Manufactured Housing Regulation and Preservation
This page provides an overview of local government regulations and limitations in Washington State related to manufactured housing, including examples of codes. It also provides options for preservation of manufactured housing parks (MHPs), and resources to help navigate potential displacement of residents.
Manufactured houses are houses that are built in a factory and then later placed on a foundation, presumably where the house is to be permanently located. Because these houses are factory built, they are usually much more affordable than a site-built house and therefore serve as a viable type of affordable housing.
Although manufactured homes and mobile homes are much the same, the definitions and subsequent regulations and standards for each are distinct. Mobile homes are dwellings that were factory-built prior to June 15, 1976, while manufactured homes are “a single-family dwelling built according to the United States department of housing and urban development manufactured home construction and safety standards act,” which applies to manufactured homes produced after June 15, 1976 (see RCW 59.20.030 for definitions). Both manufactured homes and mobile homes differ from factory built/modular homes (see RCW 46.04.303 for definition) since modular homes must be mounted to a permanent foundation, connected to required utilities, and follow the regulations and standards of state and local building codes as opposed to those of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Manufactured houses often sit on a privately owned piece of land where many other of these houses are located, also referred to as a manufactured home park. In a manufactured home park, the land that a manufactured house sits on is typically rented while the house itself is owned by the occupant. One potential downside of living in a privately owned manufactured home park is that the occupants that pay rent are susceptible to park closure, and relocation of their manufactured house can be strenuous and expensive. Although not as common, manufactured homes may also sit on other types of land such as in a single-family zone, if local zoning codes permit it.
Federal and state laws limit how local governments can regulate manufactured housing. For example, local governments may not enact construction, safety, and energy standards that are stricter than those established by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), since Congress passed the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974.
In an effort to provide for affordable homeownership and rental housing, the State Legislature since 2004 has required cities and counties to regulate manufactured homes built to federal manufactured housing construction standards no differently than they regulate other types of single-family homes. (See RCW 35.21.684, RCW 35A.21.312, and RCW 36.01.225.) Cities and counties may, under this legislation, require that these manufactured homes:
- Be new manufactured homes;
- Be set on a permanent foundation;
- Comply with any local design standards that may apply to all other homes in the neighborhood in which the manufactured home is to be located;
- Be thermally equivalent to the state energy code; and
- Otherwise meet requirements for a "designated manufactured home" in RCW 35.63.160. (Because a "designated manufactured home" under that definition is one that includes at least two sections, cities and counties may still regulate "single-wide" manufactured homes differently than other types of homes.)
In 2008, the State Legislature passed further restrictions providing that cities and counties may not prohibit a mobile or manufactured home from locating in an existing mobile home park or manufactured housing community (existing before June 12, 2008) based on the age or size of that mobile or manufactured home. Local jurisdictions are still permitted to place age and dimension criteria on manufactured housing that is sited outside of mobile and manufactured housing communities, or on housing to be sited in new mobile home parks or manufactured housing communities.
The 2009 Legislature added a further limitation on the authority of cities and counties regarding manufactured/mobile home communities - cities and counties may not adopt regulations that prevent the entry, or requires the removal, of a recreational vehicle used as a primary residence in manufactured/mobile home communities. However, cities and counties may enact requirements that utility hookups in manufactured/mobile home communities meet state and federal building code standards for these communities and that a recreational vehicle contain both an internal toilet and an internal shower (unless the manufactured/mobile home community provides toilets and showers).
Examples of Local Codes
- Marysville Municipal Code Ch. 22C.230 – Standards and regulations necessary for health, safety, general welfare and convenience
- Richland Municipal Code Sec. 23.42.140 – Detailed standards and requirements regarding permitted uses, development standards, required permits and licenses, and administrative standards for manufactured home parks
- Sequim Municipal Code Ch. 18.62 – Standards for the safe and compatible location of manufactured home parks and recreational vehicle parks
- Soap Lake Municipal Code Ch. 17.65 – Provides a means for the establishment and operation of manufactured home parks and ensures a suitable living environment for owners of manufactured homes located within manufactured home parks
One common obstacle that manufactured home parks and their occupants are facing is displacement as a result of park owners selling the property and the lack of preservative efforts thereafter. The following sections serve to inform on the operational structure of MHPs, current strategies being used to preserve MHPs, and resources to help navigate potential displacement of residents.
One way that an MHP can be preserved is by a local government establishing zones that designate an area specifically for MHPs. This ensures that these properties do not get redeveloped, and residents of the parks are not displaced. As a result, this approach can serve as a direct action for a municipality to take that will preserve one source of its affordable housing stock.
Examples of MHP Zoning Codes
- Bothell Municipal Code Sec. 12.04.100 – Mobile Home Park Overlay zoning classification is used to retain mobile home parks as source of affordable single-family and senior housing.
