Advocacy 101: How to Make Your Voice Heard for Manufactured Housing
Ah, the beginning of December. Election season is (finally!) over, the yard signs have been tucked away and it’s time to settle into the blissful glow of the holidays. Time to avoid thinking about politics, right? Maybe—but only for a minute. January means a new season of legislative sessions at the local, state and national level, and with that comes a fresh round of issues that could impact manufactured housing on every level. Unsure about how to get involved? Read up below and make 2019 the year you become an official manufactured housing advocate.
1. Get knowledgeable about local laws—and how they might change. Zoning codes and housing laws might seem—let’s face it—a little snooze-worthy at first glance. But staying up-to-date about what’s happening in your town with these issues could make the difference between showing up to fight a new ordinance that could negatively impact your life as a manufactured housing owner—and never knowing it existed in the first place. If you’re new to advocacy (or want to help train others), Prosperity Now has created a stellar guide to advocating for manufactured housing at the local level.
2. Follow any pending state-based legislation. Each legislative session at the state-level, a bevy of new bills cycle through, with many on the docket annually that might potentially impact manufactured housing. So how do you find these bills in a sea of new, potential legislation? No matter what state you live in, there’s a way to keyword-search for freshly proposed bills, such as through the Bill Watch feature in Kentucky. Simply enter in search terms like “manufactured housing” or “prefab homes” and keep a tally on what’s happening with lawmakers.
3. Keep an eye on Washington. While federal policy is generally slow-moving—and the aftershocks of shifting legislation don’t reach local communities with as much immediacy as, say, a city council meeting—a close watch on what’s happening at the national level for manufactured housing is integral to being an informed advocate. Manufactured Housing Institute PAC does a great job of providing updates about their lobbying efforts and the latest from Capitol Hill, if you’re looking for a strong jumping off point.
4. Get your neighbors involved! If you live in a manufactured housing community, you might already know a thing or two about dabbling in (very) local politics, whether you’ve run for a seat on your ROC’s governing board or have been appointed the official bookkeeper for the community center. You also have a distinct advantage when it comes to advocating for yourself and your community: strength in numbers! If an issue impacting manufactured housing arises at the local—or even state—level, organize a field trip to lobby on your behalf. Soon you’ll see that even the shyest of voices sounds stronger (and is ready to act!) when surrounded by supportive neighbors and friends.
5. Host a town hall about manufactured housing. Many times, individuals who live in manufactured housing feel like they’re constantly having to explain the benefits of the structures to, well, just about everyone: from their doctor to the mailman and everyone in-between. And when a potentially continuous issue arises with prefab homes within a city or town, those on the opposing side of the issue tend of fall back on the crutch of worn-out stereotypes when discussing factory-made housing instead of facts.
One way to fight against this tactic is a preemptive strike of sorts: Host a free-to-the-public town hall for everyone in your community to discuss and learn more about manufactured homes from the experts (aka you). Simply rent out any sort of public space for a couple of hours—a room at the library, for example—and advertise the (ideally, low-key) event with flyers, through local newspapers and (if you’re feeling up for it) through social media or even radio ads.
The day of the town hall, treat the event as a conversation among friends: You’re helping to educate people about manufactured housing and answer questions about a topic people might not completely understand. At the end of the meeting, everyone ideally will walk away with stereotypes broken and a deeper understanding of manufactured housing in a modern light. (And maybe a second cup of coffee from the snack table!)