“Land of the Free”: Discriminatory Zoning Prohibits Manufactured Home Placement In Communities Across America


“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  – George Bernard Shaw

Dover, Delaware may have been “ground zero” for the campaign initiated by MH Pro News to bring public and industry attention to the blatant discrimination against the manufactured home industry.

To make a long story short, the Dover Planning and Community Development recently changed city ordinance that forever eliminated manufactured home placement in the city of Dover, Delaware. This was a result of the city issuing a permit to allow a manufactured home on a single-family lot within the city limits.

“It got some people upset, so we fixed the definition of single-family dwellings so that couldn’t happen again,” boasted Ann Marie Townsend, Director of Dover’s Planning and Community Development.

Affordable housing is America’s greatest challenge – and opportunity. Industry leaders were understandably outraged by the dismissive attitude  of Dover officials who obviously don’t wish to understand the importance and opportunity of helping their citizens partake in the uniquely American dream of affordable quality homeownership.

Dover is not an isolated situation. Local and county planning and zoning agencies across the U.S. arbitrarily rule against manufactured home placements within their jurisdictions. In fact, there are many cities and locations that have long ago adopted “home only” zones that will not even allow a manufactured home permit application, albeit, not as many as there were in the 1980’s and 90’s.

Unfortunately, manufactured housing discrimination has been institutionalized, with governments, both federal and local, media, the site built industry, and yes, even citizens who continue to disparage today’s manufactured homes.

There is at least one state where discrimination by zoning is illegal. Decades ago, following the implementation of the 1976 HUD Code standards, the state of California passed a law (SB 1968) preventing zoning agencies from discriminating against manufactured homes that complied with the same aesthetics as site built homes. That legislation was a result of the efforts of the manufactured housing association, CMHA, the predecessor of today’s California Manufactured Housing Institute, CMHI.

Discrimination also exists in the development of manufactured housing land-lease communities. Unfortunately, big city planners charged with administering  affordable housing units are opting for high density subsidized rental apartments, eschewing manufactured home communities they deem unworthy of subsidy, and/or assessing development fees, rent control and construction requirements that make the cost of development financially impractical. In many municipalities manufactured home communities are simply banned.

According to Frank Wolfe, co-owner of the 5th largest manufactured community owner in the United States, new manufactured home park construction is effectively banned in almost every major city in the U.S., “There are less than ten mobile home parks built per year in the entire nation combined.”

As investors and multi-family homebuyers across the country slowly realize the benefit of providing quality built, affordable housing for the masses – local, state, and federal agencies have increasingly made it more difficult for hard-working Americans to obtain their slice of the American dream – a.k.a. homeownership.

Working to address this critical issue over three years ago for his constituents, North Carolina Representative, Nathan Ramsey of Buncombe County proposed a piece of legislation intended to strip the North Carolina legislature of its right to restrict where mobile homes can be built.

Recommended Posts