In today’s increasingly partisan political climate, examples of lawmakers working across the aisle are few. Fortunately, in St. Paul, there is already a group of legislators demonstrating what it means to shed party labels and work in a bipartisan manner.

Founded by members of both parties, in both bodies, from both Greater Minnesota and the metro area, the Manufactured Housing Working Group brings approximately 30 legislators together to find innovative solutions to Minnesota’s affordable and workforce housing shortages. We are co-chairs of the group, which has been working on solutions to our state’s housing crisis since its formation in 2017.

Communities across our state are facing shortages of affordable housing. From homelessness in the metro, to Greater Minnesota’s workforce housing crisis, affordable housing shortages impact every Minnesotan.

However, rather than focusing solely on traditional affordable housing options, the Manufactured Housing Working Group aims to present manufactured housing as a critical component of Minnesota’s affordable housing continuum, providing the lowest-cost unsubsidized housing throughout the state.

Whether supporting a current manufactured home community or envisioning a new single-family manufactured home development, the possibilities for excellent living at truly affordable rates make this an exciting option in the affordable housing toolbox.

To construct a new single-family manufactured home development including all neighborhood infrastructure costs, the typical price per unit is $150,000. In comparison, a high-density apartment complex usually costs $250,000 per unit to construct.

In terms of preservation costs, manufactured housing developments cost about $8,000 to 9,000 per unit to preserve the basic infrastructure, while apartment complexes cost $50,000 to $70,000 per unit to maintain.

In North Branch, the city is exploring a 75- to 100-unit manufactured housing development. This would provide for a comfortable-sized home, a yard, a garage, and a deck, all under individual home occupancy. Other forms of affordable housing simply cannot match this. This is truly a win-win-win for families seeking quality affordable living, communities seeking increased property value and businesses seeking employees.

In the metro, where affordable land is more limited, the focus is on maintaining existing manufactured home developments. The challenge in these communities is refurbishing the aging infrastructure.

Due to this challenge, parks are routinely closed and sold to developers. Since 1991, half of Hennepin County’s manufactured home communities have closed. However, many communities have saved their developments through a cooperative model. Park Plaza in Fridley is a wonderful example of community living in a resident-owned development. With the help of nonprofit organizations that are devoted to this solution, the residents were able to purchase their development as a cooperative and rebuild their water mains, sewer lines and roads.

When residents own their homes and cooperatively own their land, they become invested in their communities. Park Plaza residents elect a board of directors, set their annual budget, and determine lot rent prices.

The Manufactured Housing Working Group is making the case for state investment in this form of affordable housing. In our state, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) provides grants and bonds to support the development and maintenance of affordable housing statewide. Unfortunately, current rules bar manufactured housing from competing for these grants and bonds. The Working Group has pushed for including manufactured housing as a qualifying option for all housing programs under the MHFA.

While we acknowledge the importance of traditional housing options, we need manufactured housing as an extra tool to help us solve our state’s housing crisis.

As Gov. Tim Walz begins his first term, he has appointed Jennifer Ho as commissioner of the MHFA. We encourage them to join us in supporting the expansion of manufactured housing opportunities statewide.

 

Mark Koran, R-North Branch, and Carolyn Laine, DFL-Columbia Heights, are members of the Minnesota Senate.