I have been a vocal critic of HUD’s Alternative Construction (AC) approval for carport-ready homes. I don’t believe an AC approval for homes built with a host beam is warranted or that the AC approval process is the proper regulatory procedure.
I communicated my concerns to Pamela Danner, Administrator of the federal manufactured housing program in a face-to-face meeting. I pointed out that there is no basis for requiring AC approval for homes designed carport-ready because HUD’s own Hurricane assessment data showed that no post-1994 constructed homes experienced more than exterior finish damage. HUD’s assessment was consistent with the findings of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) after four 2004 hurricanes (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) and Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The DMV evaluated 52,233 mobile and manufactured homes and concluded no post-1994 homes experienced significant damage.
I also discussed the negative economic impact that HUD’s new policy would have on the manufactured housing industry. In Florida, carports are a big deal. Most land-lease communities require carports and an estimated 4,500 new carports will be installed this year. The cost of HUD’s new carport inspection requirement will be significant – in excess of $2 million a year in Florida alone, not counting the additional costs that will be incurred by home producers for obtaining design approval and conducting pre-onsite inspections. This cost will be borne by the homeowner who is installing the carport and those home owners will receive little or no benefit.
While I was disappointed that the hurricane assessment data that I presented to Ms. Danner did not result in the withdrawal of the AC approval requirement for carport-ready homes, the story doesn’t end there.
Florida is different than most states in that carports are regulated by the Florida Building Commission. A building permit is required to install a carport and 100 percent of carports are inspected by a local building inspector to ensure that they comply with the Florida Building Code. After not being able to convince HUD to rescind its carport AC approval requirement, I raised the possibility of combining the HUD on-site inspection requirement with the local building permit process to achieve a more efficient and cost effective process for satisfying HUD’s requirements. Pamela Danner was receptive to exploring this option and she proactively reached out to the Florida SAA and the Florida Building Commission for additional information. Over the past few months I have been working with HUD, the Florida SAA, and Florida building officials to address some technical and logistical concerns. Progress is being made.
While the solution I am working on is not the one I wanted, I learned a long time ago that regulators have broad discretionary authority to impose certain regulatory requirements. As an association executive, my job is to assess the situation and seek the best possible outcome based on the facts as I know them. Eliminating duplicative onsite inspections for carports will save Florida manufactured home buyers over $2 million a year in unnecessary regulatory costs. This will make manufactured housing more affordable and that cost savings may be the difference between purchasing a new manufactured home or not.
While I disagree with HUD’s policy on carport-ready home designs, I will continue to collaborate with Ms. Danner and HUD to achieve the best results for our members and the industry at large.
So, in the infamous words of Paul Harvey, “And now you know — the rest of the story.” ##
(Editor’s Notes: while not stated in Ayotte’s request to publish this op-ed, industry readers may note that this column pertains to an issue raised by another award-winning state association executive, Andy Gallagher. Gallagher recently pointed to the research that Jim Ayotte did about HUD and items related to this column by FMHA’s executive. More on how Gallagher is related to this issue raised by Ayotte, are linked here and here. For an exclusive on the Trump Administration’s reported plan for HUD’s Pam Danner, click here. The headline was requested by Ayotte, and the graphic above that highlights a quote, was created by MHProNews. “We Provide, You Decide.”©)
James R. Ayotte, CAE
Florida Manufactured Housing Association
1284 Timberlane Road
Tallahassee, FL 32312