Prejudice and ignorance are not bliss. Bias against affordable housing and/or manufactured homes are costly to most of society, save a few well-connected elites. In fairness, over a decade before the self-described “atheist” dark lord of Omaha entered the manufactured home industry, Americans were understandably complaining about a lack of affordable housing. Part of the problem was and remains NIMBY thinking. Some “Not In My Back Yard” believers go as far as BANANA thinking – “Build Absolutely Nothing Near Absolutely Anything.” The documented problem with such NIMBY and BANANA beliefs are many.
- skyrocketing prices on existing houses, which means ever-higher property taxes.
- Because affordable housing is artificially limited in several ways, local, state, and federal officials are increasingly subsidizing housing.
- The money for subsidizes comes from taxpayers, so that means higher local, state, and federal taxes.
- But what many fail to grasp is that almost everything is harmed and made more costly that can be traced back to denying or delaying the American Dream for about a third of all Americans.
- For example, too few affordable homes means well over 500,000 in the U.S. today are homelessness.
- Then, imagine if you had to choose between tents on or near a neighborhood of conventional housing or having sharp, new Manufactured Homes instead.
- In a real sense, that is part of the choice being made in towns and cities from coast to coast and border to border. It is the choice between tents, cardboard boxes or other kinds of ‘alternatives,’ or more modern, appealing, safe, durable and federally regulated HUD Code manufactured homes.
- Ignorance isn’t bliss. Ignorance is ignorant. But that isn’t a dirty word. To be ignorant simply means that information or understanding are lacking. The cure for ignorance is getting objective and actionable information.
With the above in mind, the third-party research report below from HUD – not from the manufactured housing profession – reflects the following facts and evidence.
Thirty years ago, very similar discussions and debates were occurring about affordable housing.
- A) Then as now, special interests – often code-words for well-healed and politically-connected groups or individuals – learned how to weaponize prejudice in a manner that harmed almost everyone involved (see the opening bullets, above).
- B) Given that numbers of those special interests are so-called progressives, where is the concrete evidence of h0w their self-professed broad-mindedness is working to promote proven but overlooked solutions to more affordable housing?
With that brief backdrop, the plan for this report and analysis are as follows.
1) Sections and a letter from classic HUD “Not in My Back Yard —Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing” report linked here will be examined. Let’s note that the federal NIMBY research should be viewed by setting political bias aside, or any other preconceived notions for that matter. Readers will benefit the most by looking at the research and findings, focusing on what the facts and evidence reveal.
2) A careful look at those sections cited will reveal that our nation is having almost the same discussion today as then. The difference are that there are more Americans and ever-higher housing prices. Restated, the so-called solutions of the past were not solutions at all because they have never been properly implemented. Talk and research are useful only when they are followed by pragmatic action.
3) As more NIMBY-YIMBY research from a range of third-party sources linked here reflects, it costs our nation some $2 trillion dollars a year because our country does not have enough affordable homes near where that housing is needed. The result? More travel on roads. More congestion. More pollution from cars. Longer commute times. Lost opportunities. Lower incomes for most people. Higher taxes. Less affordable housing. More housing insecurity. Less generational wealth creation. The list goes on.
4) The solution? First, there is a need to understand the issues and their causes. Once the routinely similar decades of research is understood, the solution is in a sense simple. Embrace more affordable homes, and enforce federal laws which already exists that could overcome these issues in short order.
5) Summary, Closing Thoughts, and Programming Notes for What’s Ahead.
With that plan, let’s start with a letter to the then Secretary of HUD from the top two members of the nonpartisan commission that did this research on removing barriers to affordable housing.
Honorable Jack Kemp
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, DC 20410
Dear Mr. Secretary:
The American Dream for every family has at its core a comfortable home in a safe neighborhood, a home available to buy or rent at a cost within the family budget, a home reasonably close to the wage earner’s place of work. Unfortunately, too many American families today cannot fulfill their version of that dream because they cannot find affordable housing.
The cost of housing is being driven up by an increasingly expensive and time-consuming permit-approval process, by exclusionary zoning, and by well-intentioned laws aimed at protecting the environment and other features of modem-day life. The result is that fewer and fewer young families can afford to buy or rent the home they want.
