Swift Relief Possible Because No New Legislation Or Spending Required
Op-Ed By: L. A. “Tony” Kovach
Regional and national news outlets brought the affordable housing crisis to the forefront via reports on a letter by two dozen Florida Democratic lawmakers to Governor Ron DeSantis (R) that called for a declaration of a “state of emergency” in housing. Before considering their competing claims, note that new, recent, and previous research explores the causes, cures, and controversies about the affordable housing crisis.
By setting politics aside and looking at the facts, evidence, and applying nonpartisan realism, opportunities emerge to solve the U.S. housing crisis once and for all. That goal can be accomplished without a need for new legislation. Nor would these concepts require more taxpayer spending, as what follows details. Millions now renting could become owners, based on current federal laws, spending about the same or sometimes less monthly to own and build equity than it costs to rent.
For an example of eye-opening and surprising facts, consider the following published on 9.7.2021. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research (HUD PD&R) published a widely-overlooked report by researchers Pamela Blumenthal and Regina Gray. Blumenthal and Gray said the causes and cures for the affordable housing crisis have been well known for decades. The core issues span the administrations of both Democratic and Republican presidents.
Here’s how Gray and Blumenthal explained it, with emphasis added to their text. “Without significant new supply, cost burdens are likely to increase as current home prices reach all-time highs, with the median home sales price reaching nearly $375,000 by July 2021. These data emphasize the urgency of employing opportunities for increasing the supply of housing and preserving the existing housing portfolio.”
Rephrasing, new affordable housing supply is needed to meet the demand.
That’s Economics 101, because when demand exceeds the supply, prices routinely rise. That HUD PD&R emphasized the obvious answer is to boost the supply of new housing. So far, their points make sense.
Blumenthal and Gray continued, again with underscoring added: “The regulatory environment — federal, state, and local — that contributes to the extensive mismatch between supply and need has worsened over time. Federally-sponsored commissions, task forces, and councils under both Democratic and Republican administrations have examined the effects of land-use regulations on affordable housing for more than 50 years. Numerous studies find land-use regulations that limit the number of new units that can be built or impose significant costs on development through fees and long approval processes, which drive up housing costs. Research indicates higher housing costs also drive up program costs for federal assistance, reducing the funds available to serve additional households.”
Let that sink in before we press on with more facts and couple those with some common-sense solutions.
- For 50 years – 5 decades – the causes and cures for the affordable housing crisis have been well-known.
- Be it a Democratic or Republican administration, HUD’s own researchers – not some left- or right-wing partisan – say zoning and regulations are a key hinderance to choking off the affordable housing supply.
- As prices rise on conventional single family, multi-family, or prefab housing construction, of course the cost for housing programs will only rise too. Meaning, in this current overheated housing market, there is an obvious need to break down zoning and regulatory barriers, or taxpayers will be asked to pay still more for tax-subsidized housing. A 5-decade cycle must be broken, because the status quo has obviously not worked for many if not most Americans.
- The affordable housing “emergency” will only get worse unless the core issues are successfully addressed. If you’ve seen stills or videos of those living in tents, cardboard boxes, or vehicles and don’t want that to continue to spread into neighborhoods near you and yours, these issues matter.
Democrats, Governor DeSantis and Competing Affordable Housing Crisis Plans and Solutions Examined
As noted, regional and national news outlets brought thousands of reports and posts on their competing claims, without mentioning what this op-ed does. The Free Press recently reported on adults struggling with homelessness. That’s just one of several side effects of the lack of affordable housing.
WPBF posted the response by Gov. DeSantis’ communications team to the Democratic “state of emergency” declaration request. With all due respect to Democratic lawmakers and Florida’s popular Governor DeSantis, a careful examination of their stances reveals neither plan would fix the core issues that both sides agree is a genuine problem. Why? In a nutshell, the affordable housing crisis is caused by an insufficient supply of housing that does not meet demand.
Nor does more new construction alone solve the problem if a new supply isn’t “affordable.” A little math will establish that claim.
