During the recent Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) conference, a modern manufactured home was placed near Central Bank Center, where it could be viewed by attendees. Interviewed by Lexington 18 in Kentucky, an NBC news affiliate, is Logan Hanes, the executive director of the Kentucky Manufactured Housing Institute (KMHI).
Lex18’s Ricky Sayer’s written article that accompanied the video posted above errantly used the term “mobile home” in the title of the report but to his credit went on to mention the correct terminology of manufactured home. Sayer’s said that “Kentucky’s mobile home industry is pushing officials across the commonwealth to change rules that make it difficult for them to be built. Officially a “manufactured home,” industry leaders see them as a way to tackle the affordable housing crisis.” As noted, that’s not quite correct, as there are construction standards differences between the mobile homes of yesteryear and the manufactured homes of today. So, even though some use the terminology interchangeably, it is legally not correct. More on that in the report with illustrations linked here.
Sayer stated in the Lex18 article that: “The issue is many towns and counties, including Lexington, don’t allow them to be built without an exception being made, said Logan Hanes, the executive director of the Kentucky Manufactured Housing Institute, a trade organization for the industry.”
Again, that’s not quite correct. Manufactured homes are built under federally mandated construction standards that are preemptive. Lexington, as well as other towns, may stop a manufactured home from being placed via zoning or other regulations. But the evidence-based case can be made that Lexington or other towns can’t lawfully stop a manufactured home from being built. Part of the reason that the terminology matters is because manufactured homes by definition are bult to federally regulated and inspected construction standards. Even putting a zoning/local regulatory roadblock in the placement process for a manufactured home is legally problematic, because per several informed sources for reasons including one that Logan’s KMHI ought to be quite familiar with.
The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) is a national trade organization that KMHI is “affiliated” with. MHI CEO Lesli Gooch previously said the following.
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) President and CEO, Mark Weiss, J.D., put it like this.
Attorney and MHARR CEO Weiss has elaborated on that point as follows.
Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews) has highlighted that federal preemption issue under the MHIA several times, including in reports linked here and here. Time will tell if it becomes an issue as is explored by the analysis of the litigation in the case linked here.
More Information Including Tips for Consumers, Sincere Affordable Housing Advocates, Public Officials and Manufactured Housing Industry Groups Affiliated with MHI
First, Spectrum 1 News also recently covered Hanes and the same Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) conference event that Lex18 reported on. Some pull quotes from their report are useful.
“I was extremely impressed with how far along that industry has come. The product was an impressive product. I think it has the potential to play a big role in our housing affordability issue,” Traugott said.
A hurdle for numerous cities is variances in zoning ordinances that segregate factory-made homes from traditional single-family homes.
“I think a lot of these improvements in that industry have gone unnoticed by local officials, planning administrators, those who write those ordinances and regulations. I think it may be time to take a fresh look at that,” Traugott said.”
Expert Observations and Tips
During the Lex18 video posted above, at about the 2-minute mark, Hanes says “tell us what it is that you want” as part of their message to local officials. What? While manufactured homes can be and are often customized, the more standardized a home is, the more affordable it is. That is true for conventional ‘site built’ housing as well as manufactured homes. Standarization is also simply the economics of all kinds of factory work, be it automotive, clothing, appliances, or manufactured homes. The more standardized something is, the less it costs to build or produce. So, “Tell us what it is you want” foils part of the process that Logan himself said is the reason why manufactured homes are more affordable.
Logan may have missed two opportunities to give a better message to local media. At least in the videos MHLivingNews observed that showed Hanes (Lex18, Spectrum 1), the KMHI executive director never mentions the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA). Nor do those articles or videos mention Hanes stressing the MHIA’s “enhanced preemption” provision. The MHIA and “enhanced preemption are potentially crucial to the potential for manufactured housing to rapidly provide the proven solution for more affordable manufactured housing.
This writer for MHLivingNews/MHProNews has personally contacted municipal officials about instances when proposals or ordinances that put unjust roadblocks in the path of manufactured home buyers existed. Sometimes, by just sending an email that explaining the MHIA and the “enhanced preemption” provision was all that was required to get a locality to relent and reverse course.
It is a potentially good idea for KMHI, and/or other MHI affiliated state associations, to display a manufactured home and make the hands-on case for manufactured homes. Doing so may lead to remarks and stances like the one taken by Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott.
