The Great Recession inflicted painful injuries to two of the biggest job engines in Indiana’s Elkhart County, leaving thousands unemployed in the recreational vehicle and manufactured housing industries.
Five years later, the nation’s economic recovery is steadily nursing one of the patients back to good health, while the other has jumped out of bed, ripped out its IV lines and sprinted down the hospital corridor toward the doors.
Because so many unworthy subprime borrowers were given loans to buy site-built homes during the early 2000s (these were also known as the “liar loans” that fueled the housing crisis), manufactured housing was already on wobbly legs when the recession started in 2008, according to L.A. “Tony” Kovach, publisher of the digital trade publications ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com.
After peaking at 146,881 units in 2005, a figure artificially inflated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) purchase of units for displaced Hurricane Katrina victims, production dropped steadily to 81,907 in 2008, according to theManufactured Housing Institute.
Then, when the recession threw millions out of work, production collapsed to 49,717 units in 2009.
Now the MH industry is on a four-year uptick, with production projected to hit 63,000 shipments this year, but things could still be better, Kovach said.
“We’ve got this affordable housing shortage in America,” Kovach said. “Manufactured housing is a solution but it’s not a solution that a lot of people are turning to. We still suffer from this mobile home image issue. But yet if a person goes to see what a modern manufactured home looks like, it takes their breath away.”
Kovach has long been urging the industry to launch an aggressive marketing effort to boost its image, similar to what the RV industry has done with its Go RVing campaign.
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