IU report touts manufactured homes in housing crisis

Whitney Downard | CNHI News Service

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, advocates Thursday, Aug. 8, 2019, for manufactured homes as an "option" in the housing affordability crisis following the release of a report from the Kelley School of Business.

INDIANAPOLIS -- When companies consider moving or expanding their operations to a different location, stakeholders must consider the local workforce.

But, according to research from Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, many Hoosiers can’t afford available homes, creating a workforce housing shortage. Predicting that the problem will only get worse over the next two decades, MBA students with the Kelley School of Business suggested a solution: manufactured housing.

“Manufactured housing offers advantages that traditional 'site-built' homes cannot,” a Kelley report said. “A number of these manufactured home producers, like Clayton Homes, are headquartered or have factories located in Indiana.”

To be attractive to potential companies, Indiana cities need to have available and affordable housing, Philip Powell, the associate dean of academic programs for the Kelley School, said at a press conference at Cohron’s Manufactured Homes in Indianapolis.

“Essentially, ($2.5 billion) is the annual potential loss of GDP from Indianapolis’ inability to sufficiently supply workforce housing,” said Mitchell Turnbow, an MBA student behind the Kelley report. “That number actually turns out to be the exact same amount of predicted growth annually over the next 20 years. So without being able to solve the problem, all the predicted growth for this city is going to be eaten up by its loss of potential workforce.”

U.S. Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, addressed nearly two dozen at the press conference, held inside a manufactured home. The home had an estimated value between $80,000 and $90,000, less than half the average “site-built” home value between $280,000 and $290,000, according to Ronald Breymier, the executive director of the Indiana Manufactured Housing Association.

“It’s important when you have over 8 million Americans spending half of their income on housing you come up with real solutions,” Young said. “I know it’s time to put greater emphasis on, more broadly, housing affordability. … We know this crisis has been long festering.”

Breymier pushed back against concerns that manufactured homes reduce stability and resiliency to natural disasters.

“They are so well constructed. In fact, you have to put it (together) with jigs so everything has to be so precise,” Breymier said. “Dr. Ben Carson (the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development) has even witnessed this himself.

"In the hurricane areas, manufactured homes withstood the destruction while site-built homes were completely destroyed … everyone’s thinking about manufactured homes back in the '60s, '70s and '80s. There are new types of homes built better.”

Young and other attendees Thursday advocated for creating pathways to better finance the purchase of manufactured homes, including land leases, and addressing municipal zoning laws that prevent residents from placing manufactured homes within their borders.

“Something that was made explicit in the (Kelley) report, manufactured housing is not a panacea to all the workforce housing challenge we’re facing across this state,” Young said. “I’m not here to argue that they’re better or worse, but I am here to argue that this is an important option as we look at housing affordability.”

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