But manufactured housing safety has substantially improved over the years, and the industry is now regulated in Georgia by state and federal officials, said Jay Hamilton, executive director of the Georgia Manufactured Housing Association. The manufactured homes being built today must be anchored down and withstand high winds, he said.
“When it comes to tornadoes, you should not be in any housing. You should be in a basement or a designated storm shelter,” Hamilton said. “A tornado is like cancer. It is does not discriminate based on the type of housing.”
Many people prefer manufactured homes because they can be more affordable than “site-built” houses, Hamilton said.
“We have a lot of rural areas in Georgia where people’s incomes are limited,” he said. “So their choice of what they can spend on housing is limited.”
“And we have a lot of people who have moved into manufactured housing over the years who intentionally did it to downsize,” Hamilton continued. “It wasn’t an income issue. It was: ‘Hey, we are retired. Our kids are gone. And we don’t want all of our complete financial portfolio tied up in housing.’”
The Manufactured Housing Institute has cited advancements in manufactured home safety, saying those units “perform as well as site-built homes during a storm. In fact, the explanation for the reports of damage to manufactured homes from tornadoes is quite simple: manufactured housing is largely found in rural and suburban areas where tornadoes are most likely to occur.”
Since 1976, according to the institute, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department has required stringent construction and safety standards for manufactured homes, making them superior to the mobile homes built prior to that year.
But it's better to be safe than sorry, said Leslie Chapman-Henderson, president and CEO of the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group based in Tallahassee, Fla.
“We do not recommend taking shelter in a mobile home — as a first resort — for refuge under any circumstances in today’s times” during a tornado, she said. “The traditional ‘mobile homes’ of a certain vintage are on one side of the spectrum. Are the manufactured homes that are built (today) better? Sure. But am I going to stay inside one today? No.”
Top five states with manufactured homes
1. Florida, 828,603
2. Texas, 760,201
3. North Carolina, 592,85
4. California, 518,547
5. Georgia, 381,978
Source: Manufactured Housing In