Oct 13, 2017

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“A home is a home”: A recap of the 2017 IM HOME Conference

by | Oct 13, 2017

Earlier this month, I had the privilege to attend Prosperity Now’s 2017 IM HOME (Innovations in Manufactured Housing) Conference in Providence, R.I. The conference brought together advocates, retailers, lenders, activists, manufacturers, academics, economic developers and others to collaborate on everything and anything related to manufactured-housing issues.

Colorado Center on Law and Policy believes that manufactured housing represents a quality and affordable homeownership option for low- and moderate-income families in Colorado. Indeed, manufactured housing represents the largest unsubsidized form of affordable housing in the United States.

Unfortunately, as has been documented by housing experts, this form of housing often faces considerable local opposition that results in prohibitive and discriminatory regulations against the expansion of these types of homes. Stigma surrounding the image of “trailer parks” and the debated concern that property values will drop for surrounding neighborhoods is largely to blame for stifling the development of manufactured-housing communities. Despite decades of improvements in the design and quality of manufactured homes, local opposition often stymies their placement within a community on a vacant lot of land.

In response to these challenges, Prosperity Now’s IM HOME Conference serves to educate, energize and connect members of the manufactured housing circle, in the effort to bring manufactured housing into the mainstream policy arena.

The conference kicked off with a site visit to two local manufactured home communities that had been collectively purchased by the residents themselves. Known as a Resident Owned Community (ROC), these communities form when a landowner sells the land underneath the community resident’s homes to the residents themselves. While a considerable number of ROCs have formed across the country, the vast majorities of manufactured home community members own their homes but rent the land beneath them. Should the landowner decide to sell his property to another entity (such as a developer), the homeowner is forced to either relocate their home — an expensive prospect — or lose their home altogether.

Hundreds if not thousands of Americans have faced this situation.  Conference attendees were shown by Professor Esther Sullivan of the University of Colorado the implications for manufactured homeowners when their community closes. In short, they are devastating.

We helped develop opportunity to purchase legislation last year that sought to incentivize the formation of ROCs in response to the closure of manufactured home communities across the state. While the bill failed to pass out of committee, we remain supportive of policy efforts that would incentivize and encourage the formation of ROCs within Colorado.

Other highlights from the conference included presentations on the various creative methods by which housing developers are using manufactured housing to provide homes to low- and moderate-income families. From Texas to Minnesota to Oregon and New Hampshire, nonprofits, community development financial institutions and other entities are using manufactured homes in innovative ways to address the housing shortages within their states.

What distinguishes those efforts from other affordable-housing initiatives is the minimal, if any, effect they have on state budgets. It’s also worth noting that these efforts result in low- and moderate-income families becoming equity-building homeowners. Rather than throwing money out the window each month towards rent, these families are developing assets they can pass on to future generations in their families. Colorado ought to do more to follow our neighbors’ lead to open up these opportunities that would address Colorado’s own housing shortage.

At the beginning of the conference, I was struck by the socio-economic diversity of the participants. It’s not every day you see bankers rubbing shoulders with community activists, or trade industry representatives collaborating with poverty-focused policy analysts. It became clear to me though that — despite the many evident ideological differences among the attendees — we are all working towards the same goal: legal equality between manufactured and site-built homes and broader inclusion and acceptance of them in our communities.

At the end of the day — to borrow a phrase from our new friends at Next Step — a home, whether built in a factory or from the ground up, is a home. To deny this is to deny millions of people the opportunity of affordable homeownership, a denial that adversely affects us all through broader social and economic consequences.

By Kristopher Grant

Recent articles

HEALTH:
HEALTH FIRST COLORADO (MEDICAID)

To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.

FOOD SECURITY:
SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (SNAP)

Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.

FOOD SECURITY:
SPECIAL SUPPLEMENTAL NUTRITION PROGRAM FOR WOMEN, INFANTS AND CHILDREN (WIC)

Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.

EARLY LEARNING:
COLORADO CHILD CARE ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (CCCAP)

Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.