Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision
Alleviate barriers to the retrofit and development of manufactured and modular homes and institutionalize policies against those barriers at the parish and municipal levels.
As discussed throughout this goal, affordable housing comes in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes. Moreover, what affordable housing looks like in suburbanizing and rural areas can look different than in urban ones. In particular, rural jurisdictions more often have to consider the role of new and existing manufactured and modular homes as a part of strategies that promote and offer resilient affordable housing for all.
The purpose of this objective is to call out the unique place of manufactured and modular homes and communities in affordable housing in Region Seven and beyond. This part begins with a high-level overview of the history of manufactured homes in the United States and breaks down the differences between manufactured, mobile, and modular homes. Then, this part explores some of the challenges around preserving and “greauxing” or growing manufactured and modular homes and communities as affordable housing options in Louisiana.
As one general note, a lot of this objective features manufactured housing more prominently than modular homes. This is not intended to diminish the latter as an important affordable housing option for Region Seven. Rather, as illustrated below, there is more history, research, and data in the United States available around manufactured housing. Therefore, although much of the background and existing challenges presented in this objective focus on manufactured housing, it is important to recognize the potential for modular homes to play a similar, but distinct role to enhance the affordability and availability of resilient homes in Region Seven.
The Difference Between Manufactured, Mobile, and Modular Homes
It is important to begin with an introduction about how Americans have overwhelmingly used and perceived manufactured housing over time. “Prior to the 1950s, the primary purpose of manufactured housing was mobility.”See footnote 1 Often called “travel trailers,” manufactured homes “had limited popularity during the first decades of the automobile as Americans with means sought recreational uses along the first state and federal roadways . . . .”See footnote 2 However, by the 1970s, manufactured housing “evolved into more intentional residential purposes.”See footnote 3 “In 1976[,] the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) established standardized building codes and safety standards and the Federal Housing Administration began offering mortgage insurance on both mobile homes and lots. The growth of permanent tenure within mobile homes [led] to a name change to ‘manufactured housing’ in all federal literature.”See footnote 4 HUD regulations have also resulted in improvements to the quality of construction for manufactured homes.See footnote 5
As illustrated by this brief history of manufactured housing in the United States, trailers and mobile homes are distinguishable from manufactured homes because of how they were used before and after the 1970s. Until the 1970s, manufactured homes were not used as a permanent affordable housing option. In 1976, legal updates from HUD helped to cement this distinction. Said another way:
The term trailer was originally used to describe this housing because the single wide manufactured home of the 1940s and 50s resembled, in some ways, the travel trailer that Americans had begun to pull behind their family vehicle on vacations as early as the 1920s and 30s. In addition, these manufactured homes had wheels that were used to transport them to their site. By the 1950s, the term “mobile home” had become a more refined version of “trailer.” Many Americans, in fact, still use these terms to describe this type of housing . . . .
The term “manufactured housing” has come into common usage over the past 30 years to describe housing that is constructed in a factory and transported to the site where it is placed on a foundation and finished. Manufactured housing comes in various sizes and shapes. This housing can be a single wide (typically 12-14 feet wide and 50-80 feet long), double wide (two units with “single wide” proportions that are joined together on site), and modular housing that is comprised of two or more components. Some single and double wide manufactured housing may be built on a chassis and transported with wheels attached to that frame; however, this is not true for all such housing.See footnote 6
The evolving nature of and terminology for manufactured homes has created confusion over the distinction between trailers and mobile and manufactured homes. In particular, the terms “trailer” and “mobile home” are often viewed negatively or stigmatized because of their misperceived transience and poor quality, among other factors.See footnote 7 When these terms are used interchangeably with “manufactured homes,” this apples to oranges comparison can create barriers to the use and presence of manufactured homes in communities.
This challenge has been compounded by the introduction of another similar but distinct type of housing: “modular homes.”
