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Tara Reardon

George 'Mac' McCarthy speaks at the Lincoln Institute

By Tara Reardon

A respected voice and advocate for low-income families promotes manufactured housing as a smart, affordable housing solution.

We at ROC-NH and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund embrace manufactured housing in resident-owned communities (ROCs) as an affordable, safe and secure housing solution.

My peers across the nation, all Certified Technical Assistance Providers (CTAPs) under the ROC USA umbrella, share that sentiment. But I don't know how widely accepted it is even throughout N.H., home to 114 thriving ROCs.

I believe that someday everyone in N.H. will know or work with somebody who lives in a ROC, or will live in one themselves. For now, though, there is a lingering perception that manufactured housing is somehow sub-par housing.

At the end of June, a few of us were invited to join patrons of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge Mass. to hear its president and CEO, George (Mac) McCarthy lecture on, "From Social Stigma to Housing Solution: The Case for Manufactured Housing."

Mac's resume is impressive, including a Ph.D. in economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master's degree in economics from Duke University and a stint at the Ford Foundation that focused on using homeownership to build wealth for low-income families and their communities. He is well respected and has the attention of many in the land-policy world. The overview of his lecture was as follows:

It is a little known fact that manufactured housing homes built in factories to meet the HUD Code, the only national building code in the world represents the largest unsubsidized affordable housing stock in U.S.

While efficient manufacturing reduces production costs and high density, low-impact development promotes smart growth, newer homes often outperform site-built housing in both quality and design.

Almost 8 million families, with a median income of $29,000, reside in manufactured homes. And yet, with a few notable exceptions, affordable housing practitioners remain ignorant of, or are openly hostile toward, this housing stock instead of embracing it as a potential solution to affordable housing challenges.

George W. McCarthy, president and CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, will report on the work of a group of plucky social entrepreneurs who embarked on a Quixotic effort to transform the manufactured housing sector and the unexpected results of their efforts to preserve and expand this essential component of the national affordable housing stock.

Mac's lecture did not disappoint. Followers of the plucky social entrepreneurs, a/k/a ROC USA, silently nodded as he evidenced his assertion in slide after slide. We know the story and have lived the evidence.

But I was struck and encouraged by the interest and questions of the remainder of the audience, land-policy wonks who were intrigued and eager to learn more about manufactured housing.

I hope Mac keeps talking to the friends of the Lincoln Institute and beyond, introducing them to this "new" sector of affordable housing.

Tara Reardon is Director of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's ROC-NH program.

ROC-NH™ is a program of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, Inc. and a ROC USA® Certified Technical Assistance Provider.
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