Modular Houses Prompt Zoning Concerns

The tremendous demand for housing has attracted several alternatives to traditional construction. But some local governments are having to tweak zoning laws to accommodate those options.

Modular or factory built homes are a prime example. Harrison County is considering a zoning change to allow such houses.

A family wanting to replace their storm destroyed home with a modular house were surprised to learn that their zoning designation doesn't allow such structures. But supervisors are looking to change that law.

"We're R-1. My neighbor is actually something else because he's got more land," said Ken Reaver, as he gave a tour of his bayou front property.

Reaver never gave the zoning of his property much thought. Until now. He was surprised to learn R-1 zoning doesn't allow modular houses, which is exactly what Reaver wants to see built on his Bayou Portage property.

"If you could find a contractor now, you're still talking nine months to a year before getting your house, and to be honest with you, when you're living in an RV with youth, wife and four dogs, it gets kind of tight in a hurry," said Reaver.

A factory built home on display at Prime Outlets is the kind of house Reaver would like to put on his land.

"Once you walk through the home, unless you're told it's a modular home, you will not know the difference," said the president of New Gulf Homes, which has the house at Prime Outlets.

Ryan Nance says the zoning restriction was intended for something much different.

"A lot of these codes were written several years ago, a modular home was very similar to a mobile, manufactured, trailer home. Technology has changed and we want people to come out and see the home for themselves," Nance said.

Supervisor Marlin Ladner has not only seen this home, he's toured the Midwest factory where these homes are built. He's leading an effort to change the zoning law to allow such construction.

"This is something I think that will be very beneficial. It will serve as another niche for our rebuilding process in Harrison County. This will expedite, I believe, the rebuilding process for people to move into their homes," said Ladner.

The county planning commission will consider the change next month.  After that, it will go before the board of supervisors.