About 46 percent of Ashland households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. That means they are “cost-burdened” according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
About 32 percent of homeowners in Ashland are cost burdened and 62 percent of renters are experiencing cost burden, according to Linda Reid, the city’s housing program specialist. An affordable, somewhat easy solution was presented Thursday at an Ashland conference: manufactured homes.
Manufactured homes, more commonly known as mobile homes, have a new name because of a federal code administered by HUD that went into effect in 1976. Homes built before the code are called mobile homes. Homes built after that use the new name — manufactured homes.
According to Doug Ryan, senior director of affordable homeownership at Prosperity Now, a national nonprofit formerly known as Corporation for Enterprise Development, manufactured housing is more affordable for many low- and middle-income households than other types of housing.
In this case, “affordable” means that the household is paying 30 percent or less of their income.
In the state of Oregon, manufactured homes account for 8.2 percent of the housing stock.
“Fully 42 percent of Oregon’s manufactured housing stock is affordable, compared to just 21 percent of housing in the state as a whole,” according to a report presented at the conference. “Among very low-income households, both renters and owners of manufactured homes spend less on their housing costs than renters or owners of all housing types.”
The median income for manufactured homeowners is $35,103, according to the staff document. Median income for all homeowners in Oregon is $66,455, but for renters it’s $32,291.
Ryan called manufactured housing an underrepresented affordable housing option.
Residents of manufactured homes are more likely to own their homes than any other type of housing. Around 77 percent of manufactured home residents in Oregon own their home, compared to the 61 percent of residents in other types of housing.
Owning a manufactured home can be an affordable option for older people on a fixed income. Many mobile home parks are solely for owners over the age of 55. More than 35 percent of manufactured homeowners are over the age of 65, as compared to 31 percent of all homeowners and 15 percent of renters.
“Housing costs have increased faster than incomes in Ashland over the last decade,” Reid said. “Currently Ashland’s housing sales prices are higher than in other cities in the Rogue Valley. At the beginning of 2018, the median home sales prices for existing housing in Ashland were $410,000, which is an increase of 25 percent since 2013.”
There are drawbacks to living in a manufactured home in Oregon. About 55 percent of manufactured homes in Oregon were built before the HUD code went into affect, meaning they probably need upgrades — an issue made worse by the wet and humid climate of certain parts of Oregon. Another downside is that in manufactured home parks residents own their homes, but rent the land that the home sits on, so landlord-tenant disputes can arise.
Owners of manufactured homes are also more likely to have a personal property loan instead of a mortgage which tend to have higher interest rates, shorter prepayment options and fewer protections for owners.
There are four manufactured home parks within Ashland city limits with about 200 manufactured homes, but there are several others just outside city limits with a total of about 237 manufactured homes. This represents 1.5 percent of Ashland’s housing stock.
The city has lost one manufactured home park and seen no growth over the years. Because land value is so high within the city, there’s a fear that owners of parks would raise costs, ultimately displacing the residents who live there.
Adding more parks would take a citizen or City Council member to champion the project, Reid said, adding that it could turn into an extensive project, but properly presented, there’s no reason why a new park couldn’t be be added within city limits.
“In Jackson and Josephine counties alone, there are 132 manufactured home communities with nearly 8,000 homes providing affordable rental and homeownership opportunities,” according to the Network for Oregon Affordable Housing, which, along with state Rep. Pam Marsh, D-Ashland, hosted the Southern Oregon Manufactured Housing Conference at the Ashland Hills Hotel.
In 2012, Ashland completed a housing needs analysis which showed that there was a need for approximately 769 rental units targeted to households earning less than 50 percent of the area median income and approximately 251 ownership units for households with incomes below that 50 percent mark.
The area media income for Ashland for one person is $41,230 and for a family of four it’s $58,900.
“Manufactured homes in parks were identified as a housing type which could fulfill this substantial housing need,” Reid said.
The state of Oregon mandates that each city provide housing for all levels of income. There’s been no move to add any new manufactured home parks to the city, but they are an option.