Under Title 51 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes for “Trade and Commerce,” the State of Louisiana defines “manufactured,” “mobile,” and “modular homes” as follows:
“Manufactured home” and “manufactured housing” mean a factory-built, residential dwelling unit constructed to standards and codes, as promulgated by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), under the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. 5401 et seq., as amended. Further, the terms “manufactured home” and “manufactured housing” may be used interchangeably and apply to structures bearing the permanently affixed seal of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
“Mobile home” means a factory-built, residential dwelling unit built to voluntary standards prior to the passage of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974. This term includes and is interchangeable with the term “house trailer”, but does not include the term “manufactured home”, as only manufactured homes are built to federal construction standards.
“Modular home” and “modular housing” mean a factory-built, residential dwelling unit built to the International Residential Code as adopted by the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council.See footnote 8
All of these definitions track those used nationally, as set by HUD standards. Importantly, the state explicitly provides that mobile homes are not interchangeable with and do not encompass manufactured homes. Accordingly, only the term “manufactured homes and communities” will be used throughout the rest of this objective and the Regional Vision, unless otherwise specified.
Then, the biggest difference between manufactured and modular homes is the building code they are required to follow — the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act for the former and the International Residential Code (as adopted by the Louisiana State Uniform Construction Code Council) for the latter.
Generally, federal and state regulations guide the design and sale of manufactured and modular homes. However, the siting and use of these residences is primarily governed by regional and local governments.See footnote 9 As such, the next part explores some of the context and priority challenges affecting regional and local planning, land use, and zoning for manufactured and modular homes and communities in Louisiana.
Key Issues and Context Around Manufactured and Modular Homes and Communities in Louisiana
Today, manufactured housing is one of the largest sources of unsubsidized affordable housing in the United States.See footnote 10 Based on 2020 figures, more than 22 million people live in manufactured homes comprising nearly 10 percent of the nation’s housing stock.See footnote 11 In Louisiana alone in 2019, 13.2 percent of units in the state consisted of manufactured and mobile homes — which was more than twice the 2019 rate for the United States.See footnote 12 At that time, manufactured homes were the second most common unit-type in Louisiana.See footnote 13
In 2021, the average new home sales price for manufactured homes was $81,900 without land at $57.00 per square foot.See footnote 14 This is compared to “stick-built” homes costing more than manufactured homes at an average of $119.00 per square foot.See footnote 15 Generally, a “stick-built” home is one constructed on the site of a property from wooden materials or “sticks.” These factors distinguish it from a manufactured home. According to a resident satisfaction survey conducted by the Manufactured Housing Institute, “the only national trade organization representing all segments of the factory-built housing industry,”See footnote 16 71 percent of residents attributed affordability as a key driver for why they live in manufactured housing.See footnote 17 In that same survey, 90 percent of manufactured home residents said that they are satisfied with their homes and 62 percent plan to live in those homes for more than 10 years, with 38 percent of manufactured home owners that never plan on selling.See footnote 18
As these statistics suggest, there is a significant need for manufactured homes to serve as a quality, affordable housing option both nationally and in Louisiana. At present, manufactured homes are approximately 50 percent less per square foot than stick-built homes.See footnote 19 These cost savings can enable more people to have a chance at purchasing and thriving in their own homes.See footnote 20
According to the Manufactured Housing Institute, much of:
The affordability of manufactured housing is due to the efficiencies of the factory-building process. Manufactured homes are constructed with standard building materials, and are built almost entirely off-site in a factory. . . . Much like other assembly line operations, manufactured homes benefit from the economies of scale resulting from purchasing large quantities of materials, products and appliances. Manufactured home builders can negotiate substantial savings on many components used in building a home, with these savings passed on directly to the homebuyer.See footnote 21
Furthermore, people can own homes that look just like or are indistinguishable from stick-built homes. Post-1976 and HUD regulation, the types and quality of manufactured homes have evolved.See footnote 22 In general, technological advances have allowed manufactured home builders “to offer a variety of architectural styles and exterior finishes” that can be tailored to meet buyer’s interests and needs while simultaneously blending into most neighborhoods.See footnote 23 For example, the Manufactured Housing Institute notes that, “Two-story and single-family attached homes are but two of the new styles generated by factory-built innovation.”See footnote 24 Two-story and single-family attached homes could be well-integrated as a part of single-family, rural landscapes.
