Advancing Manufactured Housing in Native American Communities

Native American families have a complex relationship with manufactured homes. As of 2017, about 500,000 (12%) of American Indian/Alaskan Native families lived in manufactured homes—twice the rate of the United States population​ as a whole. Yet there is still a stigma around manufactured housing in native communities.

The concentration of home lenders on reservation lands complicates the manufactured homebuyer process. The Center for Indian Country Development (CICD) finds a “pattern of higher priced loans in Indian Country, with much of the higher price due to the prevalence of manufactured housing.” They raise concern about the prevalence of predatory lending in these communities, potentially stripping residents of wealth-building opportunities and reducing access to critical sources of financing homeowners need to purchase homes.

Research shows that potential homeowners are denied manufactured home loans at a disproportionately higher rate than other type of home loans. The CICD found that in 2015 and 2016, about 75 percent of applications for manufactured-home loans from Native borrowers on the reservation were denied. A 2017 review of Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data found the most common stated reasons for loan denial was poor credit, high debt-to-income ratios, and lack of financial collateral. As a result, fewer homeowners are able to purchase manufactured homes that could provide sustainable, affordable housing.

Prosperity Now, with the support of Wells Fargo, is exploring how Native Communities can more readily access manufactured housing as stable and affordable housing options. Homebuyer counseling and financial education can help potential homeowners navigate some of those issues and potentially increase the range of opportunities for accessing housing. Given the unique characteristics of manufactured housing along with particular land considerations in Indian Country, there is a need for culturally specific homebuyer curriculum.

Furthermore, while manufactured housing is common in Native communities, there remains a stigma that persists that the homes are substandard. We will explore these topics in more detail at the I’M HOME conference, November 18-20 in Portland, Oregon as we welcome speakers from the Center on Indian Country Development and the Northern Circle Indian Housing Authority. CICD will present new research on high-cost mortgages in Indian Country and Northern Circle will share its experiences with using manufactured housing to develop homeownership and rental opportunities for tribal members. We will continue this work over the next year as we foster partnerships that promote affordable homeownership and continue to highlight the urgency of affordable housing work through public events and written pieces that prominently feature tribal voices.

During our convening in Portland, we will also provide guidance for organizations that support first-time homebuyers understand the potential asset building of manufactured housing while recognizing the challenges in the field. We will build off existing homebuyer counseling resources tailored for Native Communities such as the Native American Indian Housing Council’s Pathways Home Training as well as the Tribal Leaders Handbook on Homeownership. We plan to include elements such in the curriculum specific to manufactured housing including federal programs and ordinances, retailer information, transportation and installation cost​, titling issues and the history of tribal lands.

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