Thursday, March 6, 2014

Surprise! It's Federal Law and Manufactured Home Zoning Law

The Planning and Zoning Pyramid of Discretion
Trailers, mobile homes, manufactured housing—whatever you call them, federal law regarding these abodes can create another potentially sticky situation for city zoning.

Once upon a time, it was up to a city to regulate whether mobile homes in their boundaries had building features such as a foundation or a minimum size requirement.

These were probably good ordinances to have at the time.

But since the 1970s, a federal manufactured home building code has been in force specifying how manufactured homes can be built, and along with that building code came protections in federal law.

Most notably, cities may not have zoning ordinance rules that apply only to manufactured homes and not to other types of residences. 

“Much like there are protections in law for religious institutions, there are also protections in law for manufactured housing,” says land use and loss control attorney Jed Burkett. “And much like with religious institutions, there were traditional zoning practices in place that often times may be inconsistent or in conflict with state and federal law today.”

Manufactured home parks


Manufactured home parks can be another area of confusion for cities. How cities can regulate manufactured home parks, which are licensed through the State Dept. of Health, has its own set of laws.

What's the most common hitch for cities? Under state statute, these parks can be considered a conditional use in zoning districts that allow multi-family housing. That means it would be wise for cities to address these parks in their zoning ordinances, says Burkett. And no, a city may not require manufactured homes to only be located in a manufactured home park.

Surprised? You’re probably not alone. “They are out there,” says Burkett of outdated ordinances. “That’s one of the reasons we continue to talk about this decades after this law changed.”

Here are a couple resources for cities that want to get it right:

Still have questions? Call Jed. “I’m always happy to talk to city folks about these issues,” says Burkett. “I’m available as a resource to them.”

Contact: jburkett@lmc.org (651) 281-1247 or (800) 925-1122.

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