In the Western U.S. town of Garden Valley, Idaho, the lowest price listing or a house is for a $340,000 pre-HUD Code 1971 mobile home on a modest-sized piece of land. Other listings go as high as $2 million dollars, according to local realtor Jim Jardine and nearby KTVB 7 News. It is one of any number of hot housing markets in the U.S. It is not, per local sources, a resort town. Starting from the lens of that local example, this report and analysis will examine the facts and figures from a range of housing connected and media organizations. It will paint a robust picture of the opportunities and challenges for affordable HUD Code manufactured homes near the 2021 mid-year mark.
“Garden Valley is a small community nestled along the Payette River, just east of Banks, in the Boise National Forest. The small town doesn’t have any ski resorts or lake-side cabins like many other small towns in Blaine County and Valley County but this Boise County community is also dealing with a housing crisis of its own,” said KTVB 7.
As the map reflects, it is a rather remote part of Idaho. Reports from several Western states reveal a steady exodus of residents from areas where high costs, rising crime, high taxes, and other woes are causing a steady stream to leave for ‘lower cost’ states and areas.
The listing snapshot for the home KTVB 7 is reporting on is shown below. It is a pre-HUD Code mobile home, not a post-HUD Code manufactured home.
Per KTVB 7, Real estate broker Jim Jardine, who has been selling homes in the area for the last 20 years, Garden Valley’s market is, “limited, it’s difficult to find housing, it’s expensive.” Jardine said he’s never seen anything like it anywhere. That may be so, but it is hardly unique. In fact, the limiting nature of the housing supply is one reason that economists say is driving up the cost of housing. More on that further below.
Joni Powell is a veteran schoolteacher. She has been offered a job to teach at the Garden Valley School District. But there are no rentals, she says. And the school has offered jobs that have been turned down by other prospective teachers because of the lack of affordable homes.
That local view may have higher prices and tighter inventory than some areas, but it is part of a broader national pattern. Left-of-center CNN has noted in their real estate market reporting bidding wars in various markets.
In one case since that report linked above, CNN noted that a buyer offered $1 million dollars over asking price. This surge in housing costs ought to be an opportunity for HUD Code manufactured home builders. It is also a potential opportunity for other factory builders. Some background information from a range of sources will illustrate that point. That portion of this report will follow two of numerous possible third-party research reports. All of these shed light on what could potentially be the best chances for manufactured housing to get out of low gear in years. Note that the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Research includes their on the record statements to MHProNews about the manufactured home portions of their latest research.
Beyond Garden Valley, Idaho – the Bigger National Housing Picture in
Mid-July 2021 and
Normally ‘reliable’ sources on mainstream housing agree that millions of new units are needed in order to meet the demand a slow the upward pressures on housing costs. But there is an odd discrepancy in just how many housing units are needed.
For example, Freddie Mac recently said that 3.8 million housing units are needed. The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) cited their data, while likewise noting that others sources claim significantly more new homes are needed in the U.S.
For example, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cited data that claims the need is about 5.5 million housing units. That June 16, 2021 WSJ item said that “U.S. builders added 1.225 million new housing units, on average, each year from 2001 to 2020, according to the report…”
But it was not so long ago that the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, PhD., said the need is closer to 8.3 million. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) have previously said that some 7.1 million new affordable housing units are required. The quote below was uploaded on December 16, 2017. There is no report MHProNews has seen that indicates that production has at any time in the last 4 years exceeded the demand. The focus of this report is not to answer the obvious question, why is there no uniformity from sources on this production/supply/shortage issue. But rather, this illustrates that there are a range of normally reliable sources that have been millions of units apart in their respective estimates.
Whatever the more precise number of new housing that is needed, it is in the millions of units. And as MHProNews uniquely noted yesterday, there are supposedly some 3 million migrants – legal and illegally coming to the U.S. in 2021. Those new arrivals will obviously put more pressure on an already stubborn shortage. Given that the WSJ says that the average production level for conventional builders is some 1.225 million units per year, even with 3 or 4 people per household, there will be no headway made this year, based on stick building potential. Additionally, there are normally more births than deaths in the U.S. annually.
At one level, the wide gap in the need for millions of new homes, and conventional builders unable to keep up, that might be good news for HUD Code manufactured homes. It might also be seen as good news for modular factory-builders too.
However, the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA) Executive Director Tom Hardiman has publicly ripped the Biden housing plan. Instead of touting opportunities, he recently sounded the alarm on the ways that production could be harmed by the pending plans.
Hardiman’s analysis specifically claims the Biden plan would harms his factory builders. He further asserted that it is packed with items that could undermine independent producers. He accused the Biden plan of making the plan one filled with political payoffs harmful to new factory builders interests. In other words, his concerns apply to manufactured housing, not just modular builders.
By contrast, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) looked at the same Biden plan, saying they would ‘study it.’ MHI has publicly raised no alarms in messages to their members. To see that diametrically distinct response between MHI’s vs MHBA’s reactions and reasoning, click the link above.
It should be obvious that if the MHBA is sounding the alarm based upon solid evidence, that MHI ought to be concerned too.
The independent HUD Code home producers’ focused Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has raised an array of concerns that MHI has been downplaying or largely mute on.
