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Modular, manufactured homes offer post-storm solutions

With a large number of South Mississippi residents needing homes, the Mississippi Manufactured Housing Association believes they have the answer with manufactured and modular homes. These are not your Mama’s mobile homes, they hasten to point out, and can be the solution to the post-hurricane housing crunch.

“Mobile home and trailer are older terms,” said Jennifer Hall, the association’s executive director. “A lot of the public defines anything that’s delivered on wheels as mobile homes or trailers. I recognize that because they’re not involved with it every day the terms are confusing.”

The industry defines mobile homes as pre HUD homes or before the U.S. Administration of Housing and Urban Development codes were adopted in 1982 to build manufactured homes. This Federal code was revised in 2000.

Hall defines a modular home as one that is constructed of standard building materials built offsite in a factory setting. These homes are usually built to state and local building codes of the jurisdiction where they will be sited. Manufactured homes also are constructed of standard building materials and are built to national HUD codes.

“There’s a lot of confusion now with the FEMA homes that are available,” Hall said. “These homes don’t have the same amenities of modular and manufactured homes and are meant for temporary housing of 18 to 24 months.”

She added that the FEMA homes are built like tanks and do include HUD codes. They are also built to wind zone three, the highest level. Most of Mississippi is in wind zone 1 and the Coast counties are in wind zone 2. These temporary homes, however, will be used all over the country and must be built to the highest level.

“Modular and manufactured homes are not considered temporary housing,” Hall said. “We now have the opportunity to step up to the plate and show our product as solutions, but we must also be willing to listen.”

Seeing a need to bring the members of her association together with others who are seeking solutions to the state’s housing needs, Hall’s association organized a conference to bring all the players together. With assistance from the national association and the Institute of Modular Housing, the group held a conference in Hattiesburg that was attended by 500 people. Of that number, 150 registered on site.

It was a diverse audience that included architects, realtors, planners, developers, retailers, elected officials and representatives of non-profit organizations. John Anderson of Chico, Calif., and Stephen Mouzon of Miami, both urban planners assisting with the Governor’s Commission on Rebuilding the Coast, participated. They gave a presentation on factory-built homes and answered questions. Fred Carl of the Governor’s Commission and MDA executive director Leland Speed also participated.

Developers from Mobile, Ala., showed slides of a subdivision in the Mobile area that is made up of manufactured and modular homes. The State Fire Marshall’s Office was on hand with information along with financing institutions. Twenty manufacturers set up displays.

Drawing the most intense attention were the two completely constructed homes in the conference center parking lot. Oak Creek Homes of Texas set up a 1500-square-foot home and Cavalier Homes of Alabama set up a 2100-square-foot home, complete with all amenities and decorations.

“It was absolutely phenomenal,” Hall says of the homes. “We had people driving off Highway 49 all day to see them and asking to buy them. That shows the incredible need of people wanting to get back into homes.”

The conference gave the wide spectrum of problem solvers the opportunity to talk one-on-one and search for solutions. Hall says the association tried to put together all the components on how to use factory built homes to rebuild the Coast. “It was not a conference of theory but one of fact,” she said. “Those attending wanted to know more about our homes and how they can use them.”

She said the industry’s willingness to listen reveals a need to tweak the outside appearance of modular and manufactured homes. Those aesthetic changes are being considered and some manufacturers are working on plans now as a result of the conference.

“We wanted to educate the public and everyone involved on the difference between modular and manufactured homes,” Hall said. “The conference did multi things but mainly showed what we can offer. A lot of people were not aware these homes are built to state and local codes. We know it performs.”

She said the best result is that people are seeing the industry for what it is today with the quality of the homes and how they can be a huge answer to the housing needs on the Coast. Now urban planners are developing sketches that are being sent to manufacturers of these homes. The association may have follow-up mini conferences in their Jackson office to continue the education process and bring partners together.

They are also continuing to work with the Governor’s Commission, developers, planners, cities and counties to solve housing needs.

“Need is driving this effort. We must get people back into homes, and I don’t want that passion to go away,” Hall said. “We’re having calls and enormous interest in these homes.”

She added that the lack of a construction labor force on the Coast is also driving the need for modular and manufactured homes. “Planners say they believe in these homes. They know the product has improved and performs well,” she said. “People are amazed at the different floor plans. There’s excitement out there now.”

The success of Mississippi’s conference has spurred one for Louisiana that is to be held early next year.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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