These were among the concerns, Mr. Secretary, that you expressed when you established the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing. In your Charter, you asked this group of distinguished and experienced Americans to explore the effect of the maze of Federal, State, and local laws, regulations, ordinances, codes, and other measures that act as barriers to the development of affordable housing in appropriate places. You asked the Commission to catalogue the barriers, identify the sources of those barriers, and propose solutions that would help millions of American families to achieve their dream.
Pursuant to your charge, the Commission has prepared a comprehensive Report that identifies regulatory barriers to affordable housing and, just as important, proposes action to lower those barriers. Throughout the Report, the Commission expresses its belief that change is essential if the Nation is to meet its goals of a decent home and suitable living environment for every American family.
In closing, we wish to extend our deep gratitude to members of the Commission, who gave of their me and talent to fashion this Report. On their behalf, we have the honor to transmit to you, Mr. Secretary, pursuant to Section 12 of the Charter, “Not In My Back Yard”: Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing, the Report of the Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.
#2) Then, and now, the discussions are surprisingly similar. By the way, this pattern/trend has obviously occurred during Democratic as well as during Republican administrations. That said, this letter also found in the document linked here from then HUD Secretary Jack Kemp.
“When she visited the United States, the Russian human rights “activist” Yelena Bonner said to the American people: The people of the world do not want war, they want to own a house. They want to own a home. They want the decency and dignity that goes along with their own home.”
The American dream is a universal dream. But all too often this dream of ownership, of decent and affordable housing, is being denied to fIrst-time homebuyers and low- and moderate-income families. Government rules and red tape are regulating the dream out of existence. The challenge to this Commission is to discover and to tell us how to remove those regulatory barriers.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
First Meeting of the Commission May 31,1990″
#3) The cost of NIMBY vs YIMBY thinking (the second is short for Yes in My Back Yard) is carefully explored in the detailed report linked below. It costs the U.S. some $2 trillion dollars a year in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP) because our country does not have enough affordable homes near where that housing is needed. These are per cited third-party researchers.
Some pull quotes from the Not in My Back Yard – Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing report linked here are as follows. Keep in mind that manufactured housing has only advanced since then, which will be examined further below.
- Note that one of the first recommendations made is for more manufactured housing. Quoting: “The Commission strongly recommends that States initiate actions to end discrimination against certain types of affordable housing options, such as amending their zoning enabling acts to: (1) authorize, under appropriate conditions and standards, manufactured housing as a permitted dwelling unit under local zoning, and prohibit local communities from enacting ordinances forbidding manufactured housing…” (page 18).
- “Having a substantial investment in their home, many homeowners fear changes they perceive may lower property values. In neighborhoods of single family detached homes on large lots, for example, threatening changes include multifamily rental housing, attached single-family housing, manufactured housing, housing on small lots, or accessory apartments developed from unused space in single family homes. Concomitantly, widespread biases arise against less affluent households, renters, minorities, or simply those who are “different,” which often means those who are identified as typical inhabitants of more affordable types of housing. In some cases, NIMBY objections to more affordable housing and its typical inhabitants stem from honest misconceptions about the effects of new development on property values. Those who express concerns about property values are often unaware of evidence showing that expanding the mix of housing types in an area will not adversely affect property values.” (page 1-6 and 1-7).
- To the point above, recall that more research a decade later, during the Obama-Biden Administration pointed to the same facts. In several cities in various parts of the U.S., that HUD commissioned researched linked here determined that a mix of manufactured homes with conventional housing witnessed both forms of home ownership appreciating side-by-side. More research in 2018 by the FHFA and as reported by the Urban Institute came to similar conclusions once more. The point is that NIMBY concerns about possible negative impacts are not based on evidence. The Washington Post, raised this prejudice issue in 1990, in the quote found in the HUD report, as shown below.
