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Manufactured Homes Provide Cost-Effective Solutions for Families Displaced by Camp Fire

Nearly a year after California’s deadly and destructive Camp Fire took the lives of 85 and destroyed 153,000 acres, only a handful of people have begun to rebuild in towns such as Paradise.

The demand for rebuilding homes in devastated areas such as Santa Rosa reportedly caused new construction costs to nearly double. The massive home and commercial property losses have also strained the ability of construction outfits to find qualified carpenters, masons, electricians, plumbers and laborers, among others. The shortage of experienced workers has created a massive building backlog. Many fear it will take years for communities such as Paradise to rebuild given escalating costs and worker shortages. 

Compounding the construction sector challenges, it’s not uncommon for homeowners in fire-ravaged towns to have been underinsured. Homeowners in such quaint California hamlets often try to minimize insurance premium costs by carrying coverage based on the purchase price. While this practice may satisfy the lender, low total loss coverage sometimes leaves homeowners without enough coverage. Even those in Paradise and other towns destroyed by the series of major wildfires could not have anticipated construction costs doubling.

A recent report by PBS indicates that these problems are directly impacting the nearly 35,000 former Paradise residents who have been displaced. People such as Paradise volunteer firefighter Yvette Streeter are trying to cull together enough money to build a new home. She went on the record stating that her insurance company was helpful and promptly made good on her total loss coverage. That amount may not nearly be enough to build over the charred ashes of her former home.

“I’m going to go back. I’m going to rebuild,” Streeter reportedly told PBS. “I think it will be a long time for Paradise to recover.”

Caught between skyrocketing construction costs and a labor shortage, everyday people are looking to federal resources to try to fill the financial gap between insurance coverage and the price of a new home. It has been an uphill battle for many trying to negotiate the government bureaucracy. Homes Direct offers victims of the Camp Fire a $1,500 discount per section. Champion models can be delivered in eight weeks and Palm Harbor manufactured homes take only 12-14 weeks, allowing residents in Paradise to circumvent the on-site construction log-jam. 

As recently as May 2019, reports indicate that many who lived in the 14,000 Paradise homes that were engulfed in the fire are living in tents and their vehicles. California had already struggled with an affordable home supply before the Camp Fire leveled the small town. The reportedly median cost of a single-family home in nearby Chico topped $378,000 before Camp Fire. After the mass family displacement, the listing price of an average single-family home in Chico jumped 15 percent in six months to $436,000. Today, site-built homes are simply out of reach for many victims of the wildfire.

Recent trends in the manufactured homes industry may be the best solution for everyday people struggling in the aftermath of Camp Fire. These off-site built homes are enjoying a renaissance in the housing market. Sales for 2019 are expected to more than double the number delivered only five years ago. And HUD Secretary Ben Carson has been pushing manufactured homes as a high-quality alternative to the escalating cost of new construction.

“Our nation’s shortage of affordable housing is ultimately an issue of supply and demand. With millions of people in need, high demand is already guaranteed. That’s why HUD has focused our strategy on increasing supply — namely, by promoting initiatives, programs, techniques, and technologies that produce more affordable homes,” Secretary Carson reportedly said. “Since the key constraint on supply is the cost of new construction and development, the solution to the problem is to change the cost side of the equation. Manufactured housing has emerged out of the limestone and stepped into the limelight, to address precisely this need.”

The goal of creating affordable homeownership for low- and middle-income families may prove to be a game-changing solution for displaced families in California. Total loss insurance coverage would likely easily provide them with enough to purchase a manufactured home that generally costs less than half of a site-built structure. And that could be a fraction of today’s California building costs.

In terms of a people struggling to rebuild after the devastating Camp Fire, manufactured home loans are guaranteed under federal programs. The financial shortfall of displaced California families can be effectively resolved by looking to the manufactured home sector. Government agencies such as HUD fully endorse quality manufactured models. Homes Direct remains committed to helping people displaced by wildfires get into a new home quickly and cost-effectively. 

 
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