PBS Misses Its Mark in Manufactured Housing Story

NewsHour Tale of Rising Lot Rents Fails Litmus Test of Logic/Context


LAKELAND, Fla. January 11, 2016 —  The premise may have seemed promising to reporter/producer Stephen Fee when he embarked on a story meant to show that the nation’s most affordable form of housing might not be so affordable after all.

But the end product, Bad bargain? Manufactured-home owners feel the financial strain, suggests the premise didn’t really hold water — and one wonders why he stayed the course instead of following the story to its logical conclusion.

The premise:  “Typically older and poorer than traditional homeowners, manufactured homeowners often face serious, unique financial difficulties that make it a bad bargain for some low-income Americans.”

The reality: The manufactured homeowners he interviewed, who complained of rising lot rents, were comfortably middle class and paid, on average, $100,000 cash for homes purchased more than a decade ago.

That might have been one clue that Fee’s thesis was not panning out, and that perhaps his leading example — Carla Burr, a staunch anti-Manufactured Home Community activist — might have an agenda that should have been considered.

At the very least, Burr’s connections to an activist group should have been disclosed, which they were not.

Perhaps due to time limitations, or perhaps for other reasons, the NewsHour piece failed to explore a number of facts that would have lent context and balance — most notably the comparable issues in the housing market as a whole.

Burr, for instance, traded in her Virginia condo for a manufactured home in an upscale MH community. She saw her lot rent go up 30 percent over the course of 10 years.

How much did the association fees and real estate taxes at her old condo increase over that period? Fee did not address that obvious question, so we will never know.

Nor did he consider the routinely rising costs of living that apply to every form of housing, not just manufactured homes:

If your options include renting for $1000 per month, or owning a manufactured home outright and placing it on leased land for $350 monthly, both the land lease and the rental unit fees will go up over time.

Nor did he crunch any comparative numbers:

If you raised the rents — say 2 percent on the $1000-a-month rental house — you just saw a $20 increase. That same 2 percent on a land lease yields a $7 hike.

The same goes for rising costs of condo fees and real estate taxes for other forms of owned housing.

By looking at the big picture and doing the math, an entirely different picture emerges, and it does not support the premise of the story.

Likewise, the issue of depreciation lacks historic and factual context:

Anyone who lived through the past decade knows that tens of millions saw their home values drop.

These just scratch the surface of the omissions in what may have been a well-meaning, but misguided piece of reporting that MHLivingNews explores in depth in What PBS NewsHour Missed About Manufactured Home Living, linked here.


Hopefully this analysis will prompt PBS to take a closer look at this issue and offer a broader and more balanced perspective to a housing option that more than 20 million Americans have chosen. ##

(Photo Caption: the photo collage represents actual manufactured homes from both large corporate as well as independent producers of modern HUD Code manufactured housing, produced in different parts of the nation. 
© Copyright 2016 by MHLivingNews.com, all rights reserved – permission to reprint with this press release is hereby granted.)

MHLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com are the leading trade publications for manufactured housing consumers and MH industry leaders who want up-to-date lifestyle and business news.

Media Contact:

L. A. “Tony” Kovach

Publisher – MHLivingNews.com

Phone: 863-213-4090

Email: latonyk@manufacturedhomelivingnews.com.###

No Comments Yet

Leave a Comment