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Industry battles manufactured perceptions

Heidi RiceWestern Garfield County Staff

The manufactured home industry fights a perception that just won’t go away: that the quality of its homes is not as good as stick-built homes.Manufactured homes are not trailers, the industry likes to say.Meghan Pfanstiel, executive director of the Colorado Manufactured Housing Association in Denver, blames much of the “discrimination” on outdated beliefs. She compared the different style of homes offered by the manufactured housing industry to that of lower- or higher-end vehicle models car manufacturers offer.At issue is a proposed manufactured housing bill in the state Legislature, and proponents and opponents have very different views of what the law could mean, if it passes.HB-1304 would eliminate discrimination against manufactured homes in Colorado communities. The bill was introduced in the House on March 3 and sent to the Local Government Committee on March 8. Those in favor of the bill have already heard testimony, and the opposition is scheduled for a hearing on March 22.The manufactured housing industry wants equal footing with stick-built homes if all the same requirements are met, and says its homes should be allowed to coexist with traditional homes built on-site. “Local government wants the right to say where homes go,” Pfanstiel said. “We understand that, but at some point, we think it becomes discriminatory when people are using outdated perceptions.”Hyundai and Lexus”There are some really beautiful models of manufactured homes,” Pfanstiel said. “We can build a Hyundai, or we can build a Lexus. We challenge people in some instances to tell the difference (between a stick-built and manufactured home). We’re houses, too. Can’t we just be treated like houses?”Those opposing the bill say the problem lies with the construction quality of some manufactured homes and argue that they are allowed in residential districts with a conditional use permit or use-by-right. Both Rifle and Silt have been named as two of seven Colorado communities that allegedly discriminate against manufactured homes. Both municipalities vehemently deny the allegation.”The problems aren’t with communities discriminating against manufactured housing,” wrote Rifle city manager John Hier in a recent letter to Sen. Jack Taylor, who represents District 3. “They are with the quality of workmanship going into the units and the lack of care and compassion being given to the buyers of these units. The House and Senate must investigate how good a job the state is doing at regulating the workmanship going into these units, the sales industry and representations made to buyers, lending practices and final placement of these units.”A bad experienceSharon Martin, of Silt, waited a year for a manufactured home she ordered for her lot in Rifle to pass a city building inspection and obtain a certificate of occupancy. She claims the construction quality of the home was poor, and it took repeated attempts to get the problems corrected and up to city codes.Martin, who had purchased a manufactured home in the past and was pleased with that home, says she opposes HB-1304 and the notion that manufactured homes should be automatically allowed in residential districts alongside stick-built homes.”Yes, I am picky,” Martin admitted. “But everything about the quality of this (manufactured house) was so cheap compared to a stick-built house. I purchased a modular home in 1994 and was so pleased – I couldn’t tell people enough about modular housing.”But in this instance, she said that even though she paid cash for the home and another $24,000 in upgrades, the quality of the framework, the cabinetry, door frames and trim work were unacceptable. Martin ended up filing a complaint with the state against the manufactured housing company that sold her the home.”We’ll never do another modular house again,” Martin said.The local company where Martin purchased her home did not return phone calls from the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.Affordable housingBut for those who can’t afford a traditional stick-built home, manufactured homes oftentimes offer a viable alternative.”On average, a manufactured home or modular is less expensive than a stick-built home – sometimes 10 percent less,” Pfanstiel said. “And you can get it much quicker – as short as 120 days. Especially in rural areas where there are not a lot of contractors or builders available.”But Rifle planning director Matt Sturgeon questions whether manufactured housing is really as affordable as it seems.”(Manufactured housing companies) offer themselves up as saviors to those unable to afford stick-built housing by misrepresenting the true costs of setting the units and convincing buyers to unwittingly purchase units site-unseen and hope for the best,” Sturgeon wrote in a memo to the Rifle City Council.Rifle resolutionRifle City Council members passed a resolution this week expressing their opposition to HB-1304, and city representatives are expected to testify at the March 22 hearing, along with members of the Colorado Municipal League.”This is a terrible bill that takes away local authority,” said CML president Lee Leavenworth, who is also the city attorney for Rifle. “In most of the subdivisions in Rifle, the manufactured home restrictions are put on by the developers. The CML is opposed to this bill.”If the Local Government Committee approves the bill, it will move to the House floor.Those wishing to make a comment on HB-1304 – whether in favor or against – are urged to call or write their state representatives.


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