Manufactured homes, mobile homes, and trailers, oh my!

While many readers were tracking the exciting housing bills popping in the mad-end-of-bill-filing rush in the Texas Legislature last week, I was in DC attending the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC), a federal advisory committee to HUD on the regulation of manufactured housing.

I’ll keep most of the exciting details of parliamentary intrigue and interpersonal conflict to myself, but I want to highlight three items on the MHCC agenda that should be of interest to anyone who lives in a manufactured home, lives near someone in a manufactured home, or cares about the folks who will be buying a manufactured home in the future:

The first, and probably least glamorous, was a recommendation to HUD to adopt a specific set of national procedures to test ground anchors.  Ground anchors are what hold manufactured homes to the ground, and in high wind events like hurricanes and tornadoes, the failure of a ground anchor can lead to extensive death and property damage.  Over half of the 10,000 manufactured homes destroyed in Hurricane Andrew had tie down or anchor failure.  Apparently, HUD has been attempting to develop these testing procedures for the last 20 years.

The second was a continuation of a discussion related to the interaction of local fire sprinkler requirements and the manufactured home code.   No action was taken, but a subcommittee chair will be aggregating fire safety data related to manufactured home for further debate.  Recently Ocean City Maryland explicitly extended their single-family fire sprinkler requirements to manufactured homes, and under my read, the industry is reacting by looking for ways to exempt manufactured homes from such requirements.

The third major issue relates to the accessibility of manufactured homes.  The building code for manufactured homes allows for the front door and interior hallways to be only 28 inches wide, significantly narrower than the width requirements in the International Residential Code governing most conventionally built housing.  Such design prevents entry and use by many mobility-impaired persons.

Over the next 60 days, a MHCC will be gathering information related to both the costs to manufacturers of such a code change and the costs to residents and visitors of not changing the design.  Contact me if you have information you believe should be considered by the committee on this issue.