Expanding Affordable Homeownership Opportunity in Kentucky

Stacey Epperson

By Stacey Epperson, Next Step President & Founder

In 2015, Next Step began our SmartMH initiative. We started with a bold goal: expand the number of ENERGY STAR® manufactured homes in the Kentucky housing market. We spent a year creating partnerships and building a coalition of stakeholders in Kentucky to support SmartMH.

In October 2016, the concept of the SmartMH program evolved and expanded. Through an innovative partnership with Freddie Mac and eHome America – an online homebuyer education platform – we crafted a new vision for the SmartMH program: working with manufactured home retailers, lending institutions and housing counselors to create an ecosystem where more prospective homeowners gain access to homebuyer education and housing counseling services that increase homeownership opportunity.

Homeownership rates across the country are in decline, and Kentucky is no exception. In 2016, just 67.9 percent of Kentuckians owned their home. For those in the market for a home, affordability remains a key issue. Nearly 29 percent of households in Kentucky making less $20,000 per year that live in rental housing pay 30 percent or more of their income on housing costs.

Owning a home is so often associated with the concept of the “American Dream” that it has become a cliché. But cliché or not, owning your own home remains one of the key factor for building wealth and securing a better financial future for your family. As the availability of affordable housing stock decreases – and rental prices rise – the number of Kentucky families in need of affordable homeownership solutions is growing dramatically.

Manufactured housing is how affordable homeownership gets done in Kentucky.

Manufactured housing remains the largest source of unsubsidized, affordable housing in the U.S., with 18 million Americans living in manufactured homes across the country. Kentucky ranks tenth in the nation for manufactured home shipments, with 2,700 units placed in 2016. This represents a 19 percent growth since 2015.

A key challenge for these prospective homebuyers is securing financing. According to 2015 HMDA data, of 10,785 Kentuckians that applied for a manufactured home loan, only 2,442 secured a loan. For those who did not secure a loan, credit history, debt ratios and collateral were listed as the primary reasons for denial.

This is where our SmartMH network members enter the picture. Whether they enter the market by shopping at a retail center or talking to their local banker, our SmartMH retail and lending partners commit to helping those individuals and families who may not be ready to buy a home yet. Our SmartMH network members engage with these homebuyers to help assess their needs, and connect them with HUD-certified housing counseling organizations. These nonprofit organizations help homebuyers make an action plan to get them “mortgage ready’, including administering our factory-built homebuyer education course hosted by eHome America.

Affordable housing requires innovative solutions. By creating a network of SmartMH lenders, home retailers and consumers, we are building a sustainable chain of business for our network, that increases access to smart, affordable and energy-efficient homes for more families in Kentucky.

Red-Sun Homes Joins SmartMH Network

Red-Sun Homes Joins SmartMH Network
Kentucky-based manufactured home center joins statewide initiative bringing even more customer support for homebuyers

LOUIVILLE, KY – March 30, 2017 – Today, Next Step Network is announcing that Red-Sun Homes, Inc. – a local manufactured home retailer based in Russell Springs and Albany, Kentucky – has joined the SmartMH Network. Red-Sun joins a select group of manufactured home retailers in Kentucky that are members of this collaborative partnership between lending institutions, manufactured housing retailers and nonprofit housing counseling organizations.

“We are thrilled to have Red-Sun Homes join our growing SmartMH network,” said Stacey Epperson, president and founder of Next Step. “By partnering with more manufactured home retailers across the state, we are expanding homeownership opportunities for more families through affordable, energy-efficient manufactured homes.”

Red-Sun Homes has been operating in South Central Kentucky since 1997, selling single-section and multi-section homes, and was awarded the Top Retailer Award from Clayton Manufacturing-WP for 10 years. They distinguish themselves by offering their manufactured homes with package pricing that includes upgraded insulation and thermopane windows. Red-Sun offer customers an ENERGY STAR home with certification, delivering even higher value for their homebuyers.