Description: This image from the Manufactured Housing Institute represents a sample of different types of potential manufactured home exteriors and interiors.
Credit: Manufactured Housing Institute, 2021 Maunfactured Housing Facts: Industry Overview 4 (updated May 2021), available at https://www.manufacturedhousing.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/2021-MHI-Quick-Facts-updated-05-2021.pdf.
Despite the numbers of and innovations for manufactured housing, residents are disproportionately impacted by different social and environmental vulnerabilities. Compared to people living in other types of housing, manufactured and mobile home residents are more likely to be exposed to extreme weather events like hurricanesSee footnote 25 and hazards like flooding.See footnote 26 Both of these drivers are being exacerbated by climate change. Based on research by Headwaters Economics in 2022, one in seven manufactured and mobile homes is located in a high-flood-risk area compared to one out of ten for other types of homes.See footnote 27 This means that manufactured and mobile homes are more exposed to flood risk. Nationally, Louisiana has the second highest percentage of Census tracts with high-flood risk and high-mobile-home density at 20.7 percent.See footnote 28 In other words, 20.7 percent of the nation’s Census tracts that meet the criteria for both high-flood risk and high-mobile-home density are located in Louisiana. Louisiana is only second to West Virginia at 46.1 percent.See footnote 29 West Virginia and Louisiana are the only two states above 20 percent.See footnote 30
Credit: Headwaters Economics, https://headwaterseconomics.org/natural-hazards/mobile-home-flood-risk/.
The ability to withstand and recover from hurricanes and floods affects people’s total housing costs for living in a manufactured home, let alone their ability to be resilient. Manufactured homeowners and residents often face compounding challenges at the local level due to barriers from plans and land use and zoning. Plans, like local comprehensive plans, frequently fail to meaningfully account for manufactured homes and communities — also called manufactured home parks — let alone modular homes. Moreover, land-use and zoning regulations may create legal obstacles to preserving existing and developing new manufactured and modular homes in ways that are resilient and integrated within existing rural communities. For example, large-lot minimum acreage requirements and overlay zones or districts may serve a prohibitive — rather than a protective function — to keep manufactured homes out of certain parts of a parish or municipality. This could be due to reasons, such as bias from “Not in My Backyard” or “NIMBY” campaigns or stigmas against manufactured homes based on the perception that they cannot be designed in ways that will retain a moderate- or middle-income neighborhood’s property values, among other factors.
Beyond literal regulatory hurdles, land-use and zoning ordinances can also create administrative and compliance burdens for both existing and new manufactured homes and communities. These burdens can make this housing option more expensive and potentially unviable. Many manufactured home communities and parks are older and already sited in higher-flood-risk areas both inside and outside the 100-year or one-percent-annual-chance regulatory floodplain, also known as the Special Flood Hazard Area under the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Flood Insurance Program. Local policymakers and the owners of both individual manufactured homes and communities can face challenges making improvements or repairs to their units, especially in the aftermath of floods and extreme weather events. For example, home elevations are very expensive. Manufactured homeowners may not be able to make these changes without financial assistance from the federal, state, or local government.
In addition, new manufactured home communities can face enhanced design standards and requirements to make them look more like a stick-built subdivision. Examples of requirements vary by jurisdiction but may include paying impacts fees to conducting environmental compliance and drainage studies. Enhanced standards and requirements can make the construction of new manufactured homes cost prohibitive despite being an otherwise affordable source of housing.
Lastly, the permitting of manufactured homes can raise equity issues where they are not allowed “as of right” and must go before parish and municipal executive bodies for approval. For instance, individual manufactured homeowners may be subject to mental and emotional traumas in applying for technical and complicated permits to build a manufactured home on generational or heirs-owned properties.
