Building Trade News & Be Perplexed & Angered!
Blog # 523 @ 3 March; Copyright 2019; www.educatemhc.com
Perspective. ‘Land leases communities, previously manufactured home communities, and earlier, ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.
This blog posting is sole national advocate, official ombudsman, historian, research reporter, education resource & online communication media for North American land lease communities
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INTRODUCTION: Ah, what I like best to report in this weekly blog posting to friends and colleagues: pithy building trades news; along with some new, albeit controversial, information about manufactured housing and or land lease communities. Part I will inform and educate you; Part II will likely anger and or depress you. GFA
What We Learn From Builder/Developer Friends
about Demographics, Affordable Housing & Land Development
Following passages quoted from Builder magazine, February 2019, and its’ companion publication, Engineered Wood, Issue # 22, Winter 2019. Appropriate page references indicated. Lightly edited. GFA
“Demographics ultimately drive housing demand. Sure, higher interest rates and economic recessions can dampen demand in the short term; but in the long run, demand sets the bar for housing supply.” P.34 Recall this truism as you read the final sentence in the AFFORDABLE HOUSING segment of Part I of this blog posting.
“A new cohort, reported to make up a quarter of the U.S. population turns 22 this year. They were 10 when iPhones came out. Millennials may have been the first digital natives, but this new group of adults – Generation Z – takes ‘what that means & why it matters’, to a new level. Half this 7-to-22 year-old group is – demographically – racial or ethnic minorities. Almost 60% of them, versus 53% of millennials, go to college, and 43% of them grew up in homes with college-educated parents. Are you ready for them?” p.18 Now you know who ‘they’ are!
“The huge millennial generation is set to drive demand for the next decade at least. Yes, problems with student debt, a so-so job market for recent graduates, relatively low household formation rates, and delays in getting married and having kids, have so far been flood gates to this generation’s demand to own a home. So much so, only one-third of those under 35 years old now own a home.”
“As a result, most builders have been reluctant to make a big bet on affordable, starter housing. However, with the U.S. Census Bureau and First American title insurance company forecasting millennials will buy at least 10 million houses in the next 10 years, maybe builders need to double down on this influential demographic group. As it is, in 2018, 50% of purchased mortgages, guaranteed by Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, went to millennial first-time buyers.” P.34
“Housing cost and price growth, combined with higher interest rates and lackluster income gains, took a significant toll on housing affordability in 2018. Home sales suffered during the second half of the year as a result. According to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (‘HOI’), just 56% of new and existing home transactions nationwide were affordable for a typical family during the third quarter of 2018. At the start of last year, the (HOI) index was at a level of 62, which in turn was down from 78 at the start of 2012.” P.136.*1
The conundrum here is, if housing affordability slipped so during the last quarter of 2018, why didn’t the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry step in and profit from that opportunity? Remember now; new manufactured homes characteristically cost 50 percent (per square foot, not including value of underling realty) less than site-built homes! BUT, as you’ll also recall, ‘we too slipped’ from our heady 100,000 ‘new homes to be shipped in 2018’ goal and pace, during the final quarter of the year! Reasons for that shortfall range from widespread supply side ‘inventory adjustments’ at HUD-Code housing sales centers nationwide, to continuing-if-not-increasing demand side local regulatory barriers to all forms of affordable housing. And so the troubling housing paradox continues – unexplained.
What you read here and following, pertains in almost equal measure to development of individual building lots and entire land lease communities.
“The land development process has undergone wrenching changes since the Great Recession. For one, it takes far more upfront capital than in the pre-recession days, which is placing serious burdens on small and mid-sized builders.” P.11
Quoting Infrastructural Financial, “…a lot of communities don’t really want affordable single-family subdivisions (& land lease communities. GFA). They’d really prefer to have empty-nesters in mansions or maybe an industrial park. Those generate the most amount of (tax) revenue. Communities often oppose affordably priced subdivisions (& land lease communities. GFA) that would be ideal for people with children, because it means school budgets would dramatically increase.”