- Deer Park Municipal Code Ch. 18.52 – Creates a Mobile Home Park Zone that only permits trailers, mobile homes, manufactures homes, or modular homes
- Kenmore Municipal Code Sec. 18.21.045 – Establishes allowed uses within the Manufactured Housing Community Zone
"Tenant Opportunity to Purchase" (TOPO) Ordinance
Another way to preserve MHPs is through local adoption of a “tenant opportunity to purchase (TOPO)” ordinance. Ordinances of this nature require property owners to inform residents of the intent to sell the property and gives residents a specified period of time in order to organize an offer to purchase the property. The reason why an ordinance like this may be effective is because oftentimes these properties are sold “off the market,” which makes it difficult for preservation efforts to occur. College Place Municipal Code Sec. 14.60.190(H) establishes that residents, park homeowners' association, and eligible organizations must be given an opportunity to purchase or lease the manufactured/mobile home park prior to any sale, lease, or transfer, and other cities such as Olympia and Lacey have expressed interest in TOPO ordinances in their housing action plans.
Examples of Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Ordinances (Out of State)
- Berkeley, CA Tenant Opportunity or Purchase Act – Provides tenants a right of first offer and a right of first refusal upon the transfer or sale of a rental property and creates an incentive for owners of rental properties to offer their property for sale to Tenants residing there.
- District of Columbia Code Ch. 42.34 Subchapter IV – Requires owners to give the tenant an opportunity to purchase the housing accommodations at a price and terms that represent a bona fide “offer of sale.”
MHP Purchase by Housing Authorities and Non-Profit Preservation Organizations
An additional way that MHPs can be preserved is through acquisition/purchase of the park itself. This action is typically taken by either a housing authority, non-profit preservation organization, or a “Resident-Owned Community (ROC)”. Manufactured Housing Community Preservationists and ROC Northwest are two examples of nonprofits organizations that help manufactured home communities by either purchasing and preserving properties or assisting such communities through the process of creating an ROC and securing financing. The Washington State Finance Commission has partnered with ROC Northwest to offer financial tools and expert guidance for manufactured housing communities to become self-owned cooperatives which includes financing for the purchasing of communities.
Examples of Local Housing Authorities Who Have Purchased MHPs
- Snohomish County Housing Authority: Thomas Place Manufactured Home Park
- Housing Kitsap: Orchard Bluff Mobile Home Property
- King County Housing Authority: Tall Cedar Manufactured Home Community
Examples of Non-Profit Organizations Who Have Purchased MHPs
Below are some examples purchased by the Manufactured Housing Community Preservationists:
Examples of Residents Buying Back Communities
Below are some examples noted in the Washington State Housing Finance Commission (WSHFC) website:
- Centralia Mobile-home Park (2016)
- Oak Harbor Mobile-home Park (2013)
- Moses Lake Neighborhoods (2014)
Resident-Owned Communities (ROCs)
As mentioned in the MHP Preservation section above, ROCs are an operational structure that is used to buy communities as well as operate them. Although these are potentially challenging to set up, ROCs can be an effective way to keep a community safe from pressures to sell or redevelop the property. ROCs function as a co-op and establish a board that handles day-to-day issues as opposed to an owner and/or property manager. Each household still pays rent for their lot each month to cover expenses like taxes, insurance, trash collection and the ROC’s mortgage payments, as well as an additional co-op membership payment that is often a one-time payment upon purchase. A challenge in setting up an ROC is navigating the purchase of the property, creating the organizational structure of the board, creating bylaws, and getting buy-in from the residents to establish and participate in a resident-owned community.
For a strong example of an ROC, see Duval Riverside Village.
To see the operational structure and other information on MHPs throughout Washington, see Commerce’s dataset containing Registered Manufactured/Mobile Home Communities in Washington State.
In the case of a park closure, the Department of Commerce has a Manufactured/Mobile Home Relocation Assistance Program that provides cash assistance up to $11,000 for a single-section home or up to $17,000 for a multi-section home that can be used for the relocation or demolition of a manufactured home. Community owners may also seek reimbursement from the Relocation Assistance Program for allowable demolition and disposal costs associated with eligible households.
The Washington State Department of Commerce also maintains a List of MHP closures in Washington State.
Codes Helping MHP Tenants
Some municipalities have created codes that expand the responsibilities of owners of MHPs if they decide to close the park. These responsibilities often involve finding and providing useful information and resources to the tenants of the closing MHP or elongating the notice period of eviction.