Housing affordability must be measured comprehensively by calculating people’s total housing costs in lieu of only the percentage of their income spent on mortgage or rental payments. Similarly, discussions about the affordability, availability, and resiliency of manufactured and modular housing should account for factors like the ability for existing residents to adapt their homes in place and the potential burdens local planning and regulatory processes place on home developers and owners to greaux this affordable housing option in safe areas.
Despite the complexities inherent in promoting and regulating manufactured and modular homes and communities, regional and local policymakers in Region Seven and beyond can take several steps to alleviate some of the barriers associated with using and protecting this affordable housing option.
How to Make Progress on This Objective
There are several ways that regional and especially local governments with land-use and zoning authority can make progress on this objective through:
- Planning; and
- Land use and zoning.
Most of the suggestions relevant to this objective cut across planning, land-use and zoning, and internal and external government initiatives. Accordingly, they are discussed in the next part on Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips. However, it is also worthwhile to note a few ideas here specific to planning and land use and zoning, respectively.
Regional and local plans come in a variety of types, shapes, and sizes. They can also be legally mandated or discretionary. Regardless of the exact mechanism, plans set the stage for how housing is addressed on regional, municipal, and neighborhood scales. As such, plans should be driven by community needs and priorities around housing and resiliency. Both of these ideas include manufactured homes and communities. However, manufactured homes and residents are frequently left out of planning processes and community discussions. Two cities provide instructive examples for other parishes and municipalities in Region Seven.
The City of Boulder and Boulder County in Colorado (hereinafter referred to only as the city even though these are separate government entities) jointly adopted the first Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan “to protect the natural environment of the Boulder Valley while fostering a livable, vibrant and sustainable community,” addressing urban development and preserving the valley’s rural character.See footnote 31 The core values of this plan include sustainability, diversity, compact and infill development, open space preservation, economic activity, all-mode transportation, and housing diversity.See footnote 32 In the plan, the city makes specific commitments to support community housing needs in terms of affordable and manufactured housing, while employing sustainability as a unifying framework to meet environmental, social, and economic goals.
Based on the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan Policy 7.08: Preservation and Development of Manufactured Housing, the city drafted the Manufactured Housing Strategy and 2019–2021 Action Plan.See footnote 33 This policy encourages the city to preserve and expand manufactured housing communities (MHC) in Boulder and resident ownership of those communities, and tackle health and safety issues, while minimizing resident displacement.See footnote 34
In 2019, Boulder adopted the Manufactured Housing Strategy and 2019–2021 Action Plan, which includes four guiding principles for decisionmaking — Accountability, Affordability, Community, and ViabilitySee footnote 35 — and a prioritized list of actions that align with Policy 7.08 in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan:
- Encouraging preservation of existing MHC.
- Encouraging development of new MHC.
- Increasing opportunities for Resident Owned Communities (ROC).
- Reducing or eliminating health and safety issues.
- Rehousing displaced households.
Here, Boulder explicitly embraced manufactured housing priorities in its local comprehensive plan. In tandem, the city also worked to provide a more nuanced, deeper-dive look at manufactured housing through its Manufactured Housing Strategy and Action Plan. In Louisiana, local comprehensive plans are noteworthy because of their legal status and general alignment with land-use and zoning decisions.See footnote 36 However, additional types of plans can complement the larger-scale, visioning nature of comprehensive plans by bringing more attention to specific issues.
The rural City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana presents a different example of how to plan for manufactured housing. Donaldsonville created a strategic plan for 2020–2025. The Donaldsonville Strategic Plan identifies eight strategic priorities to revitalize the city by fostering business development and increasing the local standard of living. Strategic Priority 7 on Housing includes 18 objectives including ones relevant to mobile and manufactured housing in that jurisdiction. In contrast to Boulder, Donaldsonville is consolidating municipal actions that promote economic development and affordable housing, among other subjects, into one plan that can collectively support resilience efforts on both the individual and citywide scales.
Boulder and Donaldsonville illustrate only two approaches to planning that regional and local governments may consider to preserve and encourage manufactured and modular housing. Regardless of how it happens, the important takeaway is that these forms of housing should be included as a part of relevant plans.