But the ‘carrot’ of more affordable housing without the need for housing subsidies – which manufactured homes make possible because they are already much more affordable than conventional site building – isn’t enough. The second part of the presentation ought to be a step-by-step explanation of the MHIA law. Because almost 23 years ago, the MHIA was signed into law by a widely bipartisan margin of Democratic and Republican lawmakers. They made manufactured homes part of the national plan to solve the affordable housing crisis. But because HUD, as Gooch said, is not doing their job properly on consistently enforcing the MHIA and federal preemption, something must occur to make HUD do its job. Over two decades of politely asking HUD for federal law to be consistently enforced obviously hasn’t worked.
Ironically, Cavco Industries (CVCO) CEO William “Bill” Boor made a similar pitch to federal officials. But for whatever reasons, Boor didn’t call the MHIA provision “enhanced preemption” as Gooch and Weiss did in the pull quotes above. That noted, Boor did stress that the manufactured home industry is at a “critical crossroads” due in large measure because existing federal laws regarding HUD’s preemption authority aren’t being properly enforced.
Beyond making the polite explanation with the show-and-tell of a tour of one or more modern manufactured homes, there is the ‘stick’ of legal action. KMHI and/or other states could partner with MHI and sue – if necessary – local jurisdictions that violate the MHIA’s enhanced preemption provision.
Furthermore, KMHI and/or other state affiliates of MHI could act through the courts to legally get HUD to enforce their jurisdictional rights in those cases where municipalities are unjustly blocking the placement of HUD Code manufactured homes.
Why that kind of legal effort isn’t occurring could be called a mystery, a mistake, possible agenda-driven corruption, or something else. But taking legal action and more muscular advocacy is essentially what law professor Daniel R. Mandelker was advocating in part in his recent research paper: “Getting Zoning for Manufactured Housing Right.” Said Mandelker: “A support organization is needed that can provide litigation and legislative support to help manufactured housing advocates with zoning reform.” While Mandelker didn’t mention MHI, KMHI or other existing trade groups, a careful look at his research paper and what it says and implies are a kind of backhanded slap at them for failing to do what is necessary to advance the cause for more affordable manufactured homes. For more exclusive details and the full research report by Mandelker, see the article linked below.
Summary and Conclusion
Lex18, Spectrum 1, and Hanes are correct in this respect. Modern manufactured homes are the most proven form of affordable housing on the market that is widely available today. But as Boor, Hanes, and others have said, artificial zoning/placement barriers are part of what is keeping potentially millions of people from buying a manufactured home.
In fairness to Lex18’s Ricky Sayer’s written report, if Hanes didn’t mention or clearly explain certain terms and laws, it is understandable why Sayer would not have known about issues raised herein above or below.
Last but not least. While it is a fine idea to show a ‘residential style’ manufactured home, it is also useful to show an entry level manufactured home too. Not everyone will want or be able to buy a manufactured home with features like fully finished “tape and textured” drywall, all oak cabinets, granite or other upscale countertops, and upgraded appliances. Entry level manufactured homes won’t have those features, just as some entry level conventional housing don’t have upscale features. But entry level or “shade and shelter” manufactured homes with the cost of a homesite factored in are routinely lower in cost per month on a mortgage or other financing than the payment for rental or conventional housing.
There is no need to exaggerate the realities of manufactured homes. Tell the truth. Tell it well. Don’t overplay or underplay reality. Enforce good existing federal laws. If existing laws need to be fine tuned after court tests, then do so. But it is a form of insanity to for manufactured housing lobbyists and trade association leaders to keep talking about some of the same things more than 2 decades after the Congressional solution was signed into law the MHIA and its enhanced preemption provision by then President William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (D). The law should be clearly pointed out in discussions with local public officials. The benefits of following the law should be laid out. If local officials relent based on a combination of the law and the evidence, great. But if local officials don’t allow the proper placement of manufactured homes where possible and as Hanes and others have said are needed, then the time to act legally is long overdue. See the related reports to learn more about these issues. ##
To further illustrate the point raised above about federal preemption or “enhanced preemption” of manufactured homes.
MHLivingNews posed the following question to Bing’s AI function on this date (10.15.2023).
> “Manufactured Home Pro News has reported on instances where a local jurisdiction was contacted about plans to bar manufactured homes but once they were advised about the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 and its Enhanced Preemption provision, the locality reversed course. Can you provide links for that, please?”