Bryan’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend a proposal to the City Council that would ban the installation of manufactured homes on vacant lots.
If approved by the City Council, the proposal would eliminate the city’s MU-1 mixed-use residential district zoning, which is the only zoning district that allows manufactured homes on individual lots. Properties with that zoning, which are primarily in Single Member Districts 1 and 2, would be converted to the Residential District RD-5 zoning. Manufactured homes could still be installed in the city’s roughly 30 mobile home communities.
The decision comes amid a period of growing concerns over housing affordability in Bryan-College Station, something mentioned by many of the 30 people who spoke at the special meeting against the proposed amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance. The speakers, many of whom said they live in manufactured housing or intended to place such a home on land they own, said they were against the proposal, which would reduce their access to a housing type they can afford without other options already in place.
A P&Z subcommittee that has studied the issue — the proposal stems from a recommendation in the city’s comprehensive master plan — determined that while manufactured housing is a significant component of the local affordable housing market, it comes with concerns about appearance, durability, price appreciation and the impact those factors have on the values of adjacent properties. Allowing the installation of manufactured homes on individual lots could have a “long-term negative effect on the welfare of the public,” the subcommittee found.
The zoning change would affect roughly 2,600 parcels of land with 1,167 owners, and render 750 manufactured homes as nonconforming but legally allowed. Property owners would be allowed to keep their existing manufactured homes on the rezoned properties until they reach the end of the service lives, and per state law could be replaced one time before new housing would have to conform with the RD-5 zoning.
Several residents who spoke, though, questioned the ethics of the eventual restriction of manufactured homes to only mobile home communities.
“Not everyone lives the same way, but a home is a home,” said Sedrick Gilbert. “If you work for your home, who are you to tell someone else theirs is not good enough? To put people — to segregate them, is what you’re doing.”
Lakeisha Carroll described feeling “trapped” in the mobile home community she’s lived in for the past 15 years, where the rent has more than doubled. Carroll said she has been preparing land she purchased on New York Street for her family to relocate to and worries about how the proposal could affect those plans.
According to the staff presentation given during the meeting, the subcommittee has suggested a clause that would allow someone who is planning to soon install and live in a manufactured home on a vacant lot to request an exception. Establishing incentives to encourage homeowners to replace their manufactured homes with site-built homes is another suggestion from the subcommittee.
Several of the commissioners defended the proposal before the unanimous vote. Commissioner Jenita Rayford said she thought many of those who attended the meeting were “still under the impression” that something was “being taken away from you.” Nothing is being taken away, she said, but the city is going in “another direction.” Chair Bobby Gutierrez also said the commissioners weren’t making a judgment on certain types of housing but are following the direction given by the City Council to study the issue. He also mentioned the Builder Infill Incentive program that’s intended to encourage moderately priced single-family home construction in “infill” areas.
“The misinformation and the misunderstanding that this commission thinks any less of anyone that lives in a mobile home or the people that live in District 1 or 2, that this is an issue of class warfare, the haves versus the have-nots, is absolutely not true,” said Commissioner Jody Rodriguez.
The City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider the proposal on April 9.