SOLUTION TO MIDDLE HOUSING MARKET CRISIS
Blog Posting # 667 @ 3 December 2021: EducateMHC
Perspective. ‘Land lease communities, previously manufactured home communities, and earlier, ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing!’
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INTRODUCTION: We’ve all heard the idiom (‘a form of expression’) to ‘not know any better’. Which is to say, someone does ‘not have the knowledge…to make an informed decision.’ Well, this is where today’s blog posting begins and ends. In summary, while HUD-Code manufactured housing IS the Solution to the Middle Housing Market Crisis in the U.S. today, home builders and realty developers are generally unaware how to bring this ready resource (housing) and need (shortage) together in a working, ongoing, positive fashion! Read on…
SOLUTION TO MIDDLE HOUSING MARKET CRISIS
Manufactured Housing has been, and continues to be, The Solution to the affordable housing supply crisis in the U.S. today; a crisis a.k.a. (also known as) ‘the right kind of middle housing market solution’, i.e. affordable factory-built housing sited within land lease communities on rental homesites, and or on privately-owned scattered building sites within and outside platted subdivisions!*1
What are we talking about here? Well, during late November, almost simultaneously, two real estate investment-related trade publications (neither with any connection whatsoever to manufactured housing and land lease communities) published informative and insightful articles on this timely housing topic; titled:
‘Is Single-Family Build-to-Rent a True Missing Middle (housing market) Solution?’ Subtitled: ‘The model quickly delivers the right kind of housing….’ P.24 of Multifamily Executive magazine.
‘Housing Market Trends Fuel Single-family Home Rentals’, i.e. “…the star of the real estate show today (2021-2022) is the build-to-rent space.’ Alex Veiga writing for the Associated Press.
Well, as manufactured housing executives and land lease community owners/operators well know, the industry and realty asset class, ‘for decades’ has been active, in and out of the single-family home rental business! Rental manufactured homes were commonplace in (then) manufactured home communities in the 1970s, until consolidation prevailed and it became easier to sell a ‘community’ occupied by tenant-owned homes, not rental units. And, it’s also well known that manufactured homes have oft been purchased for placement on privately-owned realty (e.g. farms), to be rented out to family members and transient labor. Today or more accurately since year 2010 +/-, manufactured housing is back in the rental home business, with new HUD-Code homes routinely sold into land lease communities and used as rental units. Here, think Sun Communities, RHP Properties, YES! Communities and others. For that matter, quoting from the 32nd (& final) ALLEN REPORT, circa 2021, “26 of 92 respondents (to this survey) confirm the presence of 26,528 rental homes on-site in their communities, for an average of 1,020 rental homes per (reporting) portfolio.”
Here’s the enigma (‘riddle, anything puzzling’): Given the widely recognized need for affordable single-family housing throughout the U.S. today, and the seeming solution being new rental units (a.k.a. ‘build to rent homes’), why are developers of new housing tracts not flocking to factory-built housing in general, HUD-Code manufactured housing in particular, especially the relatively recent CrossMod™ design?
Before I proffer an answer to that tripartite question, let’s take a look at what non-manufactured housing real estate observers and pundits are writing and saying on the matter.
Today, only 5.4 percent of the single-family rental housing national market is cornered by REITs and investors (not Mom & Pop investors – who account for an even larger market share of ‘rentals’) who’re focused on renting single-family homes they’ve acquired. They are now (maybe) being joined by builders eyeing this entry market to affordable housing, having built 47,000 new homes during the past four quarters.
Here’re some miscellaneous points from the aforementioned trade publication articles:
“The missing middle – defined here as households who earn between 80% & 120% of the area median income (‘AMI’), occupies a difficult position in the housing market. In many areas, households at this level do not qualify for subsidized housing, cannot afford the housing options in a given (local housing) market, and have very little in the way of smaller-scale housing options from which to choose.” P.24. This comment relates to the first article title quoted earlier.
What’s causing this inability of prospective homebuyers and renters to find affordable housing? “…a perfect storm of causes, among them high land prices, building material prices, and regulatory considerations that drive builders toward larger and more elaborate homes in order to justify the cost of a purchase.” P.24.
So, “…single-family build-to-rent has emerged as an asset class that delivers precisely what this (middle) group wants. Scalable built-to-rent models provide what developers are rarely incentivized to build – small-scale housing, attached or detached, with lower barriers to access than the single-family for-sale market.” P.24. And who routinely designs and fabricates small-scale housing to a preemptive national building code? HUD-Code manufactured housing!
OK, back to ‘an answer to that question’ about developers not flocking to purchase and use HUD-Code manufactured housing as single-family rental housing. What follows is my opinion, honed during 40+ years as an observer of manufactured housing and land lease community owner/operator:
• To begin with, developers simply do not know who we are, nor do they understand how and why HUD-Code manufactured housing is so affordable, and how it answers today’s housing needs – especially in the middle market.
• The business mindsets characteristic of site-built housing and manufactured housing pros are different, as different as learning to fly a single engine airplane versus a commercial airliner. Manufactured housing execs are hyper-sensitive to every cost factor that increases product cost. Site-builders, on the other hand, oft seem happy to include cost increase factors, often faddish, that lead to ‘bigger box = bigger bucks’ home sale prices.
• Then there are the conceptual and practical differences between building custom homes stick-by-stick, by dint of employing cost saving principles of inventory control, mass production, in—plant climate control, and use of skilled but casual labor, throughout the building process.
Bottom line? We have never been very good, as an industry or realty asset class, at marketing ourselves across housing and community types and lines. Folk simply do not know about us; and when they do, they certainly do not understand what makes us tick. Until that changes, we will remain, sad to say, ‘dead in the water’ as a comprehensive housing provider, especially to the underserved middle market!
Consequence? Again, there’s a major need for our housing type and communities on the national scene these days, and it will continue to be unmet until we, including our national advocates, educate site-builders and developers as to why our product perfectly fills their need for affordable, single-family rental housing!
1. Right up front, let’s agree on the official definition of affordable housing. “Housing is Affordable when an individual or household’s Annual Gross Income (‘AGI’), or local housing market’s Area Median Income (‘AMI’) – identified by postal zip code and available online via zipho.com, can lease a conventional apartment and or buy a home in this local housing market, using no more than 30 percent of said AGI, or AMI, for shelter and related household (utility) expenses. For example; a $50,000 AGI/AMI X .3 Housing Expense Factor or HEF =$15,000/year or $1,250/month, available for rent or mortgage PITI (principal, interest, taxes, insurance) and household expenses.” Note. Not all lenders include household expenses in this calculation.” Quoted from EducateMHC’s Resource Document titled: ‘Solving Our Nation’s (Lack of) Affordable Housing Crisis, with Factory-built Housing & Land Lease Communities’, by George Allen, CPM, and MHM.
George Allen, CPM™Emeritus, MHM™Master
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