Monday, July 24, 2000

Ohio legitimizes factory-built homes

No wheels on these dwellings; they're staying

By Cindi Andrews
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It's a sight that could strike fear in the heart of any homeowner: a flatbed truck dropping off a factory-built house on the lot next door.

        It's likely to become more common in Ohio — but don't worry, government officials say: The new neighbor isn't the mobile home of yesteryear.

Happy homeowner Sandy Couch of Harlan Township has been living in her factory-made Cape Cod for six years.
(Craig Ruttle photo)
| ZOOM |
        Under pressure from Washington, the state last year required local governments to allow manufactured homes that meet specific criteria anywhere single-family homes are permitted.

        The new rules are trickling down to the local level, with Hamilton County adopting them this spring and Warren County doing so last week.

        The change makes some people nervous in Warren County, where zoning had long relegated mobile homes to trailer parks.

        “It's a double-wide trailer on a foundation,” Harlan Township resident Dee Logan said of a manufactured home going up near her farm. “It probably has the proper (roof) pitch, but it still looks like a trailer.”

        Local planners say the rules ensure the new manufactured home next door is indistinguishable from its site-built neighbors.

        In counties that restrict where mobile homes go, old-style mobile homes still will be allowed only in designated parks.

        To break out of the park, a manufactured house must have a sufficiently slanted roof and conventional siding, contain at least 900 square feet and sit on a permanent foundation.

        Manufactured housing is gaining favor in Ohio, where dealers have been selling about 8,000 a year for the past five years, said Tim Williams, executive vice president of the Ohio Manufactured Homes Association.

        Of those, 60 percent are sectional homes — houses that are moved in pieces. Most go on individual sites with permanent foundations.

        “That trend has really started to be the dominant trend in the last five to 10 years,” Mr. Williams said.

        Just being built on site is no guarantee of quality or appearance. Stick-built houses, as traditional site-built homes are called in zoning and planning circles, have nothing on some manufactured homes, planning officials cautioned.

        For instance, Sandy Couch's two-story, three- bedroom Cape Cod in southeastern Warren County was constructed of 2-by-4 “sticks” in a factory instead of on-site.

        “It's a house, not a trailer,” she said.

        The factory connection can be a plus when compared to homes that are not protected from the elements during construction, building officials say.

        “In many cases, those are actually better built than those that are built on site,” said Marty Kohler, Lebanon planning director.

        The Warren County seat already permitted manufactured homes.

        Manufactured housing is a more affordable option in a market that has seen rising prices during the past several years.

        That's what put Ms. Couch and her family at the forefront of this trend six years ago, when they were hoping to move from a cramped house in Sharonville to their 5-acre slice of the American dream in Harlan Township.

        The Couches' manufactured house cost about $50,000, she said — $30,000 less than a site-built house.

        She obtained blueprints from the builder to convince skeptical county officials that the house was not a mobile home.

        Six years later, Ms. Couch is happy with her trouble-free choice. Unlike a mobile home, she said, it will gain value.

        Objections to manufactured housing in single-family communities have been muted, but it's early yet, warned Doug Putnam, a researcher for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

        As counties and townships start changing laws, he said, “I think they are going to confront some controversy.”

        Tony communities proba bly will not have to worry about manufactured housing moving in, officials say, because of high land prices.

        Also, developers of subdivisions and individual sellers can put covenants on deeds barring manufactured housing from a site, Mr. Putnam and Warren County Planning Director Bob Craig said.


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