County allows manufactured homes in more districts

NEW RULES: The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved changes to the county zoning ordinance on April 2 that expands the zoning districts in which homeowners can place multisection manufactured homes, like this one in Wellington Community Estates. Photo by David Floyd

Chris Rominger‘s mom, a lifelong inhabitant of Buncombe County, could soon be in the market for a new place to call home. But her options may be limited, Rominger told the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on April 2, because she’d be splitting the proceeds from selling her family home with another relative. “The amount of money that my mom’s left with doesn’t leave her with a lot of options in the area,” he said.

As commissioners considered a measure to allow manufactured homes in more zoning districts in the county, Rominger said he hoped the change would make it easier to find a housing option in his mom’s price range. “I don’t want my mom to have to go live in Old Fort when she’s lived here her whole life and put her away from her granddaughter,” the Asheville resident said. “I would love to see something like this passed to help us out.”

All members of the board ultimately voted in favor of allowing manufactured homes in more residential districts.

Manufactured homes were previously limited to residential low density, R-3 residential, employment and open-use districts. With the change, the list of permitted districts now also encompasses R-1, R-2 and the Beaverdam Low-Density Residential District. Only unincorporated parts of the county are affected by the new rules.

“This is about equity and about opportunity for families,” said Commissioner Joe Belcher, who worked for almost 30 years at manufactured home seller Clayton Homes. “As an advocate for affordable housing for 40 years, I’m excited about the possibility of this passing this evening and I’ll gladly support it.”

Because manufactured homes tend to be cheaper than site-built homes, commissioners framed the changes as a way to improve access to affordable housing in Buncombe County.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average sales price of a manufactured home was $71,900 in 2017, which represents a 10% increase over the average sales price for manufactured homes in 2014.

In contrast, the average sales price of a site-built home in 2017, including land, was $384,900, an 11% increase over the average 2014 value of $347,700.

“There’s price ranges mentioned in Buncombe County often of [$200,000] and [$400,000],” Belcher said, “but this is about families who can’t even comprehend these numbers.” Belcher says demand for housing in the sub-$200,000 price range is “very high.”

Commissioner Amanda Edwards asked staff how manufactured homes might impact the value of adjacent homes in the newly permitted districts.

“I don’t think there is an answer, unfortunately,” responded Keith Miller, the county’s tax assessor. “There’s not enough data. In ‘appraisal world,’ you have to have data, and you’ve got to do direct analysis to figure out what happens when these homes [are] placed in a neighborhood in which that would be affected.” The value of manufactured housing in Buncombe County, however, has been steadily increasing, Miller said.

The amendments include aesthetic standards requiring manufactured homes in the newly permitted districts to include “skirting” of stone, brick or architectural or rusticated block around the building’s base. The structures must be installed on a permanent foundation and must have multiple sections (ruling out single-wide homes).

Those requirements only apply to homes in the newly permitted districts; manufactured home parks located anywhere in the county don’t have to follow the new aesthetic standards.

In an April 3 Facebook post, Edwards said she had gone into the April 2 meeting conflicted about the issue. “Some asked me to support manufactured housing, and others asked me to vote no,” she wrote. “The common theme in all communication was the need for affordable housing in Buncombe County.”

Edwards ultimately voted with her colleagues in favor of the changes, pointing to the recent appreciation in the value of manufactured homes in the county, as well as the aesthetic requirements, which she said make it possible for the homes to blend in with the site-built houses around them.

“Manufactured housing will not completely solve the affordable housing crisis; however, it is a viable option for homeownership for many in our county and often the only option available,” she wrote. “It is also only one aspect that we will consider as the county seeks multiple solutions to our affordable housing challenge.”

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About David Floyd
David Floyd was a reporter for the Mountain Xpress. He previously worked as a general-assignment reporter for the Johnson City Press.

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