Land Use and Zoning
Parishes and municipalities should aim to alleviate at least some of the regulatory, administrative, and compliance barriers previously discussed in The Need part of this objective. As a first step, jurisdictions can start by surveying and inventorying what provisions in their local ordinances and policies are causing or contributing to these issues. Ideally, these processes should be conducted in concert with affected manufactured home residents and home developers to guide and inform the identification of any barriers. Without this level of engagement, some barriers may not be self-evident to policymakers.
After completing this step, local governments and affected community residents and stakeholders can then evaluate and weigh potential options to remove or mitigate these barriers. For example, parish and municipal governments can consider how to eliminate, waive, or reduce unnecessary or inequitable financial expenses associated with reviewing and approving new manufactured homes and communities. This could be realized in several ways. Parishes and municipalities could grant fee waivers for qualifying projects. They can also offer home developers access to an expedited permitting and review process for projects that meet enhanced conditions or thresholds for housing affordability, environmental conservation, resilience, and/or energy efficiency (e.g., Asheville, North Carolina Hotel Overlay District and codified public benefits table; Norfolk, Virginia Resilience Quotient Points System and housing plan books) (For additional ideas, also see Objective 3.3).
These types of potential actions could help make manufactured and modular homes and communities a more competitive housing option on par with stick-built homes and subdivisions. This would also contribute to a jurisdiction’s residential diversity to support varying needs and incomes levels as one component of a broader housing affordability and availability strategy.
Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips
When confronting barriers around manufactured and modular homes, decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips:
- Lead with data
- Update local plans and ordinances with accurate definitions for “manufactured” and “mobile” homes and communities
- Promote manufactured and modular homes as missing middle housing
- Promote greater acceptance of manufactured and modular homes and communities
- Integrate new manufactured and modular homes and communities throughout rural areas and protect existing ones
- Pilot new resilient manufactured and modular home prototypes
These tips are based on priority implementation best practices and considerations most relevant to this specific objective and do not present an exhaustive list for regional and local planners and policymakers. In addition to this objective, decisionmakers should, at a minimum, also refer to Goal Five for crosscutting considerations and practice tips including structuring equitable and inclusive community engagement processes and evaluating opportunities to build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships.
It is important to acknowledge that every jurisdiction will be starting from a different place and have a unique local context and needs, among other factors. Therefore, these considerations and practice tips could be adopted individually, collectively, or not at all. It will be up to policymakers to work directly with their communities and other key stakeholders and partners to assess and determine potential tools and approaches to implement this goal and objective.
- Lead with data: Plans and land-use decisions are more credible and effective when they are driven by the best available data for housing, land use, and social and environmental vulnerabilities. Housing assessments that evaluate these and other factors should ideally precede any planning or land-use updates. If these assessments are scoped to cover all of the housing in a given area (e.g., city, neighborhood) manufactured and modular homes and communities should be included, where relevant. Alternatively, manufactured- and modular-specific analyses can be conducted separately.
In carrying out this work, governments should evaluate quantitative data sources (e.g., floodplain maps, climate models). In addition, residents can provide important qualitative data points based on their local knowledge and lived experiences to inform vulnerability assessments and identify priority goals and needs. As such, governments should take a comprehensive approach to collecting data.
For example, a coalition of multiple parishes and municipalities in Region Seven could follow the lead of the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia and project:HOMES, a nonprofit affordable housing provider in central Virginia. In 2016, the two organizations commissioned An Assessment of Central Virginia’s Manufactured Housing Communities: Understanding the Conditions, Challenges, and Opportunities, a first-of-its-kind report that evaluates the existing conditions of manufactured home parks in the central Virginia region. The report includes an analysis of the socioeconomic status and demographic trends for manufactured home residents. In addition, the report includes a detailed quality survey of more than 50 manufactured home parks across the region. New flood-risk data from Headwaters Economics could be laid on top of base housing assessments like the one from central Virginia. This can give regional and local policymakers a better picture of how to prioritize resilience actions for existing and new manufactured homes and communities in Region Seven based on social and environmental vulnerability. For more information on data and tools, see Objective 5.3.
