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We Made the News Again
By George Porter
In the February issue of Consumer Reports there is a story
on Manufactured Housing. I had heard about this way before it
came out and was told it was a terrible trashing of the industry.
Well, I read the whole thing and it didn't seem so bad to me.
It is certainly mild compared to some "investigative reporting"
being done about us these days. They actually said some complementary
things but unfortunately they also interpreted a few things with
a negative view. Their comparison of our homes after Hurricane
Andrew in '92 and site built housing is the first on my list.
They state that almost all of the mobile homes in Dade County
Fla. were destroyed and only 28% of the site constructed homes
suffered irreparable damage. The conclusion is that you are better
off in a site constructed home. There are other ways to look at
this. For instance what is a total loss? Insurance companies have
sophisticated formulas for figuring this out according to replacement
cost, equity, future value and other things. Boiled down to it's
simplest terms total loss is when it cost more to fix the home
than it will be worth when you are done.
If you do $60,000 worth of damage to a $60,000 home then it
surely is a total loss. On the other hand if you do $60,000 damage
to a $180,000 home, then you fix it because you would be crazy
to throw away the remaining $120,000 therefore it is not a total
loss. Is this really fair? It would seem that if we were to use
this as the gauge of quality and durability in homes we would
have to take a closer look at this statistic. For us to achieve
the same statistics (28% total losses) in our homes as the site
constructed variety then 72% of out homes would have to meet the
formulas for repairable. For instance a $60,000 Manufactured Home
may only be allowed to have $20,000 worth of damage in order to
be repairable and not a total loss. This would be 1/3 of the damage
done to site constructed housing in order to be "equal".
A much older $9,000 mobile home, probably not built to the HUD
Code, would only be allowed to have $3,000 worth of bills, this
is only 5% of the $60,000 damage sustained to the "sticks
and bricks home" in order to be repairable and not totaled,
therefore "equal". As a gauge this system stinks.
In addition, if all the housing developments had hundreds of
travel trailers sitting all around them like most manufactured
housing communities in Dade County, then maybe they would get
wiped out too. Travel trailers are nice, but when one of these
unanchored 4 ton+ missiles hits your home at 150 mph, you suffer
damage. I was there and I took lots of pictures of travel trailers,
or pieces of them, sticking in the sides of our homes. This is
a zoning problem, not a construction problem.
Finally, the new HUD standards for Wind Zone 3 are only certified
to 110 mph, Andrew had sustained winds of 147 mph with a few tornados
and down bursts according to the National Hurricane Center. Who
could say that if Andrew happened again things would be all that
Nobody, regardless of where the home is built, designs a house
for the winds Andrew had, then or now. Consumer Reports may be
correct in saying that we can do better than we have done in the
past, but it should be ordinary bad weather that we use as a standard,
not the worst storm of the century.
Wouldn't it be a great thing if this industry had a public
relations program instead of simply reacting to this kind of press?
What was the last good reporting about this industry that you
saw that you did not read in an industry trade journal? Don't
we have any good things to say about ourselves that would be of
interest to the general public? All that folks get to hear about
is our disaster stories and they are misled into thinking that
there are no good points to these homes.
In the next several issues of The Journal, I will be discussing
what we can brag about and I invite you to send me some material
if you like. We will also be taking a closer look at other points
brought up in the Consumers Reports story.