Attorney Andrew Justus, J.D., is a Niskanen Center Housing Policy Analyst who on 5.9.2023 published via the Washington, D.C. based The Hill Congress blog an op-ed with the headline that asked: “What’s holding back manufactured homes?” ‘What is holding the manufactured housing industry back’ is a relevant question to any manufactured home industry professional that is thinking of a longer-term career. “What’s holding back manufactured homes?” is a relevant phrasing to an inquiry that any current, past, or potential investor in the sector should explore. Justus’ headline in the Hill is a different way of expressing the inquiry: ‘why is manufactured housing underperforming during an affordable housing crisis?’ That should be an interest to taxpayers, renters, downsizers and millions of Americans from all walks of life.
Justus and the Niskanen Center are not the only organizations that have asked his pertinent question. The Urban Institute, for instance, explored that issue in 2022, though not all researchers have framed the topic as Justus did of the causes and possible remedies for the manufactured housing industry’s modest performance and how that is related to the U.S. affordable housing crisis.
Perhaps it is no surprise that neither the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), which Justus referenced, nor apparently MHI aligned trade bloggers/publishers have explored the topic Justus raised, per a search of each of their websites on 5.13.2023.
Hold those thoughts and insights in mind as this article on MHProNews sets the table for Justus’ op-ed.
Here is what the Niskanen Center says about Justus’ bio/cv.
HOUSING POLICY ANALYST
Andrew Justus is a housing policy analyst, who works on urban issues, such as housing, transportation, and infrastructure within the social policy team. Previously, he was an associate attorney at Sullivan & Barros, LLP where he worked with D.C. zoning and land use regulations for residential developments. Justus has also worked at Smart Growth America as a policy associate focusing on Complete Streets, rural development, and intercity passenger rail policy.
Justus has received his Masters in Urban and Regional Planning (M.U.R.P.) from the University of Michigan and his J.D. from Western Michigan University’s Thomas M. Cooley Law School.”
Influence Watch on 5.13.2023 reports the following about the Niskanen Center.
The Niskanen Center is a nominally libertarian 501(c)(3) environmental think tank with ties to center-left environmental groups. The Center was created in January 2015 and was initially headed by Jerry Taylor, a global warming advocate and environmental activist who authored a 2015 report The Conservative Case for a Carbon Tax. 1 Taylor later resigned in 2021, amid a domestic abuse scandal.2 The Center is named for William Niskanen, a senior economic aide to President Ronald Reagan who died in 2011. 3
The Niskanen Center for Public Policy is the 501(c)(4) lobbying arm of the Niskanen Center.”
The Money Trail
The money trail behind nonprofits may shed light on an organization’s various stances. Also per Influence Watch are some insights about the money trail, i.e.: the donor organizations that help fund the Niskanen Center. Among the 25 listed organizations that provided funding to the Niskanen Center included several described as left-of-center organizations. Some examples are shown below.
- Foundation to Promote Open Society (FPOS) [the PARENT ORGANIZATION to SOROS NETWORK (OPEN SOCIETY NETWORK)]
- Google Foundation
- Rockefeller Foundation
- William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (Non-profit)
Justus was contacted on 5.13.2023 about his column on the Hill. Insights on that inquiry are in the postscript, further below.
From the Hill is the core text from Justus’ opinion piece, provided below under fair use guidelines for media, with feature images and some other elements not included. They can be found on the Hill website at this link here.
What’s holding back manufactured homes?
BY ANDREW JUSTUS, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR
The term “manufactured housing” often comes with negative connotations: poorly maintained homes, sub-par quality, and aesthetically unappealing. This unfavorable stereotyping belies the fact that today’s HUD Code manufactured homes are not unlike the ugly duckling flourishing to a refined adulthood. Before the Code’s adoption in 1976, what were then called “mobile homes” were built to lower standards for strength, durability, and efficiency. This saddles modern manufactured homes with a poor reputation inherited from their predecessors, when in fact they offer more diverse configurations and higher-quality housing options. If Congress and other policymakers take appropriate steps to level the playing field, more manufactured homes can make their way onto the market, offering more families and individuals appealing, relatively affordable housing options.
Today there are more than 8.4 million manufactured homes across the country providing affordable, comfortable accommodations. Still, manufactured housing is underrepresented in housing policy discourse, in part because it tends to be “out of sight and out of mind” in expensive coastal cities where many policymakers and thought leaders reside.
HUD Code Manufactured Homes are, as the name implies, regulated nationally by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This central regulation is a benefit and a curse. It is a benefit because implementing uniform design standards across the country enables otherwise impossible economies of scale if these homes were required to abide by the national patchwork of state and local codes that regulate site-built homes.
On the flip side, the HUD Code can be a curse because uniform design elements — like roof slopes and a steel chassis beneath all manufactured homes — enable local zoning codes to single out manufactured homes with regulations that may appear neutral. However, these narrowly tailored rules exist to exclude these homes and their residents from areas with site-built housing.
With this context in mind, exploring how the playing field can be leveled is crucial, as it would enable manufactured homes to compete fairly with their site-built counterparts. There are several measures that Congress, state legislators, and even banking regulators can take within their domains to make the marketplace fairer.
