State representative, Uxbridge Republican
Yes, these units should be counted as affordable housing, but first we ought to stop calling them “mobile homes” as they are rarely moved. The more appropriate term is “manufactured” homes. A 2011 Vermont survey showed the average length of residence in a manufactured home park in that state was 11 years. Clearly, the 18 to 20 million people nationwide living in manufactured homes are using them as affordable, permanent residences.
They cost hundreds of thousands of dollars less than traditional site-built homes, yet they share many important attributes with them. They can qualify for Federal Housing Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs financing. If they are permanently affixed to the land and the land is owned, they qualify as “real” property and can be financed with a mortgage. And if used as the owners’ primary residence, a Declaration of Homestead can be filed with the Register of Deeds to protect against unsecured creditor claims.
Since they are built in factories and then shipped to the home site, the construction of manufactured homes is more efficient. The manufacturer and buyer benefit from economies of scale, and there is no lost construction time for weather. The net result is comfortable, safe, quality housing at affordable prices, the exact reason the state’s Chapter 40B Affordable Housing law exists!
A 2012 insurance industry survey of over 10,000 manufactured home owners showed that 55 percent reported an income of less than $30,000, 40 percent didn’t anticipate ever selling or moving from their home, only 9 percent have a 4-year or advanced degree, 23 percent were under 30 years old, and nearly 20 percent were age 60 and above. These are all demographic segments that benefit tremendously from affordable housing.
Manufactured homes are the best means for many people to overcome exorbitant housing costs while fulfilling the American Dream of homeownership. Allowing communities to count them toward their affordable housing stock, which would be allowed under legislation now on Beacon Hill, not only makes sense but will also allow the Commonwealth to better gauge the true inventory of affordable housing for planning purposes. Count manufactured homes in the numbers!
Jennifer Van Campen
Executive director, Metro West Collaborative Development
I do not support the wholesale counting of mobile homes as “affordable housing” under Chapter 40B and included as part of the state’s subsidized housing inventory. There are two primary reasons for my position, which I am outlining after conversations with my fellow affordable housing advocate Andrew DeFranza.
First, counting these manufactured homes automatically would not meet the critical regulatory requirements of all units on the state’s Subsidized Housing Inventory. And second, the major reason that Chapter 40B, the Massachusetts affordable housing law, was enacted in the 1960s was to create more economically accessible housing statewide, with each community doing its part to address the need. Attempts to avoid production of this housing, intentionally or practically, run counter to the intent of the policy undergirding the law. For these reasons I do not support legislation that would automatically count mobile homes on the Subsidized Housing Inventory.
I do support mobile homes being included on the Subsidized Housing Inventory if they do meet the criteria for all other affordable units on the list. This would include having 1) a long-term affordable housing deed restriction assuring it remained affordably priced; 2) income eligibility restrictions for buyers or renters; and 3) procedures to ensure fair marketing and a lack of discrimination against prospective owners or tenants. If these three conditions are met I would support the inclusion of mobile homes on the Subsidized Housing Inventory.
The driving issue here is that across the state, all regions need more housing of various types and price points to match the demands of our workforce, retirees, and young adults. Simply put, not enough housing is being created in Massachusetts to keep pace with that demand, and this in turn is causing problems for families, seniors, and our entire state economy.
While there may be ways to qualify mobile homes to be “counted” — by honoring Subsidized Housing Inventory regulatory requirements — our attention and energy are more productively engaged when working toward increasing our state’s housing supply. That means providing housing for all ages and income levels and ensuring each city or town across the state is doing its fair share toward solving this housing crisis.
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As told to Globe correspondent John Laidler. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.