Are Manufactured Homes An Affordable Housing Solution?

By Ashley Kritzer | The Business Journals

In rural Florida, a new development could offer one solution to the nation’s affordable housing crisis: a built-to-rent community populated with manufactured homes.

ERC Communities, led by Jerry Ellenburg, is about to begin horizontal construction on a 60-unit manufactured housing project in Zephryhills, the small city 30 miles northeast of Tampa best known for its eponymous bottled water.

Ellenburg’s model is a twist on traditional manufactured housing developments; typically, occupants of those developments own their homes but pay rent to the landlord on a ground lease.

And don’t call it a trailer park; the terms “trailer” and “mobile home” haven’t been used to describe manufactured housing since the mid-1970s, when federal standards for construction of the homes were established.

“These people are going to be paying in the mid-$1,700s (per month) for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that’s just short of 1,400 square feet,” Ellenburg told The Business Journals. “Compare that to a home or garden-style apartment — that would be way into the $2,000s.”

Rising interest rates have made home ownership less attainable, flooding the rental market with tenants who want more space but can’t afford to purchase a single-family home. The median sale price of a home in the U.S. was $428,006 in June — up 11% from the previous June, according to Redfin.

At the same time, rents have never been higher: the median monthly asking rent in the U.S. surpassed $2,000 for the first time in May, according to Redfin. By comparison, the average sales price of a manufactured home was $128,000 in February, according to U.S. Census data released in early July.

But even with rents and homeownership costs skyrocketing, manufactured housing has “fallen outside of the consumer’s radar” in some markets, said Norm Sangalang, senior vice president with CBRE Group Inc.’s national manufactured housing and RV resorts specialty practice.

“This is probably one of the more natural, organic types of attainable housing,” said Sangalang, who is based in San Diego.

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