Manufactured homes — one option to ease the housing crisis

A manufactured home with a covered porch and vinyl siding. (Photo: Lindasj22, via Shutterstock)

It’s no secret that California is a very expensive place to live. California homes are being sold at two-and-half times the national average and rents are twice as much.

Perhaps, there is no greater example that the dream of home ownership is dead than a taxpayer-financed housing project in San Jose.

When the median home value in California is $600,860, living in a manufactured home is far more affordable, even with rent.

Several weeks ago, the San Jose City Council rezoned property to house residents in modified shipping containers, priced at a whopping $600,000 per unit.

Before considering unconventional forms of housing like shipping containers, our state’s political leaders should consider the benefits and affordability of manufactured homes. Manufactured home owners enjoy the same lifestyle as traditional stick-built homes, but for hundreds of thousands of dollars less.

According to the California Manufactured Housing Institute, the installation of a brand new two to three bedroom (1,700 sq. ft.) manufactured home costs approximately $142,000, and used homes are even less. According to Homes Direct, a new one-bedroom home that is three times larger than a shipping container sells for approximately $53,000.

When the median home value in California is $600,860, living in a manufactured home is far more affordable, even with rent.

If a manufactured home is located in a mobile home park, rents (like HOA fees) are assessed on the land and in most cases are reasonable, especially when they fund essential park services, such as maintenance, roads, sewer, water, landscaping and recreational amenities. The economic benefits and financial security are even greater when park owners and residents voluntarily agree to sign long-term lease agreements, which is common.

In 2018, Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Housing and Community Development developed a report entitled “California’s Housing Future; Challenges and Opportunities,” following a statewide listening tour soliciting public input on how to solve California’s housing crisis.

Among its recommendations was expanding financing options and reducing barriers for alternative housing models with lower production costs, such as manufactured housing. Unfortunately, the state Legislature has not acted on this recommendation, nor have cities and counties.

So, when the production of manufactured homes is experiencing a new high in the U.S since 2008,  newly elected Gov. Gavin Newsom and local government must recognize the need and demonstrate the will to expand and build new manufactured housing communities, the last remaining bastions of quality, unsubsidized housing that is still affordable.

Until then, living in shipping containers may become more common, undermining the California Dream.

Ed’s Note: Sheila Dey is executive director of the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association.

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