Manufactured-housing shipments are expected to shrink slightly in 1996 before increasing again in 1997 and 1998.

Total 1996 shipments are expected to reach 326,000 units, down from 340,000 units in 1995, according to a report by CIT Group, Livingston, N.J.

No one in the industry is complaining, however."We've had four years of double-digit increases," said Bruce Savage, public affairs director for the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Shipments of homes fabricated away from their sites grew 11.5% in 1995. Over the past four years, shipments have grown an average of 18.7%.

And so far, 1996 is shaping up slightly better than expected, said Thomas A. Hanemann, assistant vice president of business development and economic research for CIT.

The industry's future remains bright, he said, adding that 1997 and 1998 should bring respectable growth. Mr. Hanemann predicts that the West South Central region - Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana - will see the greatest increase in demand for manufactured housing.

The manufactured-housing industry still needs to overcome one obstacle - its image. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros lent a hand last week, in addressing members of the American Planning Association.

"Our cities are missing the boat by not using manufactured housing to provide affordable-housing opportunities for their citizens," Mr. Cisneros said.

He asked local governments to develop "common sense zoning and land use policies" that recognize the changes that have been made in manufactured housing.

Zoning practices are still "archaic" in many areas, Mr. Hanemann added. "The town fathers don't know what manufactured housing really is."

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