However, when the history of MHI is carefully examined in the Berkshire era of manufactured housing, several questionable – and vexing – items come into focus. More on that further below. But first, some added information from an MHI “coalition” partners are warranted. Because the following demonstrates more direct evidence of opportunities, but also reveal looming threats too. In order to do a reasonable SWOT style analysis on the state of manufactured housing near the midyear report, several different elements are necessary.
On July 18, 2021, the National Housing Conference (NHC) sent the following in an emailed news item to MHProNews. It is worth mentioning that the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) is an NHC member.
On Wednesday, the NHC member the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported a 16% increase in mortgage applications after several weeks of dropping numbers. The same day, Redfin reported a decrease in bidding wars in June. Joel Kan, MBA’s vice president of economic and industry forecasting, stated that lower mortgage rates may be helping homebuyers, particularly first-time homebuyers, close on their purchases.
This may seem like good news for first-time buyers who have been struggling in the intense housing market, often being priced out by cash buyers. However, there is concern that less competition is due to buyer burnout and lower-income buyers getting pushed out of the process entirely when they can’t compete. The lack of affordable homes available for purchase remains a key driver to these issues.”
That same email NHC email included an NHC plug for a package of Democratic housing proposals that included this reference. The linked item includes several MHI ‘coalition partner’ members and an MHI member.
Finally, the Downpayment Toward Equity Act would provide $100 million towards downpayment assistance for first-generation homebuyers, aiming to close the racial wealth gap by increasing homeownership for underserved groups. Housing groups are largely supportive of the housing legislation package. With NHC President and CEO David Dworkin sharing, “NHC strongly supports the Downpayment Toward Equity Act, which creates an innovative and impactful down payment assistance program focused on first generation homebuyers. This bill is targeted to help those who have been left out of the American Dream. Lack of downpayment is one of the leading barriers to homeownership. Lack of intergenerational family wealth is a major contributor to the difficulty of many qualified families to purchase their first home. This legislation is an important part of a comprehensive approach to creating real and lasting equality in housing opportunity.”
To other proposals in that package provide more financial support that essentially benefits conventional housing, multifamily housing, site builders, and landlords.
NHC also informed their readers and members about this outreach to the Biden team. It is a focus on supply chain disruptions, notably lumber. Lumber cost have skyrocketed since the COVID19 outbreak sparked lockdowns and other measures in domestic and foreign markets. While MHI periodically reminds their readers that NHC is one of their “coalition partners” in housing, MHI is oddly missing from the various housing groups that made this appeal for getting to the root issues that have sparked the boom in cost that most impact lower cost housing.
As MHProNews has previously noted, it is the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) which began its seminal “priced out” research some years ago. NHAB, hardly a friend to manufactured housing interests, noted that even a $1,000 price increase can knock about 200,000 potential manufactured housing buyers out of the market. Restated, with costs up on lumber and other items, manufactured home prices are significantly higher. Using NAHB “priced out” logic and the information from NHC yields north of 3.2 million Americans that just over a year ago that could have qualified for a new HUD Code manufactured home are no longer able to do so due to debt to income (DTI) ratio lending standards.
That is one of several obvious threats to the interests of manufactured home producers, particularly independents and the independent retailers, community owners, and developers that they serve.
MHI has apparently spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on so-called research on CrossModTMs, a focus group, etc. Despite claims that this would be popular with the public and open up higher end sales that still come in lower than conventional housing, that lofty goal has not been hit.
With that backdrop, the following is the first part of a planned multi-part series in the true state of manufactured housing today. Given that MHI claims to reflect all segments of manufactured housing today’s focus will begin with them.
In no specific order of importance.
A) MHI has been touting their partnership with a number of other housing groups. As was previously reported, MHI oddly was promoting protection for renters with groups that are often engaged in providing rental housing. While some of the larger MHI members provide rental housing, the majority of HUD Code manufactured homes are for individual home buyers.
B) Those housing groups are often the competitors of HUD Code manufactured homes. See the report linked above.
C) MHI leadership has been mute on documentary evidence provided by an apparent MHI insider that revealed that CEO Lesli Gooch has paid conflicting interests with conventional housing.
D) On paper, MHI and MHARR comments on various issues seem to be similar. However, upon closer scrutiny, MHI has the apparent connections that leverage issues that have for too long held up manufactured housing progress. To illustrate that, the following is useful.
Reporting in Tierra Grande, published by the Texas Real Estate Center, that may have aimed at buttressing Clayton Homes supported MHI claims on CrossModTMs instead.
E) Even this reasonably focused part one of our mid-year report and analysis reflects the need for a new post-production trade group that MHARR can team with. MHARR has been asking for this for several years now. Because MHI, time and again, is failing the industry at a time of potentially peak opportunities.
Numerous voices associated with MHI, and/or state affiliates have made a similar argument. Namely, that MHI is failing the industry and that a new post-production association is needed for pro-growth MHARR to partner with.
Stay tuned for Part II of this report and analysis. Because even this initial report for is sufficient to make the following clear. During a time of unprecedented opportunities and threats, opportunities and obstacles, MHI has been demonstrably failing virtually everyone, save consolidators.
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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
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