Manufactured housing can put homeownership within reach
By Sarah Marchant
Many think the American dream of homeownership is dead for New Hampshire families with lower incomes, but that isn’t true. While prices for starter homes continue to rise, owning a manufactured home in one of New Hampshire’s 148 resident-owned communities (ROCs) is now the most affordable form of housing in the Granite State.
Our state’s leaders have been working hard to resolve the housing crisis, but incorporating manufactured housing as part of the solution is being overlooked because of stereotypes, stigma, and misinformation.
Manufactured homes—sometimes referred to as “mobile homes” because they are transported from the manufacturing facility to their permanent park lot or piece of land—offer convenient one-floor living. Newer models are attractive, energy efficient, and offer many modern features, such as cathedral ceilings and walk-in closets. Modern manufactured homes also vary in size and can be larger than 2,000 square feet.
Residents of these homes may have lower incomes, but they are important members of our community and vital to our economy. The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund has made close to 1,600 manufactured-home mortgages during the past 20 years to essential workers, seniors, veterans, young families, and people with disabilities. At your favorite grocery store they could be your cashier, stock clerk, or person behind you in line. What most people don’t realize is more than a third of the state’s 400 manufactured-home parks are resident-owned, meaning those residents have home equity and stability from the turbulent rental market.
Unfortunately, the misinformation and stereotypes about manufactured housing have also influenced our local zoning ordinances and the actions of many of our land use boards. However, a study recently commissioned by the New Hampshire Association of Realtors (NHAR) is starting to dismantle misconceptions that some municipalities have used to deny new housing developments for households with lower incomes.
For years, they’ve argued that this type of housing leads to more student enrollment and higher property taxes. "My research found that it simply isn't true. One cannot say that if you bring more children into town and they enter the public schools that the property tax will go up. It simply isn't supported by the data or by logic," says New Hampshire Professor Richard Englund, a former professor of Economics at the Peter T Paul School of Business at UNH, who conducted the study.
"To assume that is to guarantee that we're going to continue to have a housing affordability problem in New Hampshire," he says.
NHAR says denying affordable housing in a community means fewer working-age residents, which hampers the ability of employers to hire, expand their businesses, and grow the state's economy.
Our state legislature is considering a number of initiatives this year that would make a significant impact on affordable housing for New Hampshire families. One such bill, House Bill 1361 will take the Realtors’ findings to heart. Its passage would create more opportunities for manufactured-home park development and expansion.
Growing New Hampshire’s stock of manufactured homes is a viable solution to our housing crisis. Dispelling the myth about workforce housing and taxes can help that happen. So can the passage of HB 1361.
Sarah Marchant is the Community Loan Fund's Chief of Staff and Vice President of ROC-NH.