Affordable Housing Wars Move to the Local Front – Battle Lines Drawn Over City and County Ordinances

The one issue that will prohibit affordable housing in the future – not only manufactured homes, but site-built – is local zoning and covenants.
– Jay Hamilton, Executive Director – Georgia Manufactured Housing Association.

LAKELAND, FL – December 28, 2015 – On any given day, somewhere in America, local government officials are meeting in back rooms and council chambers, making decisions that will affect the lives and livelihoods of their constituents.

With the stroke of pen, tens of thousands have seen their long-term plans vanish with the implementation of ordinances that effectively dash their dreams of someday owning their own homes.
Most of the measures are designed to eliminate the placement of manufactured housing (MH) within municipal boundaries, requiring a minimum roof pitch, minimum square footage and other MH-centric architectural features cited for exclusion.

“It’s perfectly legal if it applies to all homes, so even site-built homes are subject to minimum standards,” says Jay Hamilton, executive director of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association. “That’s why our subdivisions no longer allow 1200-square-foot homes. It completely eliminates affordable housing.”

Regardless of how the ordinances are structured, the outcome is the same: It is effectively squeezing the working and middle class out of home ownership.

“These cities and smaller towns – when they pass these rules, and won’t allow a manufactured home in, there’s a segment of the population forced to rent for the long-term, many for the rest of their lives,” says Gary Adamek, who owns four Houston-area MH dealerships.

Award-winning consumer reporter Jan Hollingsworth examines the impact of this trend on local economies and residents’ lifestyles in Local Star Chambers Wage War on Affordable Housing.

Her report follows the chain reaction of lost jobs, long commutes, rising rents and derailed retirement plans brought about by a fundamental misunderstanding about the durability, safety and aesthetics of modern manufactured homes – as well as the unintended consequences that put site-built homes out of reach for many.

A link to the story is here:

While a great deal of attention has been focused on the impact of recession-era federal policies that have negatively impacted affordable housing, some MH professionals see the relentless tide of local ordinances enacted across the country as the real threat.
“I believe it is the largest silent hand that is negatively affecting our industry in the U.S.,” Adamek says. “The municipalities have hurt us way, way more than Dodd-Frank.”

Photo Caption: Affordable homes, like the model shown, are often being zoned out due to standards such as a 7/12 roof pitch. The home shown is a 4/12 pitch, and could be built with a 7/12 pitch, but that could price thousands of otherwise qualified buyers out of the market. U.S. Census Bureau statistics reveal that modern manufactured homes sell for half the cost of similar size-and-featured conventional ‘on-site built’ houses.

Photo credits: ArkLaTex and Sunshine Homes, Inc. Insert on left, Jay Hamilton, GMHA.

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