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Taking a swing at fixing the affordable housing shortage in the Marcellus

An energy boom can do a lot for a state; oil and gas development can create jobs and bolster the state’s economy. Unfortunately, another common aspect attributed to a booming oil and gas

industry is housing shortage, and Pennsylvania has been no exception.

With an influx of job seekers hoping to find work in the Marcellus and Utica oilfields, apartments and hotels quickly reach capacity in heavily-drilled regions such as southwestern and northeastern Pennsylvania.

In a June Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article, Bryce Maretzki, director of strategic and policy for the Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency, identified two major needs within the state: affordable housing and better quality housing.

“There’s a demand for better housing, and there’s an escalation in the price of housing — so those at the bottom are struggling,” Maretzki said. “We’ve seen landlords that are increasing rents when leases come due because they can command more of the marketplace.”

Though housing shortages associated with oil and gas industry can often drive its workforce into hotels and “man camps” for residency, options such as manufactured home communities can offer a comfortable and affordable place to live.

“Manufactured homes—factory-built houses that are shipped to home sites—are a fantastic form of work force housing,” said Sam Landy, President of manufactured home community developer UMH Properties, a publicly traded company (ticker: UMH). “The efficiency of factory building reduces the cost of housing by about 40 percent; and adding to that, you put (the homes) in a land-lease community because we own the property and the person who lives in the house doesn’t have to come up with a big down payment pay to install a well or a septic—it’s just the cost of living.”

The company currently operates 88 communities—many of which have vacancies within a half-hour’s drive of Ohio and Pennsylvania’s oil and gas-dense areas such as Washington County and Allegheny County.

Affordable living

Along with scarce vacancies, regions in Pennsylvania close to oil and gas operations such as Allegheny County also struggle with rising rent costs. Though Allegheny’s median rent is $995 per month according to Zillow, three-bedroom homes in the Pittsburgh metro can easily fetch up to $2000 per month.

Soaring rent prices aren’t unique to the areas surrounding Marcellus and Utica shale plays. In the Bakken area of North Dakota, one-bedroom apartments can cost more than $2,000 per month, exceeding the average rent prices in both Manhattan and Los Angeles. Housing costs in the Permian basin have also experienced a spike, with real estate prices seeing an increase of more than 10 percent in the last year.

In contrast to the typically pricey housing linked to oil booms, Landy said UMH clients can expect to find a brand-new home with three bedrooms and two bathrooms for about $800 per month or less.

“Our rents should be competitive, and in fact lower than, any other form of housing in the area of equal quality because of the efficiency of building the manufactured house,” he said. “I don’t know anybody else who could buy a brand-new three-bedroom, two bathroom house for 800 a month.”

Comfort of home without the cost

kitchen, UMH, manufactured home

Photo: UMH Properties, Inc.

Since 1968, UMH Properties has aimed to provide affordable quality housing. The factory-built nature of the homes means that, for about the monthly cost of an apartment, residents can enjoy the same independence that comes from having a single-family house.

If you think about an apartment or a townhouse, you have common wall neighbors on each side of you; you could have someone living above you, you could have someone living below you,” said Landy. “In a manufactured home, you don’t have that; you have your own house with your own yard. You can garden, you can barbeque and you don’t have to worry about whether or not the neighbor has three five-gallon cans of gasoline in their garage.”

Manufactured homes also often feature the brand-new appliances that can hike up the prices of on-site homes.

“Because the manufacturers are some of the largest buyers of appliances, they obtain the best appliances at the best prices,” said Brett Taft, UMH vice president. “So, our homes can have the finest refrigerators, the finest stoves, all at these low prices because the manufacturers are buying in bulk.”

Quality of Life

Of the qualities mentioned by UMH residents, the communities’ quality of life were by far the most common. Many communities have swimming pools, clubs houses, playgrounds and other amenities.

“It is quiet, peaceful and I’m not afraid to live alone here,” said Meadowood resident Nancy Bell. “The residents look out for each other.”

UMH, manufactured home

Photo: UMH Properties, Inc.

But for states with an influx of prospective oil and gas workers, a rapid growth in population can sometimes overwhelm an area. The issue of safety has been a concern in regions such as the Bakken shale play in North Dakota and Montana, which has contended with an increase in crime in the midst of its oil boom.

As UMH prepares to welcome more residents into their communities, Landy and Taft remain committed to preserving their communities’ safe and peaceful environments.

“All our communities have an on-site manager, and a lease with rules and regulations,” said Landy. “We enforce the rules and regulations, the manager enforces them, if necessary we employ private security, but it’s our objective to provide a safe place to live.”

While UMH prioritizes residents’ security, Landy said he doesn’t anticipate any problems with a wave of oil and gas industry leaseholders.

“What we’ve heard from our communities who have had oil and gas workers is that these people are extremely hard-working, they’re up at the crack of dawn and they get back around 5 or 6 at night,” he said.

Landy and Taft look forward to serving even more communities filled with residents who work hard and maintain strong bonds with their families and neighbors; oil and gas employees certainly fit that criteria.

For more information or to find a UMH community, please visit their website or call 732-577-4059 to speak with Brett Taft.

This article was sponsored in part by UMH Properties.


  1. Senator Eichelberger , Fracturing has been around for a number of decades BUT NOT HORIZONTAL Fracturing. It is this later technology that is causing the real problems that are effecting air and our water sources. The whole process related to Horizontal Fracking including the Injection Wells for the massive amounts of toxic wast water , is The problem. The industry knew since 1966 that Injection Wells cause earthquakes. That was discovered back then when Sunoco did a study of them in Oklahoma. For me , it is difficult to simply ignore the mounting evidence that has been allowed to come forth . Also we have a growing number of testimonies of people that have sworn to the damage that has happened to them. Have you seen the following list of the harmed? Some of these people attend my church and have testified to the damage and harm dome to them. They are not lying. Please listen to these people , many of them are in the new district that you represent . https://pennsylvaniaallianceforcleanwaterandair.wordpress

    List of the Harmed
    -Updated as of Febuary 18th, 2014- *PDF version here – List of the Harmed The following is an ever-growing list…

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