Fifty Years Of Manufactured Housing

Names change; so do reputations. In its infancy, from 1940 through the 1960's, our factory-built products were widely known as "trailers." During its heyday and depression era, 1970 through the late 1980's, we were in the "mobile home" business. The decade of the nineties and early 21st century have been highlighted by the acceptance of "manufactured homes" as mainstream housing.

What has this meant from a housing production perspective? The industry averaged 63,700 new "trailers" per year during the late 1940's and early 1950's. Along with its mobile home park cousin, it enjoyed an all time popularity high when 575,940 new mobile homes were shipped during 1972!

Then, for various reasons, the bottom fell out and production plummeted, waning for more than a decade and hitting bottom in 1991 with 170,713 new manufactured homes produced. Today, our industry has rebounded like gangbusters, with annual production consistently above 300,000 new homes per year. And a recent study by the Freedonia Group predicts HUD Code housing will average more than 400,000 new homes annually by the year 2007.

Why the resurgence in popularity? Today's homes are much larger (60% multisection and 40% singlesection versus the 10% and 90% split of forty years ago), very homelike in appearance, highly energy efficient, and more affordable than most site-built alternatives.

The HUD Code housing industry is represented on the national level by the Manufactured Housing Institute in Arlington, Virginia and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform in Washing, D.C. Besides representing manufacturers' interests in the nation's capitol, MHI communicates with members via Modern Homes magazine, compiles and publishes monthly shipment statistics, certifies sales center personnel and community managers, and hosts an annual national Congress. The future? Watch for a drift away from the industry's vehicular heritage, though there will always be a bona fide need for its most economical line of no-frills single section homes.There's also the investment real estate asset segment of the industry, the manufactured home landlease community. This entity too has experienced image and terminology transformation, from "trailer court" to "mobile home park" to "manufactured home community." There are more than 50,000 examples of this unique property type nationwide and throughout Canada and Mexico.

New landlease and subdivision communities, developed for factory-built housing, are designed with spacious homesites (density at 5 to 6 per acre, versus 10 to 12 per acre of thirty or forty years ago), wide curvilinear streetscapes, and appropriate complement of local market-sensitive features and amenities.

Does all this read like the description of an exciting, prosperous and growing industry? It does and rightly so! The industry even has a decade named after it, "ten years spanning two millenniums": The Decade (1995-2005) of Manufactured Housing!

It's been suggested, as we begin the new millennium, that our industry should lay claim to the first ten years, 2000-2010, as the "New Decade of Housing" with HUD Code homes the worthy centerpiece of factory-built housing, and our new communities as models for a desirable and affordable lifestyle. What a positively inspiring way to begin our next fifty years of industry prosperity and history!

Pamela Shilling Thompson
Pamela Shilling Thompson
Broker/Owner