As the regulator of interstate commerce and state restrictions, Congress can preempt unreasonable constraints on interstate commerce like New Jersey’s requirement that manufactured homes only go in designated “parks.” Congress can also use its spending power to encourage states or local governments to allow fair competition between HUD Code and site-built homes.
As the building code regulator, HUD can enable more novel designs and other innovations to allow greater flexibility in home design that blurs the distinction between manufactured and site-built homes.
States, which title real and personal property, can reform manufactured home titling practices to allow permanently sited homes to become real property. This will allow landowners to finance manufactured homes similarly to a site-built home and to eventually sell the home with the land.
Finally, financial regulators and mortgage guarantors can offer the same benefits to manufactured homeowners that site-built homeowners enjoy in the form of long mortgage terms and low down payments.
If these and additional reforms are implemented, many in the manufactured housing industry say that additional growth will come when we break out of the traditional setting for manufactured homes — that is, designated communities or “trailer parks.”
Some HUD Code homes are already appearing in places where they were, until recently, relatively scarce. HUD Code accessory dwelling units are a growing, flourishing market in states like California and Texas where state and local laws recently began allowing them. What’s more, the most recent HUD Code revisions allow greater design flexibility, and this may even extend to the possibility of multi-family units.
New developments and regulatory changes demonstrate that manufactured housing has ample room to expand in scope and into previously untapped markets. Still, that growth is contingent on establishing a playing field more level than what exists today. Once this is achieved, prospective American homeowners will have more options that will best accommodate their lifestyles and financial realities, free of the stigma that has historically — and unfairly — burdened manufactured homes and their occupants. ##
Some Initial Observations
Justus’ roughly 675-word column covers several topics that shed light on manufactured housing’s underperformance. In no specific order of importance, Justus touched on these topics.
- 1) An unjustified image for the manufactured home industry is one cause for underperformance, which is arguably an education and information (including, but not limited to, marketing) issue.
- 2) Regulatory issues, which Justus cited the role that Congress, HUD, and other public officials have or could play in resolving instead of adding to those challenges.
- 3) Manufactured home finance related issues. Note that the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has routinely pointed to zoning barriers and the uneven playing field in manufactured home finance as factors causing manufactured housing industry underperformance.
- 4) Justus mentioned ADUs and the lessons possible there. That’s an apt topic that MHProNews recently unpacked in the light of the Mercatus Center report linked below.
What is an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) or a Detached Accessory Dwelling Unit (DADU)? The Role of ADUs in Easing America’s Housing Crisis by Emily Hamilton Examined; plus, MHVille Market Updates
Justus didn’t question the apparent shortcomings of MHI in the context of the industry’s underperformance. That is a subject that is explored, directly and indirectly, in some of the reports in the recap of the headlines for the week that was, shown below.
More related to Justus’ thesis and timely topic are found in the postscript. Don’t miss them.
As a brief segue to mark the day, Happy’s Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Our society would not be as it is without you.
Mother’s Day in MHVille, America – Timeless Lessons Learned from Real World Mom Experiences
With no further adieu, here are the headlines for the week that was from 5.7 to 5.14.2023.
What’s New and Recent on MHLivingNews
What’s New and Recent from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s New and Recent on the Masthead
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
2023 ‘Excellence in Manufactured Housing Awards’ – Claims, Facts, Op-Ed Practically Writes Satirical Saturday Column on Manufactured Housing Institute’s Sly ‘Awards’ – plus, MHVille Markets Update
“Played”-Publicly Traded Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Members, MHI News Update Reveals True State of Manufactured Housing Industry in May 2023-Facts, Analysis, and MHVille Markets Update
Manufactured Housing Institute Claims ‘Effective Branding’ for ‘Manufactured Housing’-Seriously? Target Rich Satirical Saturday Examines MHI Claims, Messaging, RESULT$; plus MHVille Stocks Update
‘Potential Homebuyers on Sidelines Increasing Demand for Rentals’ – Which Markets UP, Metros Where Rents Fell – What Data Tells Affordable Manufactured Housing Pros; plus MHVille Stocks Update
National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) Moves on Warren Buffett-Berkshire Hathaway at SEC and Two Leftwing ‘Disinformation’ Nonprofits with Complaints at IRS; plus MHVille Markets Update
Cavco’s Inaugural Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report Examined – ‘Ask Questions-Raise Concerns if They Exist’ – BBB Rating, Corp History, Other Factual Insights and Evidence Explored
Warren Buffett Led Berkshire Hathaway has Over $100 Billion Available for Investing, Why That Matters to Manufactured Housing, MHEC Members Know How Gold Rules; plus Sunday Weekly Headlines Recap
MHProNews emailed two questions to Justus on the morning of 5.13.2023. After quoting his remark (in italics, below), that inquiry asked the two questions as shown.
If Congress and other policymakers take appropriate steps to level the playing field, more manufactured homes can make their way onto the market, offering more families and individuals appealing, relatively affordable housing options.
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.’
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