Underscoring all of this work, governments must be clear on the definitions they use for manufactured and modular homes compared to mobile homes and trailers — and check what definitions potential data sources are relying on as well. Research conducted for the Regional Vision shows that it is not always clear what are the criteria experts are relying on, which, in turn, affects their conclusions. For example, some entities may use the term “mobile home” to encompass both pre- and post-1976 manufactured homes (e.g., Headwaters Economics). Others may use the term “manufactured home” and offer no explanatory definition as to what that covers. This could preclude “apples to apples” comparisons or require caveats that affect what policymakers can do with the data. Furthermore, there does not appear to be similar amounts of data on modular homes in Louisiana or nationally. Accordingly, parishes and municipalities will likely be required to make investments in data for manufactured and modular homes. This aligns with the related practice tip below to update the definitions for “manufactured, mobile, and modular homes and communities” in local plans and ordinances.
- Update local plans and ordinances with accurate definitions for “manufactured” and “mobile” homes and communities: Despite clear distinctions between federal and state definitions for manufactured, mobile, and modular homes, these terms are murkier at the local level. For example, a non-exhaustive search for the words “manufactured homes” and “mobile homes” in parish and municipal land development ordinances in Region Seven reveals that the term “mobile homes” appears more frequently.See footnote 37 In contrast, there is little to no mention of “manufactured homes.”See footnote 38 In a few ordinances where both terms appear, usage of the words “mobile home” predominates — even where local governments are actually talking about manufactured homes as a type of permanent residence not affixed to wheels. Moreover, these local regulations only define mobile homes and not manufactured homes. This is despite the Louisiana state statute that explicitly provides the term mobile home “does not include the term ‘manufactured home’, as only manufactured homes are built to federal construction standards.”See footnote 39
Parishes and municipalities with manufactured homes should update their plans, including local comprehensive plans, and ordinances to match federal and state definitions for these terms. To start, local policymakers can identify and inventory where either or both terms are used throughout their plans and ordinances. Then, they can aim to change the relevant portions with only manufactured homes. Concurrently, local governments should update their planning and regulatory definitions to reflect the correct legal distinction between manufactured and mobile homes. For example, Chapter 17 of Tangipahoa Parish’s Land Development for Planning and Development includes separate definitions for both “manufactured homes” and “manufactured home parks” and “mobile home/trailer” and “mobile home park.”See footnote 40 The definition for mobile home states that mobile homes and trailers do “not meet the HUD manufactured home construction and safety standards” and simply refers people looking up “mobile home park” back to the definition for “manufactured home park.”See footnote 41
These updates are beneficial for several reasons. First, local plans and ordinances consistent with federal and state statutes can enhance legal clarity, especially where federal (HUD) and state regulations (building codes) are so intertwined. Second, clear and consistent plans and ordinances can create permitting and administrative efficiencies for policymakers, home developers, and public and private landowner applicants. Third, local plans and laws aligned with community education, outreach, and awareness campaigns are more capable of promoting manufactured housing as a missing middle option. This can help to overcome the pervasive confusion around conflating mobile homes and trailers with manufactured homes and the negative stigmas and stereotypes accompanying the former.
- Promote greater acceptance of manufactured and modular homes and communities: To promote acceptance and awareness of manufactured and modular homes and communities as an important affordable housing option, regional and local governments will have to collaborate with private and nonprofit developers and community residents, among other stakeholder groups. Given the history of manufactured homes in the United States, negative stigmas are prevalent among those both inside and outside the government. As such, multifaceted education and outreach campaigns and efforts can be a start to working through these stigmas — and hopefully removing or mitigating their impacts on the preservation and development of manufactured and modular homes.
This work should be in addition to and not separate from incorporating manufactured and modular housing considerations into relevant laws, plans, policies, and projects. Notably, increased acceptance of diverse housing options can reinforce and support regional and local actions by eliminating or reducing implementation barriers. For more discussion on how to tackle this challenge for affordable housing broadly, see Objective 4.2.
