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JD Harper – Manufactured Housing Assoc Exec Director – Sounds Off on Zoning & HUD Failure to Enforce Preemption

Tony, thanks for the opportunity to comment on the actions of the City of Stuttgart relating to the placement of manufactured/modular homes within the city’s boundaries.

This action by the city – like most others we encounter – is a reaction to the response of residents to a factory-built home being placed in a residential zone.

City officials look at the placement of the home as a mistake – something that should be remedied and not allowed to happen again – rather than as the right of a resident to exercise his/her housing choice on land that is zoned for single-family housing.

With 500 cities and incorporated towns in Arkansas – it is increasingly difficult for a one-person staff to keep up with all of the ordinances and regulations being enforced by local governments.

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While Arkansas does have a law that prohibits cities from banning manufactured homes or restricting their placement to only leased-land in parks or communities – most cities view factory-built structures through the same prism as billboards, cell towers and sexually-oriented businesses… something to be avoided if at all possible, but restricted and heavily regulated if allowed at all.

It has been our organization’s policy over the past two decades to offer assistance to cities as they address manufactured/modular housing placement within their boundaries – and not to ‘pick fights’ with cities to force factory-built homes into areas where they would not be compatible with surrounding structures or have values consistent with other forms of housing.

I’ve told many city officials that I don’t believe that manufactured homes belong on every lot in every zone in every town – but I DO believe there are MANY lots in MANY towns which restrict manufactured homes where a factory-built residence would provide access to decent, affordable housing for working Arkansans — without having an adverse impact on surrounding property values or the quality of life in that neighborhood.

The larger question is why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has failed to embrace its duty to encourage inclusive zoning and acceptance of a Federally-regulated housing product.

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Image credit, MHProNews.

Recent efforts to urge HUD regulators to update outdated and obsolete guidance and policy relating to the preemptive nature of the HUD program – even after the 2000 Act which ‘strengthened preemption’ – calling for preemption to be ‘broadly and liberally construed – have fallen upon deaf ears within the Department. [See attached letter to HUD officials].

Thanks for allowing me to vent. ##

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Photo credit: LinkedIn.

JD Harper
Executive Director
Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association
1123 South University – Suite #720
Little Rock, AR 72204

(Editor’s Note: This is a widespread issue that Harper is addressing in this Op-Ed. He is spot on with his statement that HUD has routinely failed to enforce the enhanced preemption under the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000). See a related article, linked here. MHIA 2000 download, linked here.)

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