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Manufactured Homes for Affordability

When President Reagan slashed funding for low-income housing in the '80s, he set off a boom in manufactured housing. Now some think these homes might offer relief for those struggling to afford a home.
June 29, 2018, 10am PDT | Casey Brazeal | @northandclark
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Manufactured housing has been an option for affordable homes for years, but it's not without its problems. "A new report from Apartment List calculates that one in 18 Americans, or 17.7 million people, live in a manufactured home nationwide; the average monthly housing cost is $564, versus $1,057 for a typical house or apartment," Adele Peters writes for Fast Company.

During the Reagan administration, manufactured home production boomed when cuts to low-income housing sent many looking for options. Since then, demand has faltered. Many see this as a problem with the perception of mobile homes, but there are other impediments as well. "One challenge is zoning–communities heavily restrict where the homes can be installed, whether on single-family lots or in traditional mobile home parks," Peters reports. Cities with big housing shortages, like San Francisco, have considered easing restrictions, to add supply to a tight housing market.

Some argue that because of their affordability and flexibility, mobile homes play an important role in the housing market. Still, owning a home on land you rent means manufactured home owners face risks from rising rents. What's worse, some models of homes lose value faster than their loans can be paid off, so home owners never earn equity. "And banks don’t offer regular home loans for manufactured homes, charging higher interest rates on chattel loans," Peters reports. Even with these challenges in expensive housing markets, some find manufactured housing their best option.

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Published on Friday, June 22, 2018 in CityLab
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