“When we sell homes, they’re not just going to our customers, but to our neighbors and fellow community members,” said Sherry Redmon, manager at Red-Sun Homes. “This program creates greater opportunity for a family to buy their own home, and puts more cash in their pocket though lower monthly utility costs.”

Manufactured home retailers within the SmartMH network engage with potential homebuyers who want to purchase a manufactured home by navigating them to a HUD-certified, nonprofit housing counseling organization that provides access to homebuyer education and counseling services.

The SmartMH program connects educated homebuyers with financial institutions and manufactured home retailers to increase access to affordable, ENERGY STAR® manufactured homes with fair financing. Freddie Mac has partnered with Next Step to grow the our SmartMH network, while improving access to credit for prepared, manufactured homebuyers in Kentucky.

Download the press release here.

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Next Step Network® mobilizes a national network of nonprofits to provide affordable housing tailored to the needs of communities that they serve. Their system – Manufactured Housing Done Right® – connects responsible financing, comprehensive homebuyer education and delivery of high-quality, ENERGY STAR® manufactured homes at scale, creating a model that brings more value to the customer. Learn more at www.nextstepus.org.

Red-Sun Homes has been providing quality homes to South Central Kentucky since 1997. We are hometown people selling to hometown folks. We care about our customers and we know that each time we sell a home our reputation is on the line. We were awarded the Top Retailer Award from Clayton Manufacturing-WP for 10 years and running. Integrity, honesty and personal attention to each and every customer is not only owed to our customers, it’s a promise. Learn more at www.redsunhomes.com.

Bryce Malone Joins Next Step Network as SmartMH Director

Bryce Malone, SmartMH Director

Bryce Malone Joins Next Step Network as SmartMH Director

Mortgage industry veteran joins the Louisville-based nonprofit to manage innovative pilot program with Freddie Mac.

LOUIVILLE, KY – November 30, 2016 – On October 31, 2016, Bryce Malone joined Next Step Network as SmartMH Director. With more than 15 years in the mortgage industry, Bryce brings nuanced knowledge and understanding of mortgage finance to the organization. The unique social enterprise works to put sustainable homeownership within reach of everyone, while transforming the manufactured housing industry through consumer education, affordability and energy efficiency.

“When I learned about the SmartMH program I jumped at the opportunity to build something meaningful,” said Bryce. “This is a program that will change the lives of many Americans for the better.”

Bryce has spent his career building successful mortgage businesses, including Surepoint Lending, a DBA of First Residential Mortgage Network, Inc., where he served as vice president of Operations and Lending. Most recently, Bryce started Right House Capital, a national intermediary business that provides support to independent mortgage lenders in order to help them achieve success.

“Bryce’s knowledge of mortgage finance will be indispensable to achieving Next Step’s long-term goals,” said Stacey Epperson, president and founder of Next Step. “With his guidance – and the partnership of Freddie Mac – we look to expand the number of lenders that originate real property loans on energy-efficient factory-built homes.”

Bryce will be based in Next Step’s Louisville, Kentucky, office.

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Next Step®, www.nextstepus.org, mobilizes a national network of nonprofits to provide affordable housing tailored to the needs of communities that they serve. Their system – Manufactured Housing Done Right® – connects responsible financing, comprehensive homebuyer education and delivery of high-quality, ENERGY STAR® manufactured homes at scale, creating a model that brings more value to the customer.

Download the Press Release here: http://bit.ly/2gIHWZj

Moving the Vision of I’M HOME Forward

By Stacey Epperson, President and Founder of Next Step

Moving the Vision of I’M HOME Forward

As yet another convening of CFED’s I’M HOME annual conference is in the books, I am more optimistic than ever for the future of manufactured housing, and the staff, board and membership of Next Step are dedicated to moving the vision of I’M HOME forward.

This past week was the culmination of a lot of planning, hard work and determination. The I’M HOME (Innovations in Manufactured Homes) initiative represents more than a decade of work, and in that time thousands of families have received better homes and become a part of more secure communities.

