Houston, We Have A Problem
It's hard to believe that almost 12 years ago to the day Hurrican Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Now we are watching Hurricane Harvey pound Houston and surrounding areas almost the same way Katrine did - hitting land with a vengeance, then taking his time to leave dumping unheard of amounts of rain on an already soaked area.
Katrina seemed to bring out the best and worst of people, but one industry that stepped up to make a difference and to help people in need was the manufactured housing community. We all stopped what we were doing, and started working 7 days a week with two and three shifts to do what we do best - build safe, affordable housing in a factory environment quickly. No other form of construction can match what this industry provides, especially when you think some plants can build four to five homes, maybe, even more, A DAY. Homes are built to a national HUD code which assures people that no matter if they live in a town of 500 or five million people, the homes are built equally as well.
If you have ever been fortunate enough to attend a manufactured housing show or one of the Manufactured Housing Institute conferences, you have experienced how proud this industry is of the homes that we build, and how much we love what we do. That's why when Katrina hit, and I'm sure now that Harvey is wreaking havoc on Houston, they will drop everything and figure out how as an industry we can help get people out of shelters and provide housing for all of the people who very well may have lost everything.
I was working for Patriot Homes when Katrina hit, and I'm proud to say that I personally specified furniture and interiors for over 2,500 FEMA trailers and 850 MEMA cottages. When FEMA provided much needed temporary housing after Katrina, you may not know but not only did people get a home - it was fully furnished and had the basic necessities like pots. pans. dishes, bedding, and towels. Things that are almost impossible to find in communities where people have to start over, so it made the pain a little bit easier to take. The biggest issue after Katrina was that I don't think anyone realized how long it was going to take for the cities to come back and people to get the money to rebuild, and people didn't want to relocate 10, 20, or more miles from where they had been living - they wanted to be home. As a result, many of the 800 sq ft plus HUD homes we built were never used, and people chose RVs that were also offered so they could pull them into their driveways and protect their homes while they rebuilt. The problem was though that RVs aren't built to the same codes as a HUD code, and aren't meant to be lived in full-time. They were meant to be used as seasonal or vacation homes, and the formaldehyde testing is completely different for them. People ended up using these as permanent housing and that's when issues arose. To our knowledge, any housing that had issues with these were RVs, not, in fact, HUD code homes.
Our industry is ready to step up and help, and I think we have all learned a lot from past experiences. YES! Communities is a great example. Some of their Oklahoma communities were right in the path of the tornados that hit Moore, Oklahoma in 2013. They dispatched employees from the states surrounding Oklahoma, and made sure everyone was safe, had food and water, and started cleanup. And an interesting fact (I was there three days after one of the tornadoes hit and I saw it for myself) the manufactured homes in their communities sustained less damage than the site built homes around them.
Hoping that Harvey will leave us soon and we can get to work doing what we do best - building safe, affordable housing.