JULY 21, 2011
TO: MHARR Manufacturers
FROM: Mark Weiss
RE: Pressure Continues for Federal Fire Sprinkler Standard – MHCC JULY 20, 2011 MHCC Meeting – Report and Analysis
The Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) held a telephone conference call meeting on July 20, 2011. The meeting, which adjourned ahead of its anticipated two-hour length, did not feature any votes on substantive issues. Instead, it was more in the nature of an informational session for Committee members to update them on the activities of the various MHCC subcommittees, as well as general Committee business. Nevertheless, there were several important announcements, statements and observations, as explained in greater detail below.
As an initial matter, HUD and the Administering Organization (AO) confirmed that there will, in fact, be an in-person meeting of the MHCC from October 18-20, 2011. While this meeting had been tentatively announced at the March 2011 MHCC meeting, this represents confirmation that it will indeed go forward notwithstanding major personnel changes within the HUD program.
Substantively, reports by the various subcommittee chairmen indicated little recent activity, with the major exception of the MHI federal sprinkler standard proposal currently before the Technical Structure and Design Subcommittee. As MHARR reported immediately after the Subcommittee’s last meeting on June 27, 2011, the MHI proposal remains tabled at both the subcommittee and full committee level. This did not, however, prevent an extended discussion of sprinklers and fire safety by the full Committee, and debate over the type of information (that) should be considered by either the subcommittee or full Committee.
Proponents of the MHI proposal on the Committee argued that the only remaining relevant issues are technical, because, they maintain, the proposal is not mandatory, but instead applies only where sprinklers are required by state and/or local jurisdictions, or where a sprinkler system is requested by a purchaser. As another Committee member correctly noted, however, major policy issues remain, even under the pending proposal, such as whether it should address preemption by affirmatively stating that sprinklers are “not required” by the HUD standards, still remain. More importantly, though, there is the over-riding issue pressed by MHARR, that there should not be a federal sprinkler standard of any kind, given the likely expansion of such a standard to all manufactured homes and other dangers that MHARR has previously documented in great detail.
Significantly for the future of this debate, the new head of the HUD program, Henry Czauski, offered his view of the debate, stating very clearly that the costs and benefits of fire sprinklers and all related issues need to be “thoroughly vetted” and “carefully” weighed, and that the subcommittee is the best place for this to occur. This observation is important as it is directly contrary to efforts by some on the Committee to rush or bypass careful review of all relevant aspects of the MHI proposal, under the guise of it being merely a “technical” proposal, in an effort to railroad it through the MHCC. With this statement on the record, the Subcommittee will be under greater pressure to fully examine all relevant aspects and possible fallout from the MHI sprinkler proposal. As such, it potentially sets the stage for a major sprinkler debate at the October 2011 MHCC meeting, depending on the pace of proceedings before the Technical Structure and Design Subcommittee.
On a closely related and highly relevant issue, HUD was asked again about the status of its review and re-consideration of the scope of federal preemption. In response, Mr. Czauski pointed to the major personnel changes affecting the program and indicated that the transition involved would unavoidably delay the issuance of any final statement or conclusion. That said, Mr. Czauski stated that the matter was in “internal review” within HUD and that he hoped to have a response for the MHCC “soon.” As MHARR has previously detailed, consideration of a