Op-Ed by NPHS CEO, Clemente Mojica and Next Step Network President and Founder, Stacey Epperson

It is encouraging to see the recent strides made toward addressing the affordable housing crisis in California. Several state bills have now passed the State Assembly, including SB 35, SB 3 and SB 2, which have also been recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.   The hope is that these bills will generate meaningful impact and increase sustainable homeownership opportunities in communities statewide.

There are ways, however, for cities and local municipalities to pave the way for more affordable housing without having to wait for  state legislation to play out. Recently, Neighborhood Partnership Housing Services, Inc. (NPHS) announced a partnership with the city of San Bernardino and Next Step – a nonprofit housing intermediary – to bring modern, energy-efficient and affordable manufactured homes to the Inland Empire as an innovative solution to homeownership. The city of San Bernardino will be partnering with NPHS and other contractors to develop 140 lots throughout the city using ENERGY STAR® qualified homes.

With the cost of developing site-built homes skyrocketing, factory-built homes are a viable option for economies of scale, especially when developing scattered vacant lots.  NPHS is finding that the cost of developing their factory-built homes is about 25% less than traditional site-built homes. For example, it costs NPHS approximately $275,000 to construct a 1,400-square foot 3 bedroom / 2 bath manufactured home with a two-car garage.  A traditional site-built home with the same configuration and similar amenities costs NPHS approximately $346,000 – 25% more than a manufactured home! This dramatic difference in cost opens up the homeownership opportunity to a greatly expanded pool of individuals and families.

The next generation of homebuyers is realizing the financial burden of homeownership and some feel it is beyond their reach. More and more millennials are turning to manufactured housing as a solution. In fact, the largest group of manufactured home owners is between the ages of 18 and 29, as reported in a Manufactured Housing Industry report. Manufactured homes are a perfect fit for millennials who may be looking for high-performance, near-zero emission homes that are highly customizable.

Many of the challenges facing expanded use of manufactured housing are steeped in outdated stereotypes, misinformation and decades worth of negative portrayal in popular culture. Today’s production processes incorporate advanced building-science technology, and a controlled, weatherproof environment to deliver more affordable housing faster than most any other method. A controlled environment and construction process also means more predictable building times, and increased ability to control overall development costs.

Modern manufactured homes can be constructed to incorporate universal design standards, providing greater access and an environment for aging-in-place. ENERGY STAR® homes, such as those that will be used in San Bernardino, have been shown to save upwards of 30 percent on utility costs. Homes that are more energy-efficient mean less monthly utility costs for homeowners and families, putting more money in their pockets to help pay for basic necessities, health care, or savings for education.

California is on the leading edge of making these homes more widely available. Just last month, U.S Rep. Norma Torres from California (D-Pomona) introduced the HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2017 into the House. The proposed legislation directs the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to update their Consolidated Planning Guidance, ensuring that states and local municipalities at least consider expanded use of manufactured housing when planning to use federal dollars.

“It’s time that HUD recognized the significant advancements made in the field of manufactured housing and considered it a viable housing option for some communities,” Torres said.  “If we are truly serious about our goals of sustainable communities and affordable housing, it’s common sense to update our laws to consider all options for housing.”

We do a disservice to Californians looking to own their home by not examining and leveraging all of the affordable homeownership options available. Through innovative thinking, shifting attitudes and collaborative partnerships, we can replicate the work happening in San Bernardino, and greatly expand affordable housing opportunities for Californians living in the Inland Empire.