- “These homes are built in a factory and shipped as virtually complete houses or in sections that can be quickly assembled with minimal labor. Before 1980, these dwellings, now officially known as “manufactured housing,” were termed “mobile homes,” a name that is still widely used today. The Standards have come to be called the HUD Code, because HUD administers the Act. The HUD Code regulates design, construction, strength and durability, fire resistance, energy efficiency, installation, and performance of internal systems essential for health and personal comfort.” (Report page 3-9, as are the next 3 bullets)
- “Many contemporary configurations in which manufactured housing is now being marketed are larger than many of the conventional homes built in the years immediately after World War Il. Although most units are less expensive, manufactured housing can cost as much as $70,000 or more. In 1989, the year for which the most recent data are available, the average price for a multi-section manufactured home, which is the largest type of unit sold, was $34,800. Multi-section homes have approximately 70 percent of the square footage (living space) of the average conventional stick-built home.”5
- “Because manufactured homes are often less expensive than traditional stick-built homes of comparable size, they are a valuable affordable housing resource. But zoning boards in many localities still ban them completely or allow them only in specially designated mobile home parks or in agricultural areas where the absence of infrastructure can make siting expensive or simply impractical. Such discrimination is partially responsible for relegating two out of every three manufactured housing units to rural areas. Fewer than 10 percent are found in central cities. Yet these units have worked well in urban infill projects.” Manufactured housing can be a relatively inexpensive way for low- and middle-income households to become homeowners.
- “Although the HUD Code preempts the need for building code approval by State and local governments, many local regulators dissuade would-be consumers by publicly questioning the quality of construction in manufactured housing. Such attempts to disparage the quality of manufactured housing occur despite the fact that the HUD Code home is the only form of housing routinely inspected for building code compliance prior to occupancy.”
- Note to longtime readers. This point above is part of the reason why the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA or 2000 Reform law) was passed. It specifically provided for what is called “enhanced preemption,” or preemption that is “broadly and liberally construed.” Examples of that underscored from Congressional representatives who were part of the broadly bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who passed the MHIA is shown in the quoted below, and is found in the longer report linked here.
4) The solution? Following understanding of the issues, the solution is in a sense simple. Enforce good existing laws.
Ironically, the laws needed to move these issues ahead already exist. The problem is sadly a mix of public officials and special interests that have colluded to keep good laws, and thus more affordable housing, from being brought online. Who says? Several researchers and economists, including Minneapolis Federal Reserve Senior Economist James A. “Jim” Schmitz Jr. Schmitz and his colleagues have repeatedly said that failure to provide the manufactured home option is causing homelessness. It is causing the sprouting of tent and cardboard housing encampments that create an array of health and safety issues. While there is evidence that manufactured homes do not hurt nearby conventional housing values, it may not be surprising to learn that tents and cardboard box ‘housing’ near conventional housing would harm those house values.
So, per years of research, it may boil down to a choice of protecting conventional housing values by having more manufactured homes or harming conventional housing values, as more tents and other emergency – and unregulated – housing types sprout up instead.
5) Summary, Closing Thoughts, and Programming Notes for What’s Ahead.
MHLivingNews stands in a unique spot in authentically highlighting the problems caused by so-called monopolists and predatory companies, while also spotlighting the facts and evidence in favor of manufactured homes done right. Learn more from the linked reports.
Programming Notice: first on MHProNews, then here on MHLivingNews, we plan to publish the latest documentary evidence of just how duplicitous, cunning, manipulative and corrupt Berkshire Hathaway owned Clayton Homes purportedly is. Watch for fresh revaluations that include in-depth statements by Kevin Clayton, among others. ICYMI, you should see the #1 most read report here on MHLivingNews, which is the one linked below.
There is no way to break the pattern of decades of delays in the battle for free and fair housing choice and private property rights without understanding the causes of the crisis. Part of that understanding must be that decades ago, manufactured homes had already moved beyond their trailer house and mobile home roots.
The choice really could be boiled down to tents and cardboard boxes nearby conventional housing or having quality, affordable, Federally Regulated HUD Code manufactured homes nearby.
The future is up to what each of us does, or fails to do. Having personally lived in and owned several manufactured homes, as well as new and newer conventional housing, I can honestly say that you cook, clean, eat, live, and love the same in both types of homes. So, whenever you or your loved ones can, support the proven principle of letting people pick the type of home that they want to live in. It is fair and only makes good sense.
That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
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