Article: Daniel R. Mandelker, “Zoning Barriers to Manufactured Housing,” 43 The Urban Lawyer 233 (2016).
Manufactured housing is a major affordable housing resource for millions of people. Restrictive zoning barriers limit its availability, even though studies have discredited myths, such as objections to its safety and quality. A national statute, the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act, authorizes building code standards that address all aspects of safety, durability and quality, and that preempt state and local codes that deal with this problem. The Act does not preempt restrictive zoning, and Congress should amend the law to cover zoning restrictions. Judicial control of zoning barriers to manufactured housing is unsatisfactory and requires statutory change. Courts accept unequal treatment that applies restrictive zoning only to manufactured housing, though some statutes prohibit discrimination. The cases uphold exclusions from residential districts if manufactured housing is allowed elsewhere. Some statutes prohibit exclusion by requiring manufactured housing as a permitted use in all residential districts, or allow a community to decide what residential districts must accept manufactured housing. Courts uphold aesthetic standards, such as roofing and siding requirements, and some statutes authorize them, though limitations are needed to protect manufactured housing from exclusionary treatment. Communities often require approval of manufactured housing as a conditional use, and approval as a conditional use is often denied. Courts have upheld conditional use denials, and statutory protective standards are needed that will prevent abuse of the conditional use requirement.