Friday, February 03, 2023

EDITORIAL: Don't let stigmas stop affordable housing

| September 18, 2022 1:00 AM

Tiny homes.

Manufactured homes.

Mobile homes.

Please, please, resist the temptation to look upon these dwellings negatively. Unlike apartments — though there’s nothing wrong with apartments — the home types listed above all offer real opportunities for ownership. And that’s the essence of the American Dream, is it not?

As detailed in The Press, the property upon which a local manufactured home community is based was recently purchased by a Utah firm. The new land owners are raising rents on the property — the dwelling units are individually owned — at a rate that some residents fear will soon price them out and make selling their manufactured homes all but impossible.

There is no shame on the new property owners, who are being especially fair to existing residents by raising their rates at a significantly lower rate than newcomers. But the reality is, one of the few “affordable” places to live in the Coeur d’Alene area has suddenly become less so.

Over the past decade in particular, The Press has chronicled the sale and removal of several mobile home parks. When land values increase to the point that owners can make much more money selling the property rather than renting it to manufactured home owners, that happens. In the end, though, families are displaced and the community at large is deprived of people who want to live here and contribute to the social structure.

Fortunately, the Regional Housing and Growth Issues Partnership is working hard to on the manufactured home front. Members of the partnership realize that manufactured homes are far more likely to be within reach of many members of the local workforce who come nowhere close to being able to buy even a modest existing home in Kootenai County, where $500,000 is considered a relative bargain.

Tiny homes or houses, from a few hundred square feet to roughly 1,000, can be purchased for roughly $50,000 or less. A quick internet scan found a kit for a two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,022-square-foot house for $47,000. The kit for a sweet little place called Sea Breeze goes for just over $23,000.

Factory-built homes — mobile and manufactured are now basically the same things — have improved in quality to the point that many people with ample funds choose to live in them. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average new double-section manufactured home cost $139,900 as of last November. While that’s still a chunk of change, young working couples could do far worse than purchasing a manufactured home as their starter, investing in a place they could eventually sell when they can afford a bigger or better home.

Our point is not to sell kits at Lowe’s or factory-built homes, but to confront the stigma some people hold against any less traditional abode. We encourage the Regional Housing and Growth Issues Partnership to continue its excellent work on addressing the workforce housing crisis in our community and refer readers to find out much more here:

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