What other industry that has existed for over 40 years, and still struggles with the proper terminology about its product?
Have you ever heard of anyone use the term ‘crank phone with a land-line,’ when describing a modern smart phone?
Or who calls a modern E-Class Mercedes by the name, ‘Model T?’
Those are a little like what the manufactured housing industry has allowed to happen for far too many decades, when the industry accepts terms like ‘mobile home,’ or worse, ‘trailer house in a trailer park’ when it comes to manufactured homes and the industry’s land-lease communities.
Earlier today, a simple Google search revealed the “definition” shown above. This has issue has ripple effects for home owners, those considering a manufactured home, and all others too.
“Home Sweet Home” – Assistant Mayor Wants to End Housing Choice Stigma – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Portsmouth, New Hampshire assistant mayor Jim Splaine is doing what he can to put an end to the stigma that’s often felt by people who live in manufactured homes. Too often, the areas where manufactured homeowners live are improperly referred to as ” trailer parks.”
Examples of what educated Americans who own a manufactured home, including an assistant mayor, have had to say about this subject are linked above and below.
Taking on the Trash Talk! Are People Defined by their Housing Choice? Video, Photos – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Lois Requist is retired. She’s an author, and the former Benicia, CA poet laureate. She recently moved into a manufactured home in a community in San Francisco metro. Terry Reynolds has a manufactured home too. Reynolds and his wife own a triple sectional, Requist has a more modest, yet still appealing, multi-sectional.
If you think it doesn’t matter, then you haven’t talked to, or read enough, articles and interviews with manufactured home (MH) owners. For years, a common refrain has been that manufactured home owners don’t want to have their home called a “trailer,” or have their community called a “trailer park,” because it makes them feel like “trailer trash.” So why – 42 years after the HUD Code created manufactured housing – does this nomenclature problem persist?
The publishers of MHProNews – almost alone in the MH industry, in conjunction with our sister-site, MHLivingNews and a few industry voices – has periodically tackled this topic for years, as the linked articles reflect.
The last Foremost survey indicates that the use of the term “trailer” and “mobile home” are on the rise, so those of you that follow the news are not imagining that the proper terms – manufactured home, or manufactured housing – aren’t growing.
We’ve asked industry voices to sound off on this issue from time to time. Some examples of what industry pros have said, past and present, are found below.
While Frank Rolfe has admitted on stage to contradicting himself on this issue, even he knows that the terminology matters, but he is correct that this is association work that should be done.
Because the video below makes that point, though we’d argue that the shrewd move long-term view is to routinely use the correct terminology.
The Media has Responsibility, but So Does the Industry’s Members
We’ve brought the topic periodically to the attention of the Arlington, VA based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) for years, as have others.
We’ve also asked several mainstream publishers and news outlets if MHI has followed up with them, questioning their improper use of terminology, data, or other issues.
Thus far, not a single publication or news source has answered that affirmatively. Rephrasing, MHI routinely fails to address the terminology issue. It fits the hit that Frank Rolfe laid on them for not defending the industry, and its image.
Keep in mind, MHI are the ones for the multi-million dollar budget for this task. It was part of what MHI’s ‘leadership’ said would occur before they brought on board their first – and now, reportedly second – public relations professional.
So, we asked Mark Weiss at MHARR, his thoughts on this topic of terminology. He said the following, which is followed by what U.S. Legal says about the issue, and what some select quotes from the Code of Ethics from the Society of Professional Journalism (SPJ).
“The definition of “manufactured home” in our federal law, as well as all of the other statutorily-defined terms, is extremely important to the industry and consumers as well. That term or “manufactured housing” distinguishes federally-regulated manufactured homes, which are subject to uniform, binding, preemptive federal construction and safety standards,” said Mark Weiss, J.D., President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR).
He said, “A manufactured home is the only federally regulated construction standard, which makes them unique from other types of structures that are either not federally-regulated, or not regulated at all, or are not designed or intended for use as a “dwelling.”
“The use of any other term, by either uninformed or deliberately maligning media, academics, industry critics, or others, is not only inaccurate, but a disservice to the public,” per Weiss. “The deliberate misuse of terminology can also be offensive to the millions who proudly own a manufactured home, or the tens of thousands who work in our industry.”
“Insofar as production is regulated at the federal level, under a law that specifically uses and defines the term “manufactured housing,” this is more often a post-production issue that needs to be addressed and fought by those who deal directly with the public,” said Weiss to MHProNews. “At that post-product level, it is vital to make sure that today’s manufactured homes are not confused with other types of structures that offer lower-quality, lower levels of safety, or are otherwise misrepresented to the public and/or government entities.”
What does U.S. Legal Say?
Here below is an extended quote from U.S. Legal about the legal definition of manufactured homes.
“Manufactured Home Law and Legal Definition
The Manufactured Housing program is a national program established to protect the health and safety of the owners of manufactured (mobile) homes. Under the program HUD issues, monitors, and enforces federal manufactured home construction and safety standards. HUD’s authority is granted under The National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974, 42 U.S.C. 5401 et seq.; 24 CFR Part 3280 and Part 3282.
A manufactured home is defined by the regulations of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as housing that is essentially ready for occupancy upon leaving the factory and being transported to a building site. Other factory build homes, that require a significant amount of construction on site before they are ready for occupancy do not fall under the HUD definition. The following is a portion of a federal statute defining manufactured homes:
“Manufactured home” means a structure, transportable in one or more sections, which, in the traveling mode, is eight body feet or more in width or forty body feet or more in length, or, when erected on site, is three hundred twenty or more square feet, and which is built on a permanent chassis and designed to be used as a dwelling with or without a permanent foundation when connected to the required utilities, and includes the plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, and electrical systems contained therein; except that such term shall include any structure which meets all the requirements of this paragraph except the size requirements and with respect to which the manufacturer voluntarily files a certification required by the Secretary and complies with the standards established under this chapter”
All of these quotes and sources should convince any journalist that this isn’t an optional matter.
Society of Professional Journalism, Code of Ethics: Select Quotes:
“Ethical journalism should be accurate and fair,” said the Society of Professional Journalism (SPJ). “Journalists should be honest and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
- – Take responsibility for the accuracy of their work
- – Remember that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.
- – Provide context. Take special care not to misrepresent or oversimplify in promoting, previewing or summarizing a story.
- – Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
- – Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
There’s more, but those above serve to prove the point for serious writers, journalists, producers, and editors.
Accuracy matters. Rarely can one point to as common a misuse of terminology occurs.
MHI arguably ought to be pushed, shamed and/or otherwise prompted into doing what it’s leaders promised with regards to engaging the media on each and every problematic story.
Isn’t this terminology and media engagement issues yet another example of the alleged failures by MHI to serve the industry’s obvious needs? Shouldn’t the array of industry voices, including several of their past or current own members, as well as those outside of their membership, be considered and cause MHI to act to pro-actively address this problem?
While other issues, like regulations, zoning, financing and the like matter, few others could be as useful as getting the mainstream media and third-party researchers to simply use the correct terminology, and accurate information.
It should be part of the mantra of every good post-production entity. Doing so would in time rally manufactured homeowners. Accurate information and nomenclature could accomplish more over time do than a multi-million dollar campaign could accomplish.
But the media’s and academia’s role in giving the proper respect to manufactured home owners is important.
Some of the reasons to respects, and support, manufactured home owners and the industry are outlined in the article linked above. That linked article above is useful, because it is on a mainstream media site. You can share that and MHLivingNews.com with those who just ‘don’t get it’ about manufactured housing.
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