This year’s conference saw a record number of attendees, including affordable housing developers, advocates for fair and affordable housing, manufactured housing experts, community leaders and homeowners, academics and researchers, regulators, and federal, state and local policymakers.

Next Step had the privilege of playing a larger role than ever at this conference. Our staff and board lent their expertise by leading and participating in educational panel discussions and presentations. We also had the opportunity to announce our innovative partnership with Freddie Mac and eHome America, launching a SmartMH lending pilot in Kentucky. With this program, we will be creating a consumer education curriculum for buyers of factory-built homes, and look to expand the number of lenders that originate real property loans on energy-efficient manufactured homes. Alongside Mel Jones, research associate with the Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech, we co-presented the findings of a new study on manufactured housing in Appalachia. The study, Mobile and Manufactured Homes in Central Appalachia and Alabama: Age, Condition and Need for Replacement, looked at the more than 70,000 households living in mobile and manufactured homes in Appalachia, revealing that the majority pay more than 30 percent of their income for utilities, forcing families to make impossible choices for other necessities like food, transportation and health care for children.

We face many challenges as we look to the year ahead, but there is also great opportunity. Together, we can change the narrative of manufactured housing, help shape the policy discussions around energy efficient housing in rural America, expansion of fair mortgage lending, and ensure that homebuyers and families are not dispirited by discriminatory zoning policies.

We thank all of our partners, and those who participated in this year’s I’M HOME conference. Our opportunity is now. Let’s keep this momentum, and collaborate more openly with all participants in the manufactured housing space. Let’s prove together that when done right, a manufactured home is a smart, affordable and energy efficient choice for homebuyers and families.

Grant Beck Joins Next Step Network as Marketing and Communications Manager

Grant Beck, Marketing and Communications Manager

Grant Beck Joins Next Step Network as Marketing and Communications Manager
Experienced nonprofit communications professional to lead the Louisville-based organization’s marketing efforts

LOUISVILLE, KY – October 27, 2016 – On October 24, 2016, Grant Beck joined Next Step Network as its marketing and communications manager, bringing a wealth of experience in nonprofit communications to the Louisville-based housing organization. The unique social enterprise works to put sustainable homeownership within reach of everyone, while transforming the manufactured housing industry through consumer education, affordability and energy efficiency.

“We are very excited to have Grant building and leading Next Step’s marketing and communications initiatives,” said Stacey Epperson, president and founder of Next Step. “As we look to strengthen our coalition of nonprofits, retailers, lenders and housing manufacturers, his experience will be a valuable asset, helping us educate people about the work that Next Step and our partners are doing across the country to transform manufactured housing.”

Grant has spent his career in the nonprofit space, working primarily with organizations that advocate for affordable and fair housing opportunities.

Most recently, Grant served as the communications and marketing manager at Rebuilding Together, a national nonprofit housing organization dedicated to improving the home health and safety of low-income homeowners and revitalizing communities. In this role, Grant helped drive the strategic communications, marketing and branding of Rebuilding Together’s national office. Grant worked with a diverse group of stakeholders – including Rebuilding Together affiliates, implementation partners, and corporate and community partners – to help manage social media content and strategy, compose and manage email marketing campaigns, manage content creation for the organization’s website, and train key internal stakeholders on basic marketing and communications principles.

Prior to Rebuilding Together, he was the communications officer at the Equal Rights Center, a national nonprofit civil rights organization dedicated to promoting equal opportunity in housing, employment and access to public accommodations and government services.

Grant will be based out of the Washington, D.C., area.
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Next Step®, www.nextstepus.org, mobilizes a national network of nonprofits to provide affordable housing tailored to the needs of communities that they serve. Their system – Manufactured Housing Done Right® – connects responsible financing, comprehensive homebuyer education and delivery of high-quality, ENERGY STAR® manufactured homes at scale, creating a model that brings more value to the customer.

Download the Press Release here: http://bit.ly/2ffdIQj