Going from NIMBY to YIMBY!?

Perspective. ‘Land lease communities, previously manufactured home communities, & ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

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‘Hang on to your hat!’ Once again HUD goes public about solving this nation’s affordable housing crisis, but ‘miss the answer’ when they avoid mention of the solution there within their regulatory oversight! Geesh! When will they ever get it right? HUD, you listening?

Going from NIMBY to YIMBY. Will it Ever Happen?

Gotta give HUD’s Office of Development & Research some credit though, for once again, laying the groundwork for a marked change in attitude and regulations to occur, if not now, someday in the interim or (Gasp!) distant future. However, don’t hold your breath in anticipation. Here goes…

NIMBY to YIMBY? That’s a play on the acronym, ‘Not In My Back Yard’, suggesting morphing into ‘Yes In My Back Yard’ – where hoped for amelioration of local regulatory barriers to affordable housing need be occur! You know, akin to other zoning bromides, like LULU & BANANA. Huh? New to you? Well, they’re simply deeper, negative sentiments of similar citizenry and city father negative mindsets; specifically: ‘Locally Unwanted Land Use’, & ‘Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody!’ Now you know…

So, what’s it going to take to move from NIMBY to YIMBY anytime soon? Public support that simply isn’t there or here right now! Clear proof of that?

Way back in 1991, President George Bush appointed an Advisory Commission on Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing, to travel nationwide, and via local ‘listening sessions’, explore all aspects of this insidious and unnecessary restraint on housing supply. I was fortunate to testify during one such session in downtown Chicago. Well, the final presidential commission report, titled ‘Not In My Backyard: Removing Barriers to Affordable Housing’, by Ashley & Kean, was released with considerable fanfare at the time, but it went nowhere – as chock full of good and practical recommendations as it was.

One part I do recall, however, saw the authors hearkening back to yet an even earlier presidential commission, circa 1981 & 1982, on the very same public issue, when similar corrective recommendations were proffered. The main achievement of that 40 year old investigation, was encouragement and dawning of state activism to combat local regulatory barriers to affordable housing. And that continues, to varying degrees, to this day.

Fast forward now to year 2018. The Spring 2018 issue of Evidence Matters, published by HUD, is dedicated entirely to exploring this topic: REGULATORY BARRIERS & AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

The first article in the magazine, begins with sobering, convicting American household statistics:

“…21 million U.S. households are cost burdened – spending more than one-third of household income on housing expenses – and that 11 million of those households are severely cost burdened – spending more than one-half of household income on housing expenses.” p.2

Then goes on to cite: “…one aspect of the problem is an inadequate supply of new affordable housing.” due to, in HUD Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson’s words, “..out of date building codes, time-consuming approval processes, restrictive or exclusionary zoning ordinances, unnecessary fees or taxes, and excessive land development standards (that) can all contribute to higher housing costs….”

Whoa! Department of Housing & Urban Development, a.k.a. HUD. Isn’t this the regulatory agency tasked with enforcing the performance-based, federally preemptive building code, in place since 1976, updated by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000? Why, Yes it is!

Then, ‘Why No Mention’, in this affordable housing emphasis article, of ‘How HUD-Code manufactured housing, if not transcending local regulatory barriers to affordable housing just cited, oft provides means around them?’ Examples. An ‘out of date building code’, the HUD-Code is not – as it’s under constant review by the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (‘MHCC’). Finished products (e.g. singlesection HUD-Code housing units) are easier to usher through approval processes than factory-built, component-encumbered, site or stick-built homes. Restrictive or exclusionary zoning ordinances are another matter, but can be avoided via state laws prohibiting housing type discrimination – as in Indiana and other states. Same with unnecessary fees and taxes.

Here the HUD writers add ‘insult to injury’. On page # 20 in this issue, they make a case citing California experience, with Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs. -described as being “…an innovative way to increase affordable housing supply in high amenity areas occupied primarily by single-family homes….” Continuing, ADUs are secondary dwelling units, oft referred to as ‘granny flats’ or ‘in-law suites’. They can be “…small studios or one-bedroom units in a detached, attached, or converted space.” But here’s the ‘killer’ comment: “…an ADU is cheaper ($156,000 on average) than a single unit of affordable housing in a new development, averaging $332,000 statewide….” Huh?

While these are California ‘dollars’, who doesn’t know HUD-Code manufactured housing is far more cost effective, more spacious, energy efficient, and certainly design- attractive than any ADU or Tiny House? So HUD, why the wholesale omission of manufactured housing from consideration as the absolute best choice of affordable housing in the U.S. today? Inquiring minds would like to know!

Now back to the title and thesis of this week’s blog posting: ‘Going from NIMBY to YIMBY’ – Will it ever happen?’ My answer? NO! Why? Several real but sorry reasons:

• The HUD-Code manufactured housing industry itself, does a lousy job promoting and selling itself and its product line to prospective homebuyers/site lessees: again, attractive, spacious, quality, energy efficient, truly affordable housing and a desirable lifestyle! When was the last time you saw an ad on prime time TV to either end? Not ever!

• The Department of Housing & Urban Development (‘HUD’), though responsible for enforcement of the 1976 performance-based, federally preemptive building code legislated to control this type factory-built housing, does NOTHING to promote it, and its’ companion lifestyle, the land lease community, as the ‘one-two punch answer’ to our affordable housing crisis in the U.S. today!

• And frankly, as long as we have two, three, and now four, national advocacy entities competing to represent the manufactured housing industry and land lease community real estate asset class nationwide, we will continue to be a hopelessly fragmented industry, undeserving of recognition and respect from legislators and regulators capable of positioning ‘us’ as this nation’s premier source of affordable housing!*1

Want to change this sorry, perennial counterproductive state of housing and lifestyle affairs? Become actively involved at state and national levels with existent manufactured housing and land lease community-focused organizations. Make your views and voice known, the sooner the better! *2

End Note.

1. Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform; the Manufactured Housing Institute; National Association of Manufactured Home Community Owners; &, the Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, a division of GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing.

2.. In the very short term, to make your views known, be present at the MHAlive! ‘think tank’, from 9AM-Noon on 6 August, at the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. RSVP a MUST, on or before 31 July, via gfa7156@aol.com. Cost? Only $20.00 ‘at the door’, to defray meeting-related costs.

Next? 27th annual International Networking Roundtable, 5-7 September, at The Alexander Hotel in Indianapolis, IN. 46247. Go to www.getmeregistered.com/COBA7NRT2018

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George Allen, CPM, MHM
Box # 47024
Indianapolis, IN. 46247
(317) 346-7156

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