurring the distinction between manufactured and site-built homes.
States responsible for titling real and personal property can reform their practices to allow permanently sited manufactured homes to be classified as real property. This change would enable landowners to finance manufactured homes similarly to site-built homes and promote homeownership stability.

Financial Inclusion for Manufactured Homeowners

Financial regulators and mortgage guarantors can extend the same benefits site-built homeowners enjoy to manufactured homeowners, such as longer mortgage terms and lower down payments. By making financing more accessible and affordable, homeownership becomes a viable option for more individuals and families.

Implementing these reforms would foster a more inclusive and fair marketplace for manufactured homes. With a level playing field, the industry can break away from the traditional setting of designated communities or “trailer parks.” We are already witnessing the emergence of HUD Code homes in previously untapped markets, such as accessory dwelling units in states like California and Texas. In addition, recent HUD Code revisions allow greater design flexibility, paving the way for innovative multi-family units.

Manufactured housing has the potential for significant growth and expansion into new markets. However, this growth is contingent on addressing the existing challenges and eradicating the unfair stigma attached to manufactured homes and their occupants. By embracing these changes and supporting the development of manufactured homes, prospective homeowners will have a broader range of options that align with their lifestyles and financial realities. It’s time to recognize the value and potential of manufactured homes and provide equal opportunities for all in the housing market.

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