How Havenpark Is Enhancing the MHC Resident Experience
After a bustling 2022, the owner-operator continues to build on the sector’s momentum. CEO Robbie Pratt weighs in.
The manufactured housing sector has gained prominence in the past few years due to its resiliency and stability, particularly when economic conditions deteriorate and demand for affordable housing reaches new highs. While it is true that the sector is still experiencing decades-old stigma, some owners and operators are stubbornly determined to show that well-managed manufactured homes can be a palpable solution to the nationwide affordable housing crisis.
“We are in a unique position to contribute to the national conversation about the benefits offered by manufactured homes, including their affordability, contributions to increasing the national housing supply, and their sustainable and energy efficient construction,” Robbie Pratt, CEO & co-founder of Havenpark Communities, told Multi-Housing News.
With a portfolio of more than 80 communities across 15 states in the Mountain West, Sun Belt and Midwest regions, Havenpark is committed to easing the nation’s acute housing affordability challenge by collaborating with stakeholders in both the manufactured housing industry and the government. A year after our first chat, MHN caught up with Pratt on his company’s initiatives and how they plan to keep improving the quality of the communities they own and manage.
What is your approach toward manufactured housing? Why did you choose to get involved in this particular sector?
Pratt: We see manufactured housing as a welcome alternative to traditional single-family homes and apartment living. A big selling point to living in a manufactured home are the benefits of living in a designated community. Our communities typically have resident amenities such as a clubhouse, sport courts, playgrounds, a pool, in addition to landscaped and well-maintained grounds.
Manufactured homes also provide residents with an opportunity at affordable homeownership—including private living space—and other benefits that are absent through apartments or traditional homes. Once you see how a well-managed manufactured home community is operated you understand why they offer a real solution to the nation’s housing affordability challenge. Manufactured homes are an opportunity for homeownership to the millions of Americans looking for housing that is affordable, safe and modern.
Resident experience is something we take very seriously and is a major factor in our operational decisions at the company. Whether it’s capital investments in shared spaces and amenities, community expansions for additional sites, or our giving back, such as academic scholarships—we are committed to enhancing the lives of our residents.
Last year, you spent some $35 million on capital improvements across your properties. What were the main aspects that needed an upgrade?
Pratt: I am proud to say we upheld our promise to complete $35 million in community upgrades across our properties in 2022. This capital investment upgraded durable infrastructure such as development of concrete roads and sidewalks; investments in community amenities including pools and playgrounds; landscaping, and installation of high-quality lighting and community signage.
This investment followed our $24 million capital infusion in 2021 that upgraded many of the same features across our communities. In 2023, we plan on making significant investments across our community portfolio to continue improving the resident experience and encourage prospective individuals and the broader public, to seriously consider manufactured homes as a viable alternative to traditional site-built homes.
Last fall you announced an expansion at West Branch Village in Iowa. Please tell us more about the upgrades and improvements you performed there.
Pratt: Havenpark’s West Branch Village community in Iowa is a great example of our commitment to constantly improving our communities for current and future residents. We purchased the property in April 2019, and since then have made capital improvements including upgrading the roads, installing new sport courts and playgrounds for our residents, infrastructure upgrades, and most recently, construction of 65 new lots for high-quality manufactured homes.
More importantly, this community highlights the economic advantages manufactured homes hold when compared to traditional on-site single-family homes. In the Iowa city metro area, where West Branch Village is located, the price of a home is more than $300,000. This is a stark contrast to the community’s new manufactured homes, which start at $79,900.
Please tell us a few details about your scholarship program and how it helps your student residents.
Pratt: Our Education Success Program exemplifies our commitment to enriching the lives our residents. Now in its third year, Havenpark has pledged $500,000 annually to our education initiatives, and we expect to provide academic scholarships for up to 40 students, nearly double from the previous year, with scholarships worth up to $10,000.
The program, conceived by Havenpark’s Chairman & Co-Founder, J. Anthony Antonelli, and led by our Director of Education Success, Jason Hale, will provide mentorship opportunities in addition to financial assistance for students as they navigate their higher education journeys. Both Antonelli and Hale’s life experiences of growing up in mobile home communities solidified the importance of pursuing higher education. Havenpark is proud to give back to our residents and set them up for future success.
Are there any legislative changes that would help developers like you increase the number of MHCs they deliver? What would help you do your part easier?
Pratt: Federal and state governments play a critical role in increasing the supply of affordable housing stock. Manufactured housing is already an important component of America’s affordable housing, but restrictive zoning and unequal financing options limit its scope.
Firstly, financing options for manufactured homes are limited and must be reformed if policymakers are serious about solving the housing shortage. Prospective residents looking to purchase a manufactured home have few opportunities and face stringent loan requirements that are needed to purchase a home—mostly because, from a lender’s perspective historically, manufactured homes have been viewed more like an automobile loan and less like a home loan. Most manufactured home buyers do not have access to traditional home mortgages and instead are forced to finance their homes through these much more expensive personal property “chattel” loans. This lack of affordable financing has made the pathway to homeownership more difficult.
Secondly, land-use regulations such as restrictive zoning measures continue to be major barriers to affordable housing development. These zoning measures vary at the local and state level, but one thing is certain: They reduce the supply of land and limit developers’ ability to invest in multifamily and moderate-income housing. Decades of constraints on land development to achieve uniform and aesthetic neighborhoods are no longer valid in today’s rapidly changing economy, and have contributed to the lack of affordable housing.
To what extent is the current economic uncertainty and debt market volatility impacting the projects you have underway and your business as a whole?
Pratt: While rising interest rates have had an impact on some of our work, overall we continue to experience strong growth and momentum. We expect continued expansion in 2023 as we provide more Americans with affordable housing opportunities.
How much do you intend to expand this year?
Pratt: In addition to several new property acquisitions this year, Havenpark expects to add 800 high-quality, affordable homes across its community portfolio in 2023. This comes on the heels of delivering 870 manufactured homes in 2022. We were able to accomplish our previous year’s goal with the help from our industry home builders who delivered despite supply chain constraints and economic uncertainty.
What other goals do you have for 2023?
Pratt: In 2023, we will continue adding value for our residents and make good on our commitment to build caring and affordable communities. This includes making capital investments to upgrade our communities and improve the resident experience, which, ultimately, increase the value of our residents’ most important asset—their homes. Also, we will build on our commitment to add 800 homes across our communities.