There IS a Solution for Affordable Housing

by Len Bonifield

We have excerpted portions of this article that are applicable to Central Florida. Some of the statistics and dollar values have changed from the time of the original article written for THE LEDGER in February, 2006 but the overall concepts are still true.

…The apartment market has been impacted by the ever increasing real estate taxes. This increase has motivated apartment owners to go condo. This moves many middle income families out of the market as they can’t afford the high cost of the condos. Florida is experiencing a wave of change in land use of land-lease manufactured home communities, forcing many senior citizens into the housing market. Employers are finding it difficult to recruit people to Florida for jobs as police, firemen, school teachers, retail and the hospitality markets as they can not afford housing on the initial wages for those jobs.

Where can people go to find affordable housing? Apartments? Manufactured housing? A HUD Report that uses the Fair Market Rent Documentation Systems lists apartment rents by geographical areas. This report lists the fair market rent in Polk County at $571 for a two-bedroom apartment and $724 for a three-bedroom. Pinellas County is listed with a fair market value of $838 for a two-bedroom and $1,079 for a three-bedroom. The question then becomes, can you find an apartment at those prices and the answer is it is not easy. The march Apartment Finder lists most two-bedroom apartments in the high $800s to more than $1,000.

Manufactured housing offers a viable alternative whether the buyer is considering a new home or a resale. Florida has more manufactured homes than any other state. It has more manufactured home communities than any other state. This means that there is an excellent resale market for buyers to consider. There remain many manufactured home communities with lots available for new manufactured homes.

Quick Fact 2006, a publication by the Manufactured Housing Institute using nationwide information, listed a multi-section home with square footage of 1,750 at an average sales price, including typical installation, at $63,300 for the year 2004. If you increase that price by 20 percent in 2006 that brings the cost of that manufactured home up to $75,960. That home could be placed in a land-lease community with a monthly lot rent ranging from $300 to $500, or land can be purchased in a Resident Owned Community for prices ranging from $25,000 to $50,000, or it could be placed on private land. No matter which of these alternatives is chosen, the home buyer is finding quality affordable new housing.

What about the resale market in manufactured housing? In Florida it is estimated that there are almost 1 million existing manufactured homes. The resale market nationally usually ranges from 5 percent to 10 percent of all existing homes. This means that throughout the state there exists an excellent resale market in manufactured housing.

A quick review of the real estate section of a Central Florida newspaper shows that there are excellent buys in resales. One—a 15-year-old, three-bedroom manufactured home in a 55+ land-lease community—listed at $34,000 partially furnished with a lot rent of $370.

The buying public does not realize the quality and safety of today’s new manufactured homes. Building materials are the same as those used in site-built homes. Homes are engineered for wind safety and energy efficiency based on the geographical region in which they are sold. Properly installed homes can withstand 120-130 mph, 3-second wind gusts in areas prone to hurricanes. Manufactured homes are among the safest housing choices available today due to federal laws requiring smoke detectors, escape windows, and limited combustible materials around furnaces, water heaters and kitchen ranges.

Yes, there is a crisis in affordable housing in Florida, part of the solution can be found in the manufactured housing industry. The new homes offer high quality, flexible floor plans, and are as safe as or safer than site built homes at affordable prices.