Every public official and journalist should understand that a proper use of words – terminology – matters.
While it may seem acceptable to some black people to do what Denzel Washington did in the movie, “Training Day,” calling another person the “n word,” this is understandably not done in polite or professional settings.
Similarly speaking, while there were houses built some 60+ years ago that were called ‘trailer houses’ – that was true at that time when those houses could be pulled by a car or light truck, as in the Lucy-Desi movie, “The Long, Long, Trailer.”
In those days, trailer houses were considered stylish! It wasn’t a Keith Olbermann put down to say that someone had a ‘trailer house’ back in the 1930s, 40s or early 50s. Just look at how Lucy and Desi were dressed in that movie.
That trailer house in many ‘parks‘ – back then – was classy.
Trailers houses evolved over time into larger mobile homes.
The Spartan Mobile Home in the photo shown was the hope for affordable living that attracted millions to housing built on a frame with axles and wheels. But those often 10′, 12′, and 14′ wide sections became generally too heavy and large to be pulled by a car or light-duty pickup truck. Professional drivers with “totters” were needed to move them.
Many of the builders of those mobile homes in the late 1950s through the 1960s and into the early 1970s cared about quality. But there were more than enough problematic houses built then that 60 Minutes and other news reports began to spotlight the issue of poor quality from some of those pre-HUD Code mobile home builders.
Facing a crisis in the media and public, industry leaders among the quality builders made some important decisions, says MHARR’s founding president and current senior adviser, Danny Ghorbani.
Ghorbani – himself an engineer with decades of industry experience – told MHLivingNews that it was the builders of better mobile homes that organized, pushed, and worked for the passage of what became the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, which went into effect on June 15, 1976.
Let’s recap this historic outline.
- Trailer houses evolved into mobile homes. Those mobile homes may – or may not – have been built to a code, like the ANSI (American National Standards Institute) code of its time.
- But when manufactured homes hit the scene, that wasn’t just a name change for ‘branding’ purposes.
- Rather, manufactured homes – manufactured housing – become the first preemptive, national building code for housing in the United States. It was and is still the only set of federal construction, energy and safety standards that exists in America today.
And third-party experts have said repeatedly that the new code has been a success at creating affordable homes, that they are as or more safe and energy efficient as their site built counterparts.
The regulations of manufactured homes are primarily administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and thus are commonly called the HUD Code.
Lisa Tyler, Ph.D. on Manufactured Housing
“Manufactured housing presents a solution,” said Lisa Tyler, Ph.D., associate academic dean at Bethel University told MHLivingNews. “It’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a great value. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the industry, but a lot of obstacles, too.”
The obstacles revolve around outdated myths, or unjustified stigma, says Tyler.
She should know, as Tyler is reportedly the first person in over a decade to complete a doctoral study on the subject of manufactured homes. She’s also owned and lived in a manufactured home, and enjoyed it – save the stigma.
‘Trailer houses‘ and ‘mobile homes‘ are not the same as ‘manufactured homes.’
The terms are not interchangeable.
“The terminology matters because the terminology determines to what code a home was built,” says Steve Duke, executive director of the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association.
This is not simply Duke’s opinion – it’s a legal fact.
A fact recognized by the National Housing Institute (NHI), the National Firefighters Protection Association (NFPA), CFED, and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) – among several others – who have made this same factual point.
The homes were still ‘mobile‘ in the sense that they could be moved with specialized equipment, but the bigger they got; the less often they were moved. While the figure cited by CBS News in the video above is likely off, per industry sources, still the fact remains that manufactured homes are rarely moved once installed.
Sadly, even federal officials – who should know better – misuse the terminology.
Because the distinction is a legal one. It’s more than a name, it is a code and quality difference.
Public officials, media: please take note.
It is not professionally acceptable to call a ‘manufactured home’ either a ‘mobile home’ or a ‘trailer house.’ Please mark this fact down, please use it, and never forget it. Because words matter, and the wrong words are harmful.
Homes built since June 15, 1976 to the HUD Code for manufactured homes should never be called a “mobile home” or “trailer house.”
Doing so is a faux pas akin to calling a black, African-American the n-word.
Because the Keith Olbermann’s of the world have wrongfully stigmatized the name ‘trailer,’ stereotypes and misinformation persist.
“It’s an absolute disgrace that this pejorative somehow remains ‘socially acceptable’ among the politically correct elite and their mouthpieces,” said MHARR President & CEO Mark Weiss, JD.
“People like Olbermann, who routinely slam others over alleged “micro-aggressions” and other fabricated nonsense, would do well to show proper and decent respect for the millions of hard-working Americans who are able to own a home of their own because of the unequaled affordability of manufactured homes located either in — or outside of — manufactured home communities.”
Beyond the negative stigma, is the fact that there have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. for over 40 years.
What About Tiny Houses?
