Planning Today’s Manufactured Home Community Expansions, New Developments

After more than 50 years planning manufactured housing communities, RV resorts, subdivisions and miscellaneous other projects one would think I have seen everything. However, in this unique and difficult time, we have never been busier than ever. Leading the way, manufactured home communities and RV resorts are causing us to work overtime.

Home Appearance community expansions
Professional Planner Donald Westphal

Why is this?

With manufactured housing, I believe there is no better solution to the affordable housing crisis.  Our work in response to this need comes in two areas: Upgrading and expansion of existing communities and planning new greenfield communities. Community upgrades are difficult planning projects since many of the older communities were built for smaller homes and are under older, less restrictive ordinances. Reconfiguring these smaller homesites for larger homes often results in a loss of density and a resulting loss of revenue. However, many of these older communities are well located since when originally built they were on the outskirts and development has grown around them, leaving them in very desirable locations. They also are targeted for what some consider “higher and better uses”, yet, in most cases, zoning for expansion and upgrades is less difficult to achieve.

New Communities Present the Other Option

New Greenfield projects are another story. Zoning for these developments, in my experience, is as difficult as ever even though community officials most often readily admit they have a shortage of modestly priced housing.

With proper preparation and planning, gaining the required zoning can be accomplished.

Our company has outlined the process in presentations at industry events and most recently in an MHI webinar. A successful process begins with great planning. One must understand the ordinance requirements, the approval process, the players, and the planning staff. A great site plan in accordance with the local ordinance and conforming to the particular site features is essential. Listening in the early stages of conversations with staff and officials and incorporating their ideas, where possible, helps to give them ownership in the plan. This can be very advantageous. We must understand that the zoning process is a marketing job, in convincing the decision-makers that the project will be one that they will be proud of for years to come. One will never have an opportunity to market homes to the public if we do not properly market the project in the zoning and site planning process.

RV resort planning likely is of less interest to readers of this publication, though many manufactured home community developers also develop and operate RV parks, including blended properties that offer both homesites and RV hospitality. These projects can face planning and zoning challenges that are similar to what we face in housing. The pandemic has resulted in a tremendous rise in RV use and a significant increase in the demand for our services in this venue.

Fortunately, my firm after 50 years has joined forces with the Nadi Group and is well-positioned to assist clients, new and old. We can and will meet surge in demand with our expanded staff and the ability to provide details beyond the master plan stage of a project. The Nadi group provides these services to clients nationwide.

Good Luck and stay safe.