September 1, 2002
Publication:
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

An increasing share of lower-income families, the same population targeted by community-development organizations, are opting to live in housing that was built off-site in a factory to meet the performance standards of the national HUD manufactured-housing code. However, most community-development practitioners are just beginning to come to terms with the implications of manufactured housing for their work.

This paper explores advantages and disadvantages of manufactured housing for those entities whose mission is community development and asset building. Several challenges are presented for practitioners: First, working to educate consumers while also creating financing processes that ensure manufactured home buyers obtain credit on the best terms for which they can qualify. Second, using the increased scrutiny under the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 to advocate for states to enforce more rigorous installation standards and increased accountability. Third, working to overcome land-use controls which prevent manufactured homes from being placed in communities in need of affordable housing. Fourth, working with designers and planners to develop innovative designs and housing developments, while maintaining manufactured housing’s affordability advantages. Finally, equal effort must be devoted to address the difficult conditions of many lower-income people—owners and renters alike—living in older, and often deteriorating, mobile homes. While a few of these families and individuals could be relocated to new and better quality homes with the help of subsidies, resource limitations suggest the need to create cost-effective methods to eliminate health and safety problems by upgrading or rehabilitating this extremely affordable element of the nation’s housing inventory.

As a companion to this paper, an exhaustive literature review has been compiled.

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