- Promote missing middle housing: When diversifying beyond stick-built, single-family homes, “missing middle housing” refers to the idea of encouraging a range of locally specific types of housing, such as townhomes, duplexes, and triplexes. In thinking about missing middle housing, one important question is: Where do manufactured and modular homes and communities fit on this spectrum? Manufactured and modular homes could be characterized as a single-family alternative to constructing traditional stick-built homes that fall somewhere towards the single-family end of the missing middle spectrum. Two-story and single-family attached homes are even possible through the manufacturing process.See footnote 42
As a relevant and significant source of affordable housing, manufactured and modular homes should be viewed as a part of and not distinct from comprehensive missing middle strategies. Accordingly, policymakers should evaluate the potential to include manufactured and modular homes in appropriate zones and neighborhoods to prioritize and preserve these housing options.
On the flip side of this recommendation, it is also important to remember that manufactured and modular homes are only one missing middle option. Diverse types of missing middle homes are necessary to achieve balanced, affordable housing strategies. In particular, this need for diverse housing will likely increase if population changes occur bringing in new people to a community. Therefore, parishes and municipalities should not rely on any one type of housing to the exclusion of others, especially to support individuals and families with different needs across varying incomes levels.
Most notably, jurisdictions in Louisiana that already have a lot of manufactured homes and communities can still have an affordable housing problem, regardless of the condition and number of those types of homes. As such, rural areas with a large number of existing manufactured homes and communities should nonetheless work towards improving and encouraging a wider range of affordable housing options to reach missing middle and resiliency goals.
- Integrate new manufactured and modular homes and communities throughout rural areas and protect existing ones: Generally, local plans and ordinances should promote the equitable integration of manufactured and modular homes throughout the flood-safe, residential and mixed-use portions of a rural community. This is in contrast to relegating these housing options to select areas of a parish or municipality. Spatial segregation of housing can reinforce affordable housing stigmas and stereotypes and detract from increasing their acceptance and visibility.
In contrast, where existing manufactured and modular homes already exist, local governments should seek opportunities to protect them through local plans and zoning tools like overlay zones or districts. Local governments have the primary authority to regulate land uses in their communities through zoning and floodplain ordinances. In particular, zoning ordinances provide the legal framework that governs the use and development of land in a municipality according to different districts based on the uses that are permitted (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial). Overlay zones or districts can impose additional regulations on an existing zone based on special characteristics in that zone or area.
Here, overlay zones can serve a protective function for preserving existing manufactured and modular homes and communities (See Living Cully in Portland, Oregon). Planners and policymakers should carefully examine when and where overlay zones and development regulations will support or reinforce rather than prevent or eliminate diverse affordable housing opportunities. This will be particularly important as population growth and environmental threats like flooding contribute to rising property values and new development that can displace manufactured and mobile home residents.
- Pilot new resilient manufactured and modular home prototypes: Regional and local governments can work collaboratively with private and nonprofit home developers to pilot resilient manufactured and modular home prototypes. Pilot projects built with high-quality materials and resilient design features like elevated mechanical equipment above base flood elevations can be used as demonstration sites to promote the acceptance and awareness of these types of homes. Tangible examples of manufactured and modular homes can have significant positive impacts beyond mockups and drawings that people are unable to visit and see for themselves. Further, housing prototypes enable people to evaluate how pilot homes can be sited and designed in ways that are compatible with rural character and landscapes. For more information about how manufactured and modular home prototypes can be used to increase their use as an affordable housing option, see Objective 4.2.
