The closing plenary session will be a conversation between experts who are working on this issue at both the national and state level. Policies are changing quickly and manufactured housing/mobile home parks are emerging from the shadow of years of misconceptions. The industry and the product are undergoing transformation. We’ll ask them what changes and opportunities are coming our way and how we can be prepared to take advantage of them.
Esther Sullivan, Ph.D, University of Colorado Denver
Esther Sullivan is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Colorado Denver. Her research focuses on poverty, spatial inequality, urban governance, and housing, with a special interest in both forced and voluntary relocation. Her 2018 book Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place, winner of the Robert Park Book Award, provides examines the social, legal, geospatial, and market forces that intersect to create housing insecurity in manufactured housing communities, which provide a central source of affordable housing in the United States.
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.
Chris Nicely, CEO, Next Step
Chris Nicely, CEO of Next Step Homes, brings 25 years of factory-built housing and management experience to his role of training nonprofits and industry leaders on how to effectively use factory-built housing for developments and communities. Prior to joining Next Step, Chris served as the Vice President of Marketing at Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest homebuilder. At Clayton, Chris established a new brand identity package, coordinated branding and positioning, led the re-positioning of the company’s Web presence, led public relations efforts and designed and coordinated a CRM system. Prior to becoming VP of Marketing and Sales, Chris served in the positions of Zone Vice President, Regional Manager/VP and General Manager at Clayton Communities. Altogether, his history with the company spans nearly two decades. Chris holds a BA in Economics from the College of Wooster and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University. Chris recently graduated from Harvard’s Achieving Excellence in Community Development Program.
Randy Grumbine, Executive Director, Virginia Manufactured and Modular Housing Association
Randy Grumbine is in his fifth year as Executive Director of the Virginia Manufactured and Modular Housing Association Housing Association. He came to this position after a 21-year career with Clayton Homes as a salesperson, manager, and district manager mostly in the Roanoke area. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Drexel University and a Master of Landscape Architecture from Virginia Tech. His 3 young adult daughters challenge him to try to keep up and encourage an active lifestyle.
Chris Thompson, Director of Strategic Housing, Virginia Housing
Chris Thompson is the Director of Strategic Housing at Virginia Housing. He leads a team charged with developing and managing relationships with the Commonwealth’s Housing Services Delivery Network. Mr. Thompson coordinates the design and delivery of trainings intended to strengthen the ability of local officials, land use planners, planning entities, and housing developers to better address local affordable housing and neighborhood revitalization issues. He also identifies strategic opportunities to provide technical assistance to individuals and organizations seeking to undertake transformational revitalization projects. Prior to joining VHDA he served as Deputy Director for Housing at the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
What is the number one manufactured housing-related issue you’ll be tracking over the next decade?
Esther Sullivan: Park closures and the mass eviction that take place when MHCs are redeveloped or closed, but her team is now switching to the impact of natural disasters on MHCs. MHCs are often mislocated into industrial and commercial zones and in result are located into hazardous places. The second thing in order to better understand the impact, we need to have better data. She plans to use big data and machine learning to get information on every mobile home park in the U.S.
Doug Ryan: Housing finance and Duty to Serve.
Chris Nicely: Zoning, how zoning reacts to the increase of information about today’s MH, and the reactions/actions taken by the industry.
Randy Grumbine: How can MH fit the need of more affordable housing in jurisdictions, preserving the MH communities we do have, and how can zoning help meet that need.
Chris Thompson: Consumer education, financing and perception of manufactured housing.
Over one-third of manufactured home residents have jobs in sectors that are vulnerable to COVID-19. But, the vast share of manufactured home owners are ineligible for CARES Act mortgage relief and forbearance. What should policymakers be doing to keep manufactured home residents in their homes?
Doug Ryan: The CARES act was important, but the housing provision does not help manufactured home residents. Some benefited from the Title 1 FHA program but it is tiny. Conversations that have taken place with some of the biggest lenders planned to offer forbearance during the summer but it has not been pushed through. The additional $600 unemployment has helped people to stay in their homes. Unemployment should be a part of the next package. Unemployment insurance is key and is very imperative right now.
Chris Thompson: They are implementing a rent relief program distributed via landlords. The problem is that there is not a comprehensive list of park owners for MH in Virginia. States that have a robust system: Oregon has a map and database, Illinois and Florida has a list in the department of health.
In 2020, we’ve seen major natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires create significant challenges for communities across the country. What types of unique risks do manufactured home parks face? And what should Virginia be doing to proactively address these risks?
Esther Sullivan: These parks are located in flood plains, they are exposed to new regulation and are severely disadvantaged. They are either overlooked or explicitly disadvantaged and lose out on housing spots. They are placed on leftover land and there is also a lack of insurance for these homes. If their home gets damaged they will not be able to replace their homes. Post disaster recovery needs a lot of work and attention. We need to develop programs to help people.
The federal government and GSEs have expanded their interest in manufactured housing in recent years. Can you explain the “Duty to Serve” rule and how federal policy impacts manufactured homeowners? What’s on the federal horizon for 2021 and beyond?
Doug Ryan: We need to lower the barrier of entry to homeownership. FHFA is accepting comments for all 3 components. The comments are due on Oct 23. The secondary market for chattel loans is imperative, although there is not enough data to support the effort as of now. In some cases you are going to have to subsidize these communities. Another need is community education.
Mobile home parks and manufactured housing have long suffered from negative stereotypes from both the public and policymakers. How has this perception changed in recent years, and what should advocates do to address this challenge?
Chris Nicely: Battling stereotypes has always been a problem. It starts with the organizations that are related to products that they produce and the people who live in the homes. These organizations should be ready to correct individuals and the media when MHCs are being stigmatized. Also it helps to get people at the table, get people talking about MHs, including zoning administrators, and people you see your opponents. Also have respect for the residents.
Does anyone know if the shipping container homes are considered manufactured homes, and if they are more disaster proof?
Chris Nicely: Shipping container homes are built to mod. code and are state and local level approved. They have to be approved at every locality and site. There is not enough data on shipping containers to see if they can withstand natural disasters. Since they are anchored down at the same standard that MHs and site built houses are, it is a prediction that it can withstand natural disasters. Elevation helps MHs when there is flooding, it’s easy to elevate them above the average 3 feet.
You say “bring your presupposed enemies to the table,” which is such great advice. In your experience, who have been some of your most surprising allies/advocates in preserving MH, destigmatizing MH, and fighting for MH to be part of the affordable housing sector?
Randy Grumbine: The MHCCV, to see the amount of people that supported this movement.
Chris Nicely: Zoning administrators. In Danville, the vice mayor brought zoning people in for his organization’s first meeting. And the neighborhoods—it is always important to make them not feel threatened.
The concern about REIT’s is that they are structured to extract profits from the MH Communities they own. What would be the efficacy of developing a State (RHA, CDFI) backed REIT to own the MH Communities focused on preservation of affordability?
When there are company investors the biggest effect is that rents go up in order to get more money back for the investments. Foundations are wanting to give 100% for mission driven . When rents increase then housing goes down. California MPRP is a fund to help with replacement of homes that have been brought. Solutions: community land trusts, Fee simple community in chesterfield county. Look at the zoning information first and then look at the community. Amenities are also important for the communities.
How do we address the difference in replacement cost between a unit that someone purchases for less than $15,000 (or lower) yet the cost of a quality replacement unit is over $40,000 or more?
There is no secondary market, because increase rates are incredibly low today. If they go back up, it will increase chattel loans and will create issues to that industry.