History of Manufactured Housing


The Beginning
* Family auto camping trips became popular in America by the mid-1920s.
* Some campers built homemade tent-trailers.
* Before long, manufacturers began to offer recreational trailers.
* To invite customers, local businesses encouraged their towns to build municipal auto-camps.

During the Depression
* In the 1930s, dark dust clouds drove prairie families west where many lived in travel trailers.
* Rural campgrounds were dubbed trailer parks and in cities they were called trailer courts.
* In 1938, the AAA counted 300,000 travel trailers and about 10% were used for full-time housing.

World War II
* The Federal Government purchased 35,000 “house trailers” at $750 each during WWII.
* The Feds built 8,500 trailer parks to house military households.

After the War
* Manufacturers realized they could help meet the surging demand for housing after the War.
* The Mobile Home Manufacturers Association (MHMA) provided developers with park designs.
* Local governments passed ordinances prohibiting the use of trailers for housing.
* Governments outlawed mobile homes because they failed to meet local building codes.
* Manufacturers filed challenges and courts sided with the industry claim that mobile homes were vehicles.
* Manufactured homes were limited to 8 ft. wide, the maximum width of trailers towed on U.S. highways. *  Elmer Frye, a Wisconsin mobile home builder, built the first ten-foot wide model in 1954.
* These oversize loads could be towed by commercial trucks with special transport permits.

The Boom
* By the 1960s, manufacturers reduced fabrication costs and offered wider units and double-wide homes.
*  In 1965, almost 300,000 manufactured homes were shipped.
* Manufacturers built 575,000 MH units in 1972, about 1/3 of all new single family units in the U.S.

Government Regulation
* Unsavory manufacturers, dealers, and finance companies took advantage of unwary consumers.
* Stories of mobile home fires, explosions, electrocutions, and other tragedies became common.
*  States, notably California and Texas, enacted laws to curtail abuses.
* Conflicting state codes prevented mobile homes built in one state from being shipped to another.
*  In 1974, Congress passed the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Standards Act.
* The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) implement federal building codes in 1976.
*  The HUD codes preempted all state and local building codes affecting manufactured homes.

The Financial Collapse
* In 1997, manufacturer Fleetwood Enterprises partnered with Pulte Homes.
* The Fleetwood/Pulte partnership triggered an industry “vertically integrated” reorganization.
* Several manufacturers eventually owned subsidiary financing companies.
* Beginning in the late 1990s, MH financing companies eased their lending requirements.
* They expected added loan defaults but thought that high interest subprime loans would offset losses.
* To move inventory out the factory door, manufacturers co-signed “flooring” loans with dealers.
* Manufacturers agreed to repurchase homes if dealers defaulted on loans.
*  The financial house of cards began to collapse in 2002 when Oakwood Homes filed for bankruptcy.
* The bankruptcy of $52 billion Conseco Inc. was one of largest bankruptcies in U.S. history.
* From 1999 to 2004, the home manufacturing industry suffered a 65 percent contraction.

LIVING:  Successful Living in Mobile Home Parks