MHI Week In Review – October 21, 2011

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MHI Fire Sprinkler Proposal Adopted by Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee

The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC), at its fall meeting this week in Alexandria, Virginia, voted 15 – 5 to recommended that HUD adopt MHI’s Fire Sprinkler Proposal. The proposed standard explicitly preempts fire sprinklers from the HUD Code and provides for a uniform voluntary fire sprinkler design and installation requirements that may be used when consumers select to purchase a manufactured home with fire sprinklers.

The vote represents a consensus among producers (including retailers), consumers, State Administrative Agencies (SAAs), third party inspection agencies, and members of the general public, who serve on the MHCC, that mandatory fire sprinklers for new homes provide little cost benefit and are not necessary to protect homeowners from fires.

The majority of the MHCC was convinced by several strong arguments presented by MHI member representatives and MHI Staff during the meeting:

•Preemption is essential to the construction of quality affordable manufactured homes
•The fire safety requirements for manufactured homes are more stringent than the requirements in the International Residential Code (IRC) for other single family homes.
•Occupants of manufactured homes are as safe if not safer from the risk of fire injury and deaths than occupants of other single family homes. (See related article below.)
•A uniform fire sprinkler standard designed specifically for HUD Code homes will provide consumers who wish to purchase a new home with a fire sprinkler system, a more cost effective alternative.

In other action by the MHCC it voted to recommend that new homes be constructed with at least one 36” wide exterior door and that homes larger than 14” wide be designed with a minimum hallway width of 30” (from 28”). The MHCC also voted on more than 20 updates to various reference standards in the HUD Code.

The MHCC recommendations will be forwarded to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) where they will be considered for proposed rulemaking. MHI and other stakeholders will need to work together to ensure that the MHI fire sprinkler proposal remains intact.

NFPA Publishes a Correction to Its July, 2011 Report on Manufactured Home Fires – Risk of Fire Deaths is Comparable to Other Single Family Housing

The National Fire Protection Administration (NFPA) testified at this week’s meeting of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) that its July, 2011 report on Manufactured Home Fires contained a significant error. In an Errata issued October 14, 2011, NFPA concluded that in post-standard manufactured homes the fire death rate is comparable to other single family homes. In its July report, NFPA said that the fire death rate for post-standard manufactured homes was 13 – 25 percent higher than other single family homes.

This is significant because the earlier report also said that manufactured home injuries from fires are less than other single family homes, and the incidence of fires is also less in manufactured homes. The current fire safety requirements for manufactured homes are more stringent than for homes built to the International Residential Code (IRC) and the results from the NFPA study indicate that these requirements have resulted in fewer fires, fewer injuries and a death rate no greater than that of other single family homes.

Click here for a copy of the July, 2011 report and click here for the October, 2011 ERRATA.

Bill to Boost Energy Efficiency in Federal Mortgages Introduced

On October 19, Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced legislation to boost home efficiency by factoring energy costs into the underwriting processes of federal mortgages. The bill awaits consideration by the Senate Banking Committee.

The measure would require federal mortgage lenders to analyze expected energy costs when analyzing a mortgage applicant’s ability to repay the loan. Specifically, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would be required to overhaul its underwriting and appraisal guidelines for mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or other federal insurers to include expected energy costs in the debt-to-income calculations used to determine a borrower’s monthly expenses.

For more information, click here

Senators Seek to Spur U.S. Housing through Foreign Ownership

On October 20, Sens. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Mike Lee (R-UT) announced their intention to introduce legislation designed to boost demand for homes by luring foreign investors to purchase residences and live in the U.S.

The bill would provide foreign nationals who invest at least $500,000 in U.S. residential real estate with a three-year residency visa. At least $250,000 must be spent on a primary residence where the visa holder will reside for at least 180 days out of the year while paying U.S. taxes. Applicants would still be subject to standard criminal and national security background checks and, once approved, would not be able to receive government benefits such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

For more information, click here

MHI Staff Attends FEMA Oversight Hearing

On Thursday, Chairman Mark Pryor (D-AR) of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs — Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery and Intergovernmental Affairs, held a FEMA oversight hearing. The hearing examined the quality controls and business practices at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, focusing on efforts to ensure greater efficiency in the agency’s disaster response and recovery activities. Witnesses included Richard Serino, Deputy Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

In 2009, Mr. Serino was appointed by President Barack Obama and began working directly with Administrator Craig Fugate to build, sustain, and improve the Department’s capacity to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. MHI has requested a meeting with Mr. Serino to discuss MHI’s set of recommendations to enhance and improve the production and delivery of temporary housing units.

Special thanks to Mr. J.D. Harper, Executive Director of the Arkansas Manufactured Housing Association, for his grassroots initiative on behalf of the manufactured housing industry.

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