The summaries below highlight resources and case studies available in Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse that are relevant to this objective. They illustrate how many of the above benefits, practice tips, and planning, legal, and policy tools were or are being evaluated and used in practice in different jurisdictions. To learn more and navigate to the Adaptation Clearinghouse, click on the “View Resource” buttons.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Boulder, Colorado: Affordable Housing, Manufactured Housing, and Environmental Plans and Initiatives
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana: Donaldsonville Strategic Plan 2020–2025
The city of Boulder, Colorado is experiencing the joint pressures of rapid regional population growth and climate change. Boulder has addressed these challenges in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, a plan jointly adopted by the City and County of Boulder to direct decisions on land use, natural and built environments, and climate, and supplemental plans and initiatives. To implement the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, the city developed specific and actionable master plans, such as the Boulder Manufactured Housing Strategy and Action Plan, to address the policies around MHC highlighted in the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan.
Despite having an estimated population of over 100,000, Boulder is focused on preserving several rural and environmental areas within the larger city. Under the overarching framework of the Boulder Valley Comprehensive Plan, the city simultaneously pays focused attention to manufactured homes and communities. Other rural governments may consider a similar dual or stacked planning and implementation approach to increase the resilience of existing and new manufactured homes and communities.
Greauxing Resilience at Home — City of Portland, Oregon: Planning and Zoning for Manufactured Housing Communities
The rural City of Donaldsonville, Louisiana has developed a strategic plan for 2020–2025, which identifies eight strategic priorities to revitalize the city by fostering business development and increasing the city’s standard of living. Strategic Priority 7 on Housing includes 18 specific objectives including ones relevant to mobile and manufactured housing like clarifying existing zoning regulations; developing new ordinances for mobile and manufactured homes to improve maintenance and code enforcement, and regulations on short-term and commercial rentals in residentially zoned structures; creating “tourism-based” RV parks and campgrounds; and ensuring community participation in decisions on mobile home or RV park setback and spacing requirements. If implemented, these recommended housing initiatives can strive to increase housing security, overall structural safety, economic activity, and mechanisms to foster resilience without displacing current residents. Other local governments can consider Donaldsonville’s strategic plan as one model to plan for and implement land-use, zoning, and project updates for mobile and manufactured homes.
An Assessment of Central Virginia’s Manufactured Housing Communities: Understanding the Conditions, Challenges, and Opportunities
In recent years, Portland, Oregon has experienced rapid population growth and demographic shifts, resulting in changing housing dynamics — most notably, a decrease in affordable housing. Manufactured Housing Communities (MHC) or manufactured homes, known also as “mobile homes” or “trailers” are a valuable source of unsubsidized affordable housing for thousands of households in Portland. This form of housing is, however, threatened by the effects of climate change and development pressures.
In order to preserve MHC across the city, a campaign to change Portland’s comprehensive plan and zoning laws, led by the community-based organization Living Cully, resulted in amendments to the City of Portland’s comprehensive plan and the creation of the Manufactured Dwelling Park Zone in 2018. The Manufactured Dwelling Park Zone is a new base district that covers all existing MHC in Portland, precluding any other commercial or residential use on the properties and effectively protecting these communities and their residents from park closures. These amendments were the result of direct engagement between city officials and staff and MHC residents at public hearings and in-person visits to MHC. Collectively, these community-driven efforts provide instructive lessons for how local governments and communities can work together to overcome the negative stigmas often associated with MHC to pass inclusive and equitable legal updates.
In November 2016, the Manufactured Home Community Coalition of Virginia and project:HOMES, a nonprofit affordable housing provider in central Virginia, commissioned An Assessment of Central Virginia’s Manufactured Housing Communities: Understanding the Conditions, Challenges, and Opportunities, to analyze the place of manufactured housing within the affordable housing conversation. This report is the first full assessment of the existing conditions of manufactured home parks in the central Virginia region and includes an analysis of the socioeconomic status and demographic trends for manufactured home residents. In addition, the report includes a detailed quality survey of more than 50 manufactured home parks across the region.
This report serves as an example of an affordable housing assessment that can be used by other regional or local policymakers to evaluate the current status of affordable, manufactured homes and parks. A report such as this can better inform decisions, including to retrofit or adapt existing structures to be more resilient to climate change impacts, such as flooding and minimize displacement from existing homes and parks to protect communities.