by Industry Voice
Perhaps it’s too much to ask a “news” show called “All Things Considered” to actually consider “all things” or, at least “all things” concerning the subjects they choose to consider. After all, “all” covers a lot of ground.
Depending on the issue, considering “all things” may be impossible, or improbable. Or then again, maybe “All Things Considered” is just a smokescreen for only considering “some things” that -- as a matter of happy coincidence -- happen to coincide with the preconceived prejudices of those who happen to put together all the “things” to be “considered.”
Take, for example, the recent two-part report on manufactured housing communities presented by “All Things Considered” -- a staple of taxpayer-supported National Public Radio (NPR).
As an exercise in “All Things Considered,” this one doesn’t even come close.
It doesn’t even get an “E” for effort. It fails miserably – at best. In fact, it’s difficult to fathom how one report could be so one-sided on so many different sides.
It offers a caricature of a bad “mobile home park” owner to smear an entire industry, ignoring the legion of well-run and well-maintained HUD Code communities across the nation.
It then presents one option, resident ownership – combined with intensified government regulation -- as a panacea-like remedy. The supposed “lesson” of this advocacy piece, then, which plays to long-outdated fears and biases, is simple: privately-owned “mobile home parks,” bad; resident ownership of MH communities (and intensified regulation), good – end of story.
It is nothing short of astounding, though (even putting aside its skewed and fundamentally unfair presentation of MH communities) how any credible “news” show, let alone one claiming to “consider all things,” could offer a story like this without considering the incredible damage inflicted on consumers, the industry and home-owners -- just like the people profiled in the NPR story -- by discriminatory local ordinances that exclude or severely restrict the placement of manufactured homes and/or the development (or expansion) of manufactured home communities.
While the report decries the fact that “mobile home park” residents typically do not own the land beneath their homes, “often turn[ing] the residents into victims,” the reporters fail to report, or consider – at all -- that in towns and cities around the country, manufactured homeowners are, in many cases, prevented, by discriminatory placement and zoning laws, from placing their HUD Code homes on land that they do own, or are otherwise prevented from placing their home where they wish.
Manufactured homeowners in these jurisdictions may wish to live in an MH land-lease community, or they may not, but in many cases they are effectively forced – by politicians – into the very conditions that the NPR report and its sources complain about, denied, by government, the most basic right to live where they wish, on pain of having to seek out a more enlightened or more accepting town, city, or county somewhere else.
And it’s not as if stories like this are obscure or few and far between. To the contrary, they are reported regularly in the industry trade press and even the broader media.
The report complains that community residents may have little leverage with owners -- portrayed like feudal “lord[s] of the manor” -- who do not “have to pay much attention to the folks who are living there.”
But does NPR delve into the fact that around the country, zoning approvals for new HUD Code communities – or the expansion or improvement of existing communities -- are routinely denied by politicians who would just assume not have to bother with the housing needs of lower or moderate-income Americans – unless that is, some grant subsidy money is involved?
What if manufactured home owners in any given town or city had a choice – among multiple land-lease communities – about where they could place their home?
What if zoning and placement restrictions in many places didn’t keep out good community owners and developers (i.e., the vast majority), giving manufactured home owners a real choice and real options about where they live?
Wouldn’t the resulting competition force the small minority of bad operators to either clean-up their act or lose business?
The NPR report, though, fails to spend one second on any of this – and fails to draw the direct and well-documented link between exclusionary land use laws and the “victim” status of less fortunate Americans seeking affordable housing.
Nor does “All Things Considered” consider the unused power that HUD already has to end such blatant discrimination against federally-regulated manufactured homes and the moderate and lower-income Americans who rely upon them the most – but refuses to exercise despite declaring its ultimate power over local zoning in its recent “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” rule.
No, reporting on those facts wouldn’t fit within the pre-existing narrative of “All Things Considered,” so they are ignored. Just something to consider. ##
(Editor’s note: this commentary/article was submitted by an industry member in a sensitive role, who asked to have it published on condition of anonymity. Because we know the person and the position – and felt the comments merited consideration - we opted to honor the request.
Note too that other off-the-record comments are periodically used by MHProNews for similar reasons in the Daily Business News or other reports; though rarely are they of this length and depth. Other perspectives on this same issue or other of interest to industry readers are welcomed.)