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 Eliminating Barriers to the Use of HUD-Code Housing in Attached Construction
You may download the report here (1.04 MB)

In the late 1970s, an innovative federal program called Operation Breakthrough promised to reduce housing costs by applying the techniques of industrialization, honed in industries such as automotive production, to the home building industry. The program fell short of its ambitious agenda; however, the building industry and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), recognizing the inherent advantages of building in volume under controlled conditions, have continued to seek ways of applying the efficiencies of factory production to residential construction.

The majority of the nation's new homes still are erected at the building site by a large number of small builders, and technological advances are slow to make their way through this fragmented building community. However, some macro trends are in evidence. As housing prices have continued to rise, traditional builders have looked toward prefabricated components and subassemblies to better meet the demand for more affordable homes. At the same time, manufactured, or HUD-code housing, has expanded into higher income markets and has been increasingly used by innovative developers.

Among the factors driving home builders to industrialize are: the decline in the number of skilled tradespeople, difficulties with maintaining construction quality, the complex system of regulations that control on-site construction, and the need to construct homes at a competitive price. This is particularly the case with affordable housing, where small changes in price have a huge impact on the financial viability of a project. It is increasingly difficult for the affordable home builder to deliver a quality product without having some, if not most, of the components built off-site.

Along with these pressures, there have also been significant incentives for the HUD-code home industry to produce innovative designs. While in the past, HUD-code homes have developed largely apart from the mainstream home-building industry, this housing type has been increasingly used by on-site developers. As such, manufactured home designs have become more complex and sophisticated to meet the demands of a more affluent customer base.

Utilizing HUD-code homes in the single-family attached housing market is a natural step for the manufactured housing industry. It seems especially appropriate since attached housing traditionally has been considered an affordable choice in the site-built industry. HUD-code homes, too, have long been recognized for their affordability. For some people, competitively priced manufactured homes are the only available avenue to homeownership.1

Proving the value of manufactured homes as a building block for single-family attached construction is research that requires understanding and resolution of several interrelated issues. There are several major factors that determine under what conditions manufactured homes are viable for attached construction. These factors are addressed in this report and include the following:
  • The potential market size. The market size was determined in order to measure if there is sufficient demand for this use of manufactured housing. Demographic and trend data were examined in order to establish potential market size, distribution, and characteristics.

  • The combination of market conditions most likely to encourage single-family attached developers to consider manufactured housing. This information was compiled through interviews with a cross-section of experts in the HUD-code and single-family attached industries.

  • The regulatory barriers to such applications. A detailed review of the HUD standards and enforcement procedures was conducted in order to identify the impediments to using manufactured homes in two-story and attached configurations. The process of removing these barriers was begun by recommending changes in the federal regulations, under a procedure established by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act, for updating the HUD construction standards and enforcement regulations.

  • The architectural and engineering feasibility of using manufactured homes for single-family attached applications. Practical case studies providing real-life examples, facilitated as part of this research, clearly illustrate the feasibility of this new application. In spite of the long development cycles typical of multi-unit attached development, the current research made significant headway with several developer partners. The status of these collaborations and lessons learned thus far are described in this report.

  • The cost impact of alternative methods of construction. Cost information was culled from the case studies in order to demonstrate the bottom-line impact of developing single-family attached housing with manufactured homes. While anecdotal and preliminary, the data are encouraging and suggest that the hypothesized economic advantages of developing with single-family attached manufactured homes are indeed being realized in practice.
This study presents compelling arguments for further research and development of new applications for manufactured homes, and highlights the significant cost and time savings that this technology can offer to the development community in its efforts to provide affordable housing.