Examples of Codes
- Kent Municipal Code Sec. 12.05.320 – Before a mobile home park owner may issue eviction notices, a relocation report and plan must be created that addresses the following: providing tenants an inventory of relocation resources, referring tenants to alternative public and private subsidized housing resources, helping tenants obtain and complete the necessary application forms for state-required relocation assistance, and helping tenants to move the mobile homes from the mobile home park
- Seattle Municipal Code Sec. 22.904.410 – Creates specific guidelines for eviction notices for change of use or closure of a mobile home park, and requires owners of the park to provide a relocation report and plan that assists the park residents
- White Salmon Municipal Code Sec. 17.36.080 – This code establishes the same requirements as provided in the Kent Municipal Code above
- Seattle Journal for Social Justice: Move it or Lose it (2018) – Discusses closures of mobile home parks that results from rising land values and development, best approaches for maintaining parks as housing options, the legal requirements for redevelopment, and more.
- University of Georgia: Home Sweet Mobile Park: Developing a Historic Context for a Modern Resource (2012) – Chapter 2 covers the origins of trailers and mobile homes, and the design of trailer campgrounds and mobile home parks going back to the early 1900s. Chapter 3 covers the development of regulations over time, including regulation of home dimensions, taxation, pertinent zoning and building codes, other regulatory barriers, and recommended best practices through land development standards.
- U.S. Code, 42 U.S.C. § 5403 – Federal construction and safety standards for manufactured homes
- RCW 35.21.684 – Authority to regulate placement or use of homes - Regulation of manufactured homes - Issuance of permits - Restrictions on location of manufactured/mobile homes and entry or removal of recreational vehicles used as primary residences
- RCW 35A.21.312 – Authority to regulate placement or use of homes - Regulation of manufactured homes - Issuance of permits - Restrictions on location of manufactured/mobile homes and entry or removal of recreational vehicles used as primary residences
- RCW 36.01.225 – Authority to regulate placement or use of homes - Regulation of manufactured homes - Restrictions on location of manufactured/mobile homes and entry or removal of recreational vehicles used as primary residences
- RCW 35.63.160 – Regulation of manufactured homes - Definitions
- RCW 35A.63.145 – Prohibitions on manufactured homes - Review required - "Designated manufactured home" defined
- RCW 35A.63.146 – Manufactured housing communities - Prohibitions of code city due to community status as a nonconforming use
- RCW 35.63.161 – Manufactured housing communities - Prohibitions of city due to community status as a nonconforming use
- RCW 43.22.340 - 43.22.495 – State Department of Labor & Industry standards related to manufactured homes (as well as recreational and commercial vehicles)
- RCW 59.20.080 – Requires landlords to give a twelve months' notice in advance of the effective date of a change in land use of a mobile home park, including mobile home park closure or conversion
- RCW 59.20.300 – Includes a mandatory notice of sale procedure for manufactured/mobile home communities, and also discusses legislative intent to facilitate the preservation of existing manufactured/mobile home communities
Below is a list of key state court decisions regarding manufactured housing regulation affecting Washington local governments.
Recreational vehicle regulation
Lawson v. City of Pasco, 168 Wn.2d 675 (2010) – Lawson allowed recreational vehicles to park in his residential mobile home park, contrary to a city ordinance. Lawson maintained that the Manufactured/Mobile Home Landlord-Tenant Act, Ch. 59.20 RCW preempted the city ordinance because the state law authorizes, if not requires, recreational vehicles used as a primary residence to be allowed in mobile home parks. A divided supreme court affirmed a decision of the Court of Appeals, a decision that upheld the city ordinance. While the state legislature intended to act in the field of regulating mobile home park landlord-tenant relationships, it did not wholly preempted local action in this field. The legislature expressly conferred concurrent jurisdiction to local municipalities in the field of regulating landlord-tenant compliance with ordinances; the state act did not preempt the local ordinance. The court also found that the ordinance's operation did not conflict with the state law; each could operate distinctly without inconsistency. The ordinance was not unconstitutional. (Subsequent to the Court of Appeals trial on this matter, state law was changed; the city would not now be able to prohibit the RV from the mobile home park. The Supreme Court did not consider the effect of the 2009 legislation codified in RCW 35.21.684; RCW 35A.21.312 and RCW 36.01.225 that was enacted after it accepted the case for review.)
Connection charge not pre-empted
Washington Manufactured Housing Ass'n v. Public Utility District No. 3, 124 Wn.2d 381 (1994) – A public utility district's new facility charge for connecting electricity to electrically heated homes that do not meet certain energy efficiency standards does not impose a construction standard preempted by section 5403 of the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act of 1974 (42 U.S.C. § 5401 et seq.) if the charge covers only the actual costs incurred by the district in providing new, less efficient homes with electrical power. Also, of interest here, the state supreme court, in dicta, noted that it is "clear that zoning laws that ban manufactured housing or limit them to certain areas are not preempted if they are silent as to construction or safety standards." This is still an important case, although subsequent legislation eliminated local government ability to regulate the siting of HUD-compliant manufactured housing differently than other types of homes. See RCW 35.21.684; RCW 35A.21.312, and RCW 36.01.225.