So, neither a form of emergency rent control (Democrats) nor funding public spending (DeSantis) have solved this issue anywhere in the U.S. Says who? Blumenthal, Gray, and other officials in key roles at HUD. We’ll look at what a prior HUD Secretary and another official pointed to as a common-sense, yet vital part of the solution. While controversial to the point that some will need a trigger warning, the common concerns about their proposed solution have been addressed by reports carried by the Tampa Free Press and others in media.
Let’s do some simple math and reality checks before pivoting toward those other HUD officials insights and solutions.
FLHousing.org says an “eligible household is said to be living in affordable housing when it spends no more than 30% of its income on either rent or mortgage payments.” The New York Times, citing Harvard’s annual State of the Nation’s Housing said “38.1 million households in the United States spent more than 30 percent of their income on housing in 2016, which was the last time this was measured.” On 2.4.2020 the New York Post, also citing Harvard said “A new report from the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University calculates that 10.9 million renters spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing in 2018.” White hat investors and public officials, take note. The affordable housing market is huge.
The St Louis Fed said in 2020 that in Florida the average household income was some $57,435.
Nationally, they said that the average household income was $67,521.
NerdWallet said on 2.11.2022 that the current 30-year fixed-rate loan is at 3.857%, or an APR of 3.940%. An FHA rate is about 3.8 percent for someone with good credit. These are expected to rise in 2022.
The typical Floridan would be able to buy on a 30-year fixed rate home loan of about 4 percent APR with estimated principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) on a monthly payment of $1402 a $250,000 housing unit. That’s just under that 30 percent of income “affordability” threshold.
Have you or someone you know tried to find a conventionally constructed house, townhouse, or condo in Florida for that $250,000 figure lately? Per Realtor, in January 2022 the average price of a resale or existing house in “Tampa, FL was $360K, trending up 14.3%” from a year ago.
Want a quarter-million-dollar house in Florida? Good luck…
Those backgrounds facts are reasons why the surprising suggestion from the previous HUD Secretary merits consideration. Note following the statements provided by then HUD Secretary Ben Carson, M.D., will be followed by a few bullets that debunk common concerns about what he proposed.
After touting the pre-COVID-19 Trump economy in a speech published on the HUD website (5.7.2019), then-Secretary Carson laid out the facts and logic for his case for a reasonable solution in a systematic fashion.
“Under President Trump’s leadership, our nation is witnessing historic highs in employment, job creation, and economic growth. The financial optimism of everyday Americans has surged to an 18-year high, and is nearing an all-time record. For those families who have access to affordable housing, they are facing their bright futures with confidence.
And yet a serious challenge still persists: millions of hardworking Americans who seek affordable rents or sustainable homeownership simply cannot get their foot in the door. We have reached the point where many of our nation’s teachers, nurses, police officers, and firefighters struggle to live in or around the communities they serve.
What they face is a critical shortage in our country’s supply of affordable homes.”
What did Carson suggest? This trigger warning precedes the controversial-to-some solution, with some added related insights will follow his remarks.
Carson said: “This is not just a housing crisis – it has a human face. Homes are at the heart of building strong families, strong communities, and ultimately, a strong country.
HUD’s mission is to ensure all Americans have access to safe, quality, and affordable housing. And we believe that manufactured housing has a promising role to play – especially in the area of quality affordable housing.
For that reason, one year ago, I announced that HUD was in position to usher in a “new era of cooperation and collaboration between our Department and the manufactured housing industry.”
Today, I’d like to share HUD’s current vision for how we are diagnosing affordable housing challenges, and how manufactured housing is an active ingredient in the medication we are prescribing for a stronger America.”
Let’s pause and address a few common misconceptions about manufactured homes before pressing on to more from Dr. Carson.
Millions mistakenly believe manufactured homes automatically depreciate in value.
- That’s been debunked by several researchers, the most recent of which the The Free Press highlighted in a report linked here based on data per LendingTree.
- LendingTree mistakenly lumped in pre-HUD Code mobile homes with manufactured homes, but their data is supported by other sources too. As that report on 1.10.2022 surprising said, citing LendingTree “Mobile Home Values Are Rising Faster Than Single-Family Homes – Why Manufactured Homes Appreciate/Depreciate.” The short version? Manufactured housing goes up or down in value for much of the same reasons that conventional housing does. In recent years, manufactured homes in dozens of listed states have appreciated more than conventional housing.
