Manufactured Homes Poised to Help Solve America’s Housing Crisis

Nationwide, there’s an estimated shortage of about 3.8 million housing units. The shortfall has many causes, but it stems largely from a construction slowdown that began in 2008 during the Great Recession and never regained the momentum to meet present-day needs.

There are repercussions for nearly everyone looking for a place to live – buyers can’t afford ever-increasing prices, and renters face escalating rents. Apartments are scarce, too, especially for lower-income renters, according to a recent study by the National Multifamily Council and the National Apartment Association. Three states alone, California, Florida, and Texas will require 1.5 million new apartments by 2035, the study found. As supply chain bottlenecks persist and interest rates and borrowing costs rise, the housing shortage could worsen without intervention.

Because manufactured homes are built on an assembly line, they are less expensive and faster to construct. They’re seen as essential for providing new high-quality housing for lower and middle-income buyers who may have been priced out of site-built homes or expensive rental markets. Many housing experts see factory-built homes as an effective way of meeting current housing needs, especially in rural areas.


Manufactured Home – Half The Cost Of Site-Built

“The importance of manufactured housing for addressing our current affordability crisis is just immense because manufactured housing is half the cost to build of traditional site-built construction,” said Esther Sullivan, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado Denver and the author of “Manufactured Insecurity.” a book that examines challenges faced by residents of American mobile home parks. “I’m not trying to say it’s perfect… but there’s just a lot of opportunity to capitalize on the cost savings that come from factory production.

The average factory-built home costs $106,000 to build, compared with $351,000 for site-built homes, said Leslie Gooch, chief executive officer of the Manufactured Housing Institute, a trade organization that in June exhibited some of the industry’s newer home models on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The techniques used in factory-built homes are the difference between $72 and $140 per square foot in construction costs, Gooch said, though some of those estimates, as with all construction, may have increased recently because of inflation and supply chain issues.


“Cheaper Doesn’t Mean Shoddier”

“Cheaper doesn’t mean it’s shoddier,”  Gooch said. Factory-built homes are constructed on an assembly line with the precision and quality that comes from a controlled building environment, she said. They also must meet the national construction and safety standards of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has building inspectors on site in factories.

“Sometimes people have preconceived notions about what a manufactured home is,” she said. “That notion is not what’s being produced today.”

Manufactured homes are factory-built structures built after the 1976 HUD Codes. Before that, they were called mobile homes or trailers, terms no longer a part of federal law or common usage. Manufactured homes are delivered in one piece, unlike other forms of factory home construction built mostly in a factory but assembled from multiple components on site and subject to local building codes.

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