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Update on “FEMA In-Community Housing Relief”

Editor’s Note: Spencer Roane is keeping us updated on the task force behind using manufactured homes as a part of post-tornado solutions to housing.

Tony and Catherine,

Here’s a note which we sent to FEMA, GEMA (Georgia counterpart), and various others with whom we hope to work on the idea of using vacant land lease community sites for disaster relief. It may also serve as an update for your readers.

From the time of David Roden’s first report here on May 7 – Manufactured Homes Could Be Part of Post-Tornado Solution in Georgia – our task force has continued to pursue the use of manufactured housing as an option in disaster situations. We are currently working to schedule a meeting of the Georgia Disaster Housing Task Force to explore issues of common interest. In the meantime, allow me to identify the players in this effort at this juncture:

The Georgia Manufactured Housing Association (GMHA) represents the interests of all segments of manufactured housing in Georgia, including manufacturers, transporters, retailers, communities, lenders and suppliers. Jay Hamilton is our executive director. He is new to the position, but has extensive experience in the industry. His office phone is 770-955-4522. David Roden is a community owner (CO) and active member of GMHA. Steve Case and Spencer Roane are also community owners who serve as community representatives on the GMHA board.

Our national organization is Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) in Washington, DC. Thayer Long is president. MHI formed a task force to work with FEMA on the design of MHs for disaster relief and to advance the concept of placing disaster relief homes in land lease communities (LLCs, aka mobile home parks). Lois Starkey is the primary contact at MHI for this program. Spencer serves as one of several community owners on the MHI task force. Several members of that task force attended the “Industry Day” Seminar with FEMA personnel in Washington DC on June 7. We will learn more about that meeting next week.

David volunteered in the cleanup effort after the April tornadoes struck Georgia and Alabama and subsequently proposed that MHs be located on vacant lots in LLCs for use by disaster victims. Since then he and Spencer have been exploring that concept with MHI, GMHA, FEMA, GEMA, and community owners across the country. Several relatively recent developments in our industry have come together to make this more feasible than ever:

• Most LLCs have 5-15% vacancy rates, mainly as a result of the economic slowdown and the same finance meltdown that affected conventional housing. “Best guess” at this point is that there are about 200,000 vacant LLC lots across the country.
• As COs have sought to fill vacant lots with new MHs, many manufacturers have begun building “Community Series” homes (CSHs). George Allen and Don Westphal have worked closely with Business Development Managers (BDMs) with most manufacturers to develop this concept. These are generally lower priced, single-section, usually 16’ wide by 70-80’ long, 3 Br 2 Ba, vinyl sided, shingle roof, with attractive exterior and interior features. INSERT PHOTOS OF TWO CSH HOMES. The cost of these attractive, functional homes is about $25,000, delivered to the LLC. Setup, utility connections, A/C, skirting, and decks add about $10,000 more to the cost.

 

Community Series Home 1

 

Community Series Home 2

 

• To provide quick and efficient support to disaster victims, a database of available home sites which are in close proximity to a disaster is a necessity. Several alternatives exist in Georgia and elsewhere:
• The Community Attributes System (CAS) was developed as a joint effort between MHI and Datacomp, which also owns the Internet marketing site “MH Village.” Dan Rinzema is president of Datacomp. Although the database contains approximately 40,000 land lease communities (LLCs) across the country, much of the information is outdated. The website is www.mhicas.org.
• We just learned of another database which serves Georgia and 29 other states. The Georgia service is Georgia Housing Search.Org.  We understand that it currently contains about 170,000 rental listings, including manufactured homes, LLC lots, site-built houses, and apartments, and experiences 8,000 – 9,000 searches per day for available rentals. The parent non-profit organization is www.socialserve.com. The services are apparently funded by state or federal agencies and are free to landlords and prospective tenants. We’re still collecting information on both.
• Some real estate brokers and agents who specialize in LLCs have surveyed many LLCs in states in which they broker properties. Max Baker, a GMHA member and agent with Marcus & Millichap, recently compiled a database of about 900 LLCs in Georgia ranging in size from a few lots to about 500. We know there are others elsewhere with similar LLC data who are willing to participate in this disaster housing relief effort.

Since CSH homes are compatible with other homes in LLCs, COs would be glad to have them moved into their LLCs for disaster relief, provided the CO screens the new resident as he/she would any other resident. Also, since COs want homes to remain in the LLC, they would be willing to purchase the MH after FEMA/GEMA use. This would seem to be an efficient, cost-effective “exit strategy” for FEMA since the homes would not have to be moved to a storage facility, rehabbed, and stored for the next emergency.

We welcome the opportunity to work with GEMA, FEMA and others to implement this program. We are planning a meeting of about 100 COs in the Atlanta area in mid-October and would be glad to have someone from GEMA and/or FEMA discuss this program at that meeting. We also encourage FEMA to contact George Allen who holds an annual meeting (Roundtable) of COs across the country in mid-September. This year’s meeting will be in San Antonio, Texas. It would be an excellent means of publicizing this program on a national basis. # #

David Roden, davidroden@yahoo.com, 423-760-4819
Spencer Roane, spencer@roane.com, cell ph. 678-428-0212

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