Millions also mistakenly believe that a mobile or manufactured home blows away in the first windstorm (hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.).
- TampaFP published a report debunking that claim with third-party research and common sense. Initial National Weather Service data from 2021 indicates more conventional housing was damaged or destroyed resulting in deaths than mobile or manufactured homes.
- Further facts from that linked report demonstrate that properly installed manufactured homes are often survive tornadoes when improperly installed mobile or manufactured homes right next door may get flipped. . Videos, still photos, and facts dramatically illustrate those claims.
- Proper installation of new manufactured homes have been mandated for years.
During the Obama-Biden (D) Administration, another university-level HUD PD&R demonstrated that neighborhoods with mixed conventional housing and modern manufactured homes witnessed both conventional construction and factory-built manufactured housing appreciated side-by-side.
- That report was entitled Regulatory Barriers to Manufactured Housing Placement in Urban Communities. That wasn’t mentioned by Blumenthal and Gray but nevertheless fits their thesis.
Those facts and related evidence noted, let’s return to what President Donald J. Trump (R) era HUD Secretary Carson said in 2019. Underscoring below is in the original on HUD’s website.
Our nation’s shortage of affordable housing is ultimately an issue of supply and demand. With millions of people in need, high demand is already guaranteed. That’s why HUD has focused our strategy on increasing supply – namely, by promoting initiatives, programs, techniques, and technologies that produce more affordable homes.
Since the key constraint on supply is the cost of new construction and development, the solution to the problem is to change the cost side of the equation.
Manufactured housing has emerged out of the limestone and stepped into the limelight, to address precisely this need.
[According to the Manufactured Housing Institute] …the average cost per square foot of a manufactured home is nearly half that of a site-built home – $49 [dollars] per square foot, as opposed to $107 [dollars for conventional ‘site built’ housing]. These dramatic cost savings in construction enable responsible citizens to secure housing that may be considerably less expensive than renting or purchasing a site-built home.
And yet, even at this lower price, manufactured homes appreciate in value at a rate similar to site-built homes, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency Housing Price Index. Sustainable homeownership is the number-one builder of financial capital for most American families. For example, the average net worth of a renter is $5,000 [dollars], while the average net worth of a homeowner is $200,000 [dollars]. That’s an extraordinary 40-fold difference. But with comparable home appreciation rates to site-built homes, manufactured homes exhibit their own extraordinary potential to be a wealth-creation tool for ordinary, everyday American families.
Today, more than 20 million Americans live in manufactured housing, which makes up approximately 10 percent of single-family residences. As a result, manufactured housing has become the largest source of unsubsidized affordable homes in the nation – which saves taxpayer dollars.
By housing families that average between $30,000 to $50,000 per year in income, manufactured homes also allow more people and families to pursue an American Dream that may have once felt out of reach.”
Dr. Carson should have said 22 million Americans live in mobile or manufactured homes, with about 80 percent of those being manufactured homes built on or after June 15, 1976. But the bulk of what Carson said is factually accurate.
Manufactured housing is underperforming during a housing crisis despite a range of positive research by an array of sources investigating manufactured homes as a proven, common-sense affordable housing solution for over 20 years.
That’s odd at best. Because Silicon Valley and other investors have been saying for years that only factory building can possibly close the gap between the millions of housing units needed vs. what is available or that can practically be produced by conventional builders. Given that your clothes, cars, electronics, and more come from production centers, why is it that manufactured homes are dismissed because they come from a greener housing option plant?
Paradoxically, the solution to the affordable housing crisis was enacted over 20 years ago by Congress in a law passed by a widely bipartisan margin. That federal solution has not yet been properly implemented. Per HomeBuyerNewsOnline is the following graphic and quote.
Mark Weiss, J.D., President of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) said: “Given that the United State faces an affordable housing crisis where millions of additional homes are needed, inherently affordable manufactured homes should routinely have annual production levels in the hundreds-of-thousands of new homes. Why isn’t the manufactured home industry doing better? That’s due primarily to discriminatory zoning exclusions and placement restrictions plus the ongoing unavailability of secondary market securitization by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yet federal laws were enacted by wide bipartisan margins to address both issues.”
