Mobile homes: an important hidden source of low cost housing in Seattle that must be saved

mobilehomepk

“580 Seattle households live in manufactured housing and many face homelessness unless the city steps up to enact laws to preserve this valuable resource.”

  • story by Ishbel Dickens

Manufactured housing is one of the last affordable homeownership opportunities left for first time home buyers and seniors interested in downsizing, yet the City of Seattle has done nothing to ensure the long-term preservation of this housing stock.

There are 580 households in Seattle residing in the few remaining manufactured housing communities in Seattle – the other homeowners having all been displaced during the mid-2000s housing boom when they lost their homes and all their equity when the land under their houses was redeveloped for other purposes.

If the City is not careful, the same will happen again, and low income families, seniors, and Veterans will lose their homes, lose all their equity, and face homelessness as a result of Seattle’s unwillingness to zone existing manufactured housing communities as “mobile home parks”.

Local zoning ordinances have been enacted in several cities and counties in Washington with other jurisdictions currently considering their own local zoning codes to ensure the long term preservation of this affordable housing option.

Seattle ought to step up, before it is too late, and enact a local land use code that would help preserve affordable home ownership for almost 600 families. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has held such ordinances to be constitutional under both the federal and state constitutions (see Laurel Park Community LLC v. City of Tumwater, October 29, 2012).

Once manufactured housing communities are gone, they are gone for good, and thus an important component of the affordable housing solution is no longer available. Preserving manufactured housing communities allows Seattle to comply with the Growth Management Act (GMA). A local zoning ordinance would guarantee, 1) preservation of existing neighborhoods; 2) density of housing; 3) additional housing choices; and 4) housing available for all economic sectors of society. These are all GMA requirements.

Seattle City Council has the wherewithal to enact a local “mobile home park” zone through the Comprehensive Plan amendment process. There are several local examples of how this can be accomplished. I urge the City Council to act on this idea as soon as possible before these 580 homeowners and their families in Seattle manufactured housing communities, are displaced for other development purposes, in much the same way as 105 households in Des Moines, S. King County, are being displaced for development without any regard for where these homeowners, mostly Latino families, are going to go.

It is always cheaper to preserve than to build new, so please Seattle City Council do the economically sound thing and zone the manufactured housing communities within the city limits as “mobile home parks” and preserve affordable homeownership for current and future residents.

Ishbel Dickens is Executive Director of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA), an attorney, former Tenant Union and Displacement Coalition staffer, and longtime tireless housing and homeless advocate living in Seattle.  For more information about her organization and this issue: ishbel@nmhoa.org   206.851.6385 

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About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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