Idalia’s Urgent Message: Protecting Manufactured Homes Is Crucial

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One of the most memorable photos of hurricane Idalia are the trees smashed and damaged manufactured and mobile homes that lie in the aftermath of the storm -something that’s all too common throughout areas along the coast of US. As communities in Florida rebuild governments across the world need to take measures to protect an important home for affordable homes in an face changing climate.

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Nationally manufactured homes comprise about 5% of all houses occupied by residents and 7 percent in Florida as per American Housing Survey data. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is in the business of creating them (Clayton Homes) and investors of different size (private capital and trusts for real estate investments and “mom and pop” business owners) have purchased parks in recent times. In general, they are a source of affordable living for those in that is known as the Sun Belt where home prices have skyrocketed since the beginning from the outbreak.

With all the risks from climate change stopping the construction of manufactured homes isn’t an effective or ethical option. Instead, lawmakers should enhance the planning and oversight of these parks as well as the investors that manage the parks — which may often include untrustworthy and negligent operators.

The notion that manufactured homes are more prone to storms an oversimplified assumption as long as the homes meet the federal codes in force since 1994. Manufacturing homes aren’t more prone in the event of water-related damage as constructed homes, and their susceptibility to wind-related damage can be reduced by using the most effective tie-down methods. The research conducted by Kevin Grosskopf — who was at the University of Florida at the time — looked at the performance of 30,000 manufactured houses directly affected by the 2004 hurricane season. He discovered that 14% homes built prior to 1994 were destroyed. However, none of homes built after 1994 were damaged in the same way.

The issue is that the manufacturing of housing has been known due to NIMBYist municipal codes to become far removed from the traditional residential areas in the most vulnerable regions of the country. This is frequently in unincorporated counties that do not have access to crucial infrastructure. In a Texas-focused study, an array of Texas A&M and University of Colorado Denver academics discovered local authorities use single-family zoning as well as density rules as well as other tools to create a secluded community of manufactured homes and limit accessibility to social and infrastructure services as well as the risk of being exposed to dangers. “In part, it’s due to the long history of a bias towards planning against housing manufactured,” said Esther Sullivan who is one of the authors of the study and author of manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans”Tenuous right to Place.

A fair and judicious community planning is an essential element to reduce the risk of worst-case events and improve data collection and a strong communications prior to a storm. Authorities across the country must be more efficient of capturing the footprints of their manufactured home communities in order to identify which ones are most vulnerable and the best way to communicate with them regarding preparation for disasters. There are bound to be communities with old manufactured homes that could be suitable for large-scale “managed retreat” programs, where authorities assist residents to move into better-built and safer locations.

In other situations the community education system will need to be improved. In a different alarming study released this year, a group comprised of University of Miami researchers surveyed people living in constructed homes located in Miami-Dade as well as Broward counties of South Florida to gauge their opinions about storm risk and their decision-making. A mere 11% of return-by mail respondents believed that their house was within a zone for storm surge, even though they were in fact 60% of those who responded were. Despite the targeted outreach efforts of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the information gap is still evident.

In addition, authorities should police landlords, who often make a point of pinching pennies in order to maximize profits. In the same way states must give the residents more authority. Particularly states that are not able to seek laws that will help communities be competitive with investors with big pockets in the event that they decide to buy their own property. One of the biggest challenges facing the built-housing industry is that despite the fact that they own the house -the residents of parks usually lease the land they reside on.

Researchers Andrew Rumbach, Sullivan and Carrie Makarewicz put it best in a recent article published by the Urban Institute (emphasis mine):

Since residents do not own land Mobile houses in parks are generally considered to be personal property, not real estate. This alters the way they can be secured or utilized as collateral for post-disaster loans. Park owners who own mobile homes are not qualified for postdisaster rehabilitation programs for homeowners, like buyout programs that are federally funded. The split tenure system also makes owners of mobile homes take the decisions regarding hazard mitigation and disaster recovery rather than residents.

Also, the economic incentives are not coordinated in the area of investing in resilience, and much more needs to be done for residents to be able to convert their manufactured homes into community-owned cooperatives should they decide to do so. “What we learned from talking with residents is that they would like to upgrade their home,” Justin Stoler, one of the researchers who conducted that University of Miami survey, told me on Wednesday. Governments should therefore be working to provide them with that chance.

Some states have laws to encourage self-determination in manufactured home parks. Based on the National Consumer Law Center, good laws usually need advance notification to residents as well as the local government of the community that is being sold, and minimal waiting times to allow residents the opportunity to make an offer. The most effective legislation also demands sellers bargain in good faith with residents and allow them to exercise the right to first refusal. Overall, those steps will help to improve the durability of housing manufactured to meet extreme climate change issue.


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