Weiss elaborated by saying that “The Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (2000 reform law), enacted with wide bipartisan support, included what’s commonly called “enhanced preemption” over discriminatory zoning laws. Indeed, Democratic lawmakers involved in the passage of that law insisted that then HUD Secretary Mel Martinez use the authority provided under that law to intervene in cases of zoning discrimination against affordable manufactured homes. And that legislation applies equally to Republican or Democratic administrations.”
Book-length research has and could be written, but let’s sum up and draw to a close.
- The Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000 passed into law by a bipartisan effort in Congress a legal tool that HUD can use provides for “enhanced preemption” over local zoning and regulatory barriers. The letter by Democratic lawmakers MHARR’s Weiss referenced is linked here, and a key pull-quote is linked here. Those congressional lawmakers specifically told then HUD Secretary Mel Martinez that HUD has the authority to “preempt local requirements or restrictions which discriminate against the siting of manufactured homes (compared to other single-family housing” simply because they are HUD-code [manufactured] homes.”
- What that means is that no new legislation is needed to overcome the zoning and regulatory barriers that Blumenthal and Gray said has strangled affordable housing for 5 decades. The MHIA is already federal law. The MHIA’s “enhanced preemption” provision over discriminatory local zoning barriers makes possible the most permanent housing solution HUD Secretary Carson and other 21st century HUD officials from both major parties praised.
- Secretary Carson’s address argued that only manufactured homes could meet the needs of millions who want their part of the American Dream but don’t make enough money to buy anything else.
- It is worth mentioning that movie stars, millionaires, and even a few billionaires own a manufactured home. If it is good enough for those who could buy whatever kind of housing they want, why is there such a dismissive attitude toward manufactured homes?
We began with the concern about a “state of emergency” in affordable housing in Florida (or beyond). So, who will stand up for the implementation of a solution that requires no new legislation and no new taxpayer spending?
- Will it be Democrats?
- GOP Governor DeSantis? Other public officials from whatever political party?
- Who will stand up and insist that the MHIA and enhanced preemption will be honored to solve this growing affordable housing “state of emergency” that Democrats and DeSantis were publicly fencing about?
Technically, any affordable housing seeker could insist on their rights to place a HUD Code manufactured home on a buildable lot. But experience has shown that some officials, when shown the law, agree to follow it but others don’t. Note that in 2011 and 2012, Congress held hearings on why these common-sense and much-needed provisions to meet the growing affordable housing needs were not yet implemented by HUD.
Certainly, there should be an ‘all of the above’ solution to the affordable housing crisis. Conventional builders can only do so much, they’ve said so themselves.
Part of the takeaway here is that modern manufactured homes must be allowed to take their place in the housing market along with single and multifamily conventional construction. That must be achieved by removing the regulatory barriers to affordable housing Blumenthal, Gray and then HUD Secretary Carson referenced. The thoughts from this interview with HUD’s first Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OHMP) Administrator William Wade “Bill” Matchneer shared in this video bring to life many of these issues.
There is obviously more to this issue and why it matters to current homeowners, renters, and most Americans. The solutions are hiding in plain sight for those with minds open to facts, evidence, and common sense. More about controversies, concerns, and practical solutions based on existing laws will be explored in a planned follow up to the Tampa Free Press. Stay tuned. ##
L. A. “Tony” Kovach lives in Poinciana/Kissimmee, FL and is a widely acknowledged expert on manufactured homes. Tony and Soheyla Kovach co-founded and publish MHProNews.com and MHLivingNews.com. Millions of visits and tens of millions of pageviews annually are at these top sites for manufactured home related information. Kovach is the prestigious Lottinville award winner in history plus has decades of experience in most aspects of manufactured housing.
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One Reply to “Op-Ed: “State of Emergency” – Democrats, Gov. DeSantis And Competing Affordable Housing Crisis Plans And Solutions Examined”
There has been an elephant in the room and it has been ignored….and how horrible it was to promote the rv code of the Tiny home and never even mention mfg housing. Fanny and Freddie missed the target; that speaks volumes of their opinions. Lt is far past time of DTS. Hb