Bipartisanship may result in passage of federal legislation that could expand the horizons for more people to have quality and affordable housing.

South Carolina Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott is being joined by a geographically and politically diverse group of senators in sponsoring the HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2019, which would ensure that the Department of Housing and Urban Development supports state and local governments wishing to include manufactured housing as an affordable housing solution when applying for federal funding. Along with Scott, the bill is sponsored by Democrats Cortez Masto of Nevada and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Republicans Kevin Cramer of North Dakota and Todd Young of Indiana.

While in the past manufactured housing often has been limited by local governments, the legislation would provide an incentive to take a different approach in a time when manufactured homes are vastly improved over the “mobile homes” of decades past and can provide an affordable option for those struggling to pay for a place to live.

The HUD Manufactured Housing Modernization Act of 2019 would require HUD to issue guidelines for including manufactured housing in state and local governments’ Consolidated Plans, which outline their housing and community development priorities, when applying for HUD funding. The legislation would ensure manufactured housing is considered when jurisdictions develop their housing plans.

The bill is supported by Prosperity Now, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Manufactured Housing Institute and the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners.

More than 22 million people in the U.S. live in manufactured housing — homes that are built to a federal standard in factories and typically placed on land that the homeowner owns or on rented lots in communities of manufactured homes. In many parts of the U.S., manufactured homes are the least expensive kind of housing available without a government subsidy.

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There are 8.5 million manufactured homes in the U.S. That’s nearly 10 percent of the nation’s housing stock, according to the Manufactured Housing Institute. Those who live in manufactured housing have a median household income of just under $30,000 per year.

Manufactured homes can cost half as much per square foot to build as site-built houses, according to U.S. Census data. The cost to buy a manufactured home averages about $70,600 but can be as low as $45,000, while a new single-family site-built home averages $286,000, not including land costs.

Consider that a person working full-time who earns the federal minimum wage can only afford to pay $377 a month on housing, according to National Low Income Housing Coalition. In only 12 counties in the U.S. can that worker afford to pay the rent on a rental home with one bedroom.

Realistically, that means in most parts of the country, workers either pay more than 30% of their income on housing and scrimp on other necessities, or work more than 40 hours a week, or double up with roommates or family members to help pay for their housing.

In South Carolina, manufactured housing is already a key player in the housing equation. It could become more so if the Scott legislation wins approval.

The senator is on target with his assessment: “Manufactured housing is an affordable housing option for … one out of every five families in South Carolina. Ensuring that we keep this important option open to families puts them in a safer position and a path to affordable home ownership.”

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