Causing additional confusion for some is the emergence of so-called “tiny homes,” which are often built on a chassis, and can be moved.
While loved by much of the media, and looked at as practical and affordable housing for those in need, manufactured homes are built to the federal HUD Code, while most tiny houses today aren’t built to any code. The cost per square foot is much higher for a tiny house, than a manufactured home. Tiny houses are often not financeable, manufactured homes are.
Where is the logic in swooning over something that may be cute, but is
- more costly,
- harder to buy,
- hard to get zoned,
- and potentially unsafe (unregulated) for those who consider buying them?
Examples of How The Proper Name Can Be “PC” Challenging
In fairness to public officials, the media, and others, there are numerous examples of industry professionals who use improper terminology too. But two wrongs don’t make a right.
Even if an older community bears a name like ‘Shady Acres Mobile Home Park,’ if the community has been updated over the years and is filled with mostly manufactured housing, it should be called a ‘manufactured home community,’ or MHC for short.
Some industry professionals refer to a manufactured home community as a land-lease community (or LLC).
So the Industry Has a Role to Play Too…
Ideally, manufactured home professionals should care enough to update their property’s name. But there are costs to doing that, and so many opt not to do so.
Some professionals – or many residents – may mistakenly call a manufactured home, a ‘mobile home‘ or a ‘trailer house.’ They often do so because the misuse of the nomenclature is so common. This is like one black calling another the “n-word.”
When anyone misuses the terminology, it’s a costly error.
It perpetuates confusion of the proper name (nomenclature, terminology) of a type of house. There is also anecdotal evidence that consumers will pay more for a ‘manufactured home’ than a ‘mobile home’ or ‘trailer house.’
To rephrase, when someone improperly calls a ‘manufactured home,’ a ‘mobile home’ or a ‘trailer,’ they’ve likely just reduced that home’s resale value in the eyes of a buyer. Common sense tells you the same thing. You don’t refer to a mansion in a swank part of town as a ‘dump in a ghetto.’ Try that on Zillow, and see how much slower that hypothetical mansion sells…
Names and words matter. Who Says? The Society of Professional Journalists, among others. Reporters and journalists are supposed to be accurate, and care about the potential harm and impact on others of their stories. They’re supposed to shed light on the truth, not obscure it. Read or scan the list of many of their ethical standards, and ask theses two questions. Are they faithfully reporting on manufactured homes? Are they living up to these standards?
Improper terms and inaccurate information can harm home owners and would-be consumers. That in turn can also impact the appraisal and tax value of a property.
So there is no excuse for public officials and professional media to misuse terminology, or to so conflate the terms that they lose their distinctions in the public’s mind.
Some cities or states may never have updated the terminology used in their codes. And that too is a legal error.
A Current Example of Why This Matters
The fracas in the state of Ohio over their manufactured home commission, points to exactly why this matters.
If Ohio Governor John Kasich, – or any public officials – mistakenly conflates facts about ‘trailer houses,’ or ‘mobile homes‘ with manufactured homes, it diminishes the value and respect the modern homes and their owners deserve.
As MHLivingNews reported, Urbana’s fire chief, when asked, admitted that the problematic housing was a pre-HUD Code mobile home. It wasn’t a manufactured home.
The Solution for Affordable Housing is Hiding in Plain Sight
With the affordable housing crisis raging in many U.S. housing markets, the takeaways from interviews with HUD program director, Bill Matchneer, or the eye-opening revelations of HUD’s own PD&R report reveal this surprising reality.
The solution to affordable quality housing is hiding in plain sight.
Public officials and the mainstream media have a responsibility to learn the facts and report them accurately with the proper terminology used each and every time.
Industry, Home Owner Class Action?
There are rumblings for over a year that legal action may be organized and taken by consumers and professionals, working together, to correct the improper and discriminatory use of terminology by officials and media.
That should be avoidable. But shouldn’t public officials, and the media, forever mend their ways?
Those who live in quality, affordable manufactured homes ought to be celebrated. As the CBS News video above reported, they include entertainment stars, frugal millionaires, upwardly mobile middle class, working class, retirees and others of even very modest means. But how often are those facts missed or obscured?
When some 22 million live in housing that has been proven by third party research and the test of time… that should not be a hidden truth.
And, if media or public officials don’t know what term to use when they refer to a house made in a factory – when some are pre-HUD Code mobile homes, or post code manufactured homes – the simple catch-all term is “factory-built home.”
Your car, eyewear, clothing, appliances, smart phone, computer and most everything you use comes from a factory. The time to set prejudices and misinformation aside is now.
Words, facts, names, and people matter. Home ownership of all kinds needs to be encouraged and respected. Discrimination against the owners of some forms of housing should not be tolerated.
Media, officials has this report and commentary proven worthy of your attention? ##
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Submitted by RC Williams to MHLivingNews.com
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