Washington, D.C., November 18, 2011 – Both houses of Congress, on November 17, 2011, passed a conference committee report on 2012 appropriations that would cut the budget of the HUD manufactured housing program by more than half. This action represents the culmination a year-long MHARR effort to subject the runaway HUD program budget – which has burgeoned while manufactured home production has declined by over 80% — to long-overdue congressional oversight and accountability. The Conference Report on the Fiscal Year 2012 Agriculture, Commerce/Justice/Science, and Transportation/Housing and Urban Development Appropriations bills – also known as the “Mini-Bus” appropriations bill (House Report 112-284) — passed by a vote of 298-121 in the House of Representatives and a vote of 70-30 in the Senate.
In its budget and appropriations request for 2012, HUD had been seeking $14 million in total spending authority for the manufactured housing program, including a $7 million direct appropriation of tax revenues. The conference report, however, will now cut that budget to $6.5 million – consisting of $4 million in projected fee revenues and a direct appropriation of no more than $2.5 million.
MHARR, in multiple sessions during 2011 with members and staff of the HUD appropriations subcommittees in both houses of Congress, proved that while federally-regulated manufactured home production has declined by more than 80% since 1998, HUD program budgets over the same period have either remained static at artificially high levels or have actually increased, relying, in part, on large infusions of appropriated tax dollars (up to $5 million annually) as label fee revenues have fallen.
Even more importantly, MHARR showed appropriators that the program, instead of using tax revenues since 2009 to fully implement the installation and dispute resolution programs established by Congress in the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 – as promised by the Department – had actually used those excess funds to needlessly expand in-plant regulation, pad contract expenditures and increase program staff, significantly increasing the
inspection costs paid by manufacturers and ultimately consumers, at a time when production has declined steadily and consumer complaints processed by HUD have been absolutely minimal.
The conference report thus represents a major breakthrough in MHARR’s efforts to curb HUD’s unnecessary and unnecessarily costly expansion of in-plant regulation – which has never been shown to be of any benefit to consumers – by bringing proper accountability and oversight to the program budget process, accountability and oversight that has never before existed. And, starting with the 2013 HUD program budget, MHARR will begin to focus on how program funds are allocated, including the need to increase funding allocated to State Administrative Agencies (SAAs) for front-line consumer protection, while continuing to reduce needless and unproductive regulatory expenditures at the federal level.
While the program, in order to reach the $4 million in label fees projected by the conference report at current production levels, will likely seek the label fee increase to $60.00 per section already referenced in its 2012 budget request and justifications, that increase was virtually a foregone conclusion in any event, even if Congress had granted HUD the full $14 million in spending authority and $7 million tax revenue appropriation that it wanted. But now the use of those funds – and all other program revenues – will be subject to much stricter limits and full congressional scrutiny.
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform is a Washington, D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing.