Help from Above: Breakthroughs in National and State Policy

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From titling issues to resident protections to financing options, state and national policies have long prevented manufactured housing from being a truly equitable solution for affordable homeownership. Thankfully, the tide is starting to turn. In this session you’ll hear the federal perspective from Washington, how one west coast state is leading the way, and what’s changing—and still yet to come—here in Virginia.

DHCD Manufactured Housing Resource Page

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Speaker Bios

Doug Ryan, Senior Fellow, Prosperity Now

Doug Ryan is a Senior Fellow at Prosperity Now. Doug also worked as Assistant Director of Federal Programs at the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, Maryland, as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate, with the Federal Housing Finance Board and as project manager for the Housing Development Institute at Catholic Charities in New York. Doug graduated from Fordham University and has an M.P.A. from New York University. He is an adjunct instructor at American University’s School of Public Affairs and a graduate advisor at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. Doug is a former Montgomery County Commissioner on Human Rights and a graduate of Achieving Excellence, a joint program of the Harvard and NeighborWorks America.

Chelsea Catto, Manufactured Housing Senior Program Analyst, Oregon Housing and Community Services

Chelsea joined Oregon Housing and Community Services in January 2020 as the Manufactured Housing Senior Program Analyst.  She oversees program development for new resources allocated by the state legislature in 2019 aimed at supporting the preservation of safe and affordable manufactured housing.  From 2007 to 2017, she directed CASA of Oregon’s Manufactured Housing Cooperative Development program, which promotes affordable homeownership, economic security and long-term stability through resident ownership of manufactured housing parks.

Pamela Kestner, Chief Deputy, Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development

Pam Kestner serves as Chief Deputy with the Department of Housing and Community Development. She also is serving as Acting Deputy Director of the Housing Division where efforts focus on the production and preservation of affordable housing as well as those that effectively address homelessness in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Prior to joining DHCD, Pam served as Deputy Secretary of Health and Human Resources where she also served as staff to the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Homelessness, a function she continues to fill. Prior to joining state government, Pam served as President and CEO of the Council of Community Services in Roanoke where she worked for 26 years. She holds a BA degree in Sociology from Emory & Henry College and a MSW from Virginia Commonwealth University.

Christie Marra, Director of Housing Advocacy, Virginia Poverty Law Center

Christie Marra is the Director of Housing Advocacy at the Virginia Poverty Law Center. After receiving her law degree from the University of Richmond, Christie worked for legal aid representing tenants and others in courts throughout central Virginia. She joined the staff of the Virginia Poverty Law Center in 2004.


To Chelsea Catto: How are Oregon state tax credits used to assist MH communities? Is this a state LIHTC program? If so, I presume that they are not used in conjunction w/ federal LIHTC, is that correct?

It’s a buy-down of the interest rate by 4%. It is different from LIHTC and enables a lending institution to claim tax credits against Oregon taxes when they make loans for the construction or acquisition/rehab of affordable housing. MH park preservation is an eligible use.

To Chelsea Catto: Due to the loss of the communities in your state due to fire and flood, you mentioned the need to recover these sites via construction of new manufactured housing communities. Are you faced with prohibitive zoning codes from local authorities, and, if so, how do you overcome these discriminatory land use practices?

We have just started conversations with local jurisdictions and our Department of Land Conservation and Development about zoning codes that might need to be changed. We have 8 counties impacted, some to a greater degree than others, and local jurisdictions in the most impacted counties seem to be committed to solutions that will help the rebuilding. But we’re definitely still in the early stages of discussion. Advocates from the League of Oregon Cities are helping us address this as well.

Can you all talk about how perception, kind of the state philosophy around MH and mobile home parks have shifted? Hopefully in the right direction over the past few years. Do you think we’ve done enough convincing of our policy makers about the importance of MH?

Christie Marra: I think that DHCD, Virginia Housing have been more receptive to our efforts to reshape the perception of MHCs than the legislature has been. There are a couple of legislators in NOVA that have been helpful in advancing and getting pieces of legislation passed, but I would not say that there has been a widespread reformation of the image of MHCs throughout policy makers in the general assembly, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done there.

Pam Kestner: Governor Northam’s biggest priority pre-COVID has been to focus on affordable housing. His Executive Order 25, that he announced at the Governor’s Housing Conference a couple of years ago, focused on the issue of affordable housing. MHs are one of those innovative ways to increase the amount of affordable housing across the state, but we have to bring the stock up to date and we have to help owners and tenants to make this housing accessible and affordable. The governor also issued Executive Order 32 that established a commission to examine racial inequity in Virginia law. It is important that we focus policy efforts to ensure equal access to affordable housing.

Septic systems: one of the challenges for parks in rural Virginia is the failure of the infrastructure, water and sewer. In areas where there are no central sewers a park relies on septic systems. Does anyone on the panel have expertise or experience on dealing with the issue of septic systems in rural areas? Are there any solutions that we as a state can look into or something that the federal government can fund?

The bad news is that parks facing those kinds of infrastructure failures are because of two reasons: disinvestment and poor siting. Also disinvestment by the property owners—in some cases they want to get out of the MH business and want to extract as much money as they can. Poorly sited: they were poorly sited to begin with, they probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with or they are not in their capacity and were overbuilt after they got cited or approved. Very few lenders would get involved because of the liability issue and the exposure that they have and the new ownership will also face the same complications. There are some USDA programs on the infrastructure side, water and sewer grants, but eligibility depends on how salvageable the water system is.