Boy, it is nice when I get to share good news. Wins for the industry and sharing good news are probably the two best parts of my job, and fortunately for me, those two things almost always go together.
Last night in Huntsville, Texas, the city council reversed course on what started out looking like another bad news day. A couple of weeks ago the city council met and voted on first reading (they need two readings to make ordinance changes official) to prohibit all manufactured homes from being sited on a lot within the city limits. Initially they had a small exception for homes going inside communities and for replacement of existing manufactured homes, which incidentally is state law that TMHA worked to get passed years ago. But other than those two limited exceptions, no more manufactured homes.
The first reading vote was 5 – 2 in favor of the MH prohibition.
A local reporter covering the council wrote a story about the proposed prohibition, and Jenny Hodge with MHI emailed me alerting me about what the council was proposing. We then pulled titling records and retailer selling records and started contacting retailers with a selling presence in Huntsville. Thanks to Rob here at TMHA, we were also able to gather some telling data about manufactured housing in Huntsville. Specifically, we learned that from 2011 to 2014 a total of 843 manufactured homes were sold with the city of Huntsville listed in their address. MH presence aside the demographics were incredibly telling of a city in real need of more affordable housing, not less. The median income of a household in Huntsville is $27,362 per year. Of the existing housing in the city 16.6 percent is more than 45 years old. Housing supply, specifically affordable housing supply, is clearly constrained because nearly two-thirds of Huntsville residents are renters and in this large renter category 61.8 percent spend more than 35 percent of their monthly income on their rent. To consider further limitations on sources of affordable housing seems illogical.
But as we all know this isn’t a logic puzzle, it’s politics. Because this was one of the more rare instances where we actually found out about a proposal before it was final we were able to inform our retailers who would be adversely impacted by the proposed prohibition. From there those retailers and other citizens who turned up last night at the council meeting to testify against the proposed ordinance took over – and did all the heavy political lifting I might add.
We cannot thank Gary Adamek with Reliable Homes and Les Stone with Clayton Homes enough for the work they did, the time they spent, and the persuasive testimony they provided last night. These retailers and the results they secured in a near complete reversal by the council (they voted unanimously to continue to allow MH within city limits) once again demonstrates the power of engaged, passionate, local advocacy.
Again, when it comes to local (city and county) politics it is imperative that local constituents and businesses are there to advocate for their industry. When this happens in a timely manner the industry’s chances of securing a victory increase many fold.
I hope that Gary and Les’ success last night serves as an example to all those in our industry about the power of local political engagement.
Everyone has heard the term, “it takes a village,” and that applies to political advocacy. The power of timely information coupled with individuals willing to engage locally on behalf of their interests, the interests of the industry, and the interests for consumers who want affordable housing options, can prevail when properly deployed. I’m happy to report such a deployment occurred last night. ##