“Another factor is, many people who sit on approval boards don’t really understand the world of development a d construction. They’re often not sophisticated business people who know how to delve into an impact study.” P.13.
1. HOI is one of sex measures of affordable housing; the other five being Housing Expense Factor or HEF – usually 30 percent, Housing Wage or HW, Workforce Housing or WFH, Income to Home Value Ratio or IHVR, and ‘One who believes’ housing is affordable if/when the price is right! Source: SWAN SONG, George Allen, COBA7, 2017, page 44.
Prepare to be Perplexed, & Maybe Angered
Many if not most folk reading this weekly blog posting subscribe to the Allen Letter. Why? Surely there’s a plethora of differing reasons; and one of them surely is, advance notice of ‘things to come’ potentially affecting, if not already impacting, the HUD-Code manufactured housing industry and its’ realty sector, land lease communities nationwide. What follows here is an example of the former, ‘something to watch out for’, as in being ‘forewarned is forearmed’!
There’s a new (2018) paperback book on the market with a suggestive wordplay title, and subtitle that predisposes what the reader is expected to learn and believe about ‘mobile home parks’, to wit:
MANUFACTURED INSECURITY, Mobile Home Parks and American’s Tenuous Right to Place
This 250 page text, by ethnographer Dr. Esther Sullivan, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Colorado Denver, according to the text’s back cover “…is the first book of its kind to provide an in-depth investigation of the social, legal, geospatial, and market forces that intersect to create housing insecurity for an entire class of low-income residents.”*1
Have not yet read the entire book, but enough to be disturbed at the author’s dual themes; one intentional, the other, ‘guilt by association’. Will share a few of the author’s remarks here, admittedly out of context; but promise a full review in an upcoming issue of the Allen Letter, available by subscription, via www.embarkmhc.com
• “With the purchase of the mobile home (they) became ‘halfway homeowners’. They assumed the risks of living on land they did not own (sic) to gain the emotional and symbolic rewards of the American Dream of homeownership.” Prologue. Already, on page # 1, no mention of ‘benefits’ (e.g. freedom to relocate, lower taxes, etc.), only ‘risks’, plus a new term, ‘halfway homeowners’, to ponder. This book focuses on the ‘closing’ of land lease communities in FL & TX, but not desirability of the lifestyle.
• “Nationally, 73 percent of households living in mobile homes earn less than $50,000 a year, with a median annual household income of about $30,000 in 2009 (CFED 2014). In short, mobile homes are a primary way that America’s poor are housed.” P.15
• “One of the nation’s largest mobile home park owners explained the mobile home park industry thrives precisely because it capitalizes on a captive and needy population. Summarizing his industry’s capacity to wring profits from impoverished and effectively immobile home park residents, he stated, “We’re like a Waffle House where everyone is chained to the booths’.” P.18 Guess who is quoted here? But know what? There IS another side to this story, but it’s not found in this ‘book with a prejudice’ against income property closure.
• “Trash. The word encapsulates the disposability of mobile home park residents and the communities they call home.” P.23 NOT. The author, at least this early in the book, makes no mention of successive generations of families who happily reside, as homeowner/site lessees, in land lease communities from coast to coast in the U.S. and throughout Canada. The author should, in this industry observer’s opinion, have spent equal time in beautiful BayWood Greens in Lewes, DE, sprawling SaddleBrook Farms in Grayslake, IL., and unique Lido Peninsula in Newport Beach, CA., for a comprehensive, balanced view of the entire spectrum of land lease community ownership and homeowner/site lessee residency.
That’s all for now. If you’d like to read ‘the rest of the story’, watch for it in a future issue of aforementioned Allen Letter. The book review will not be featured here, in a blog posting. To subscribe, visit www.educatemhc.com
1. Ethnology. ‘The science of the origin, history, customs, etc. of people. ’Webster
George Allen, CPM, MHM
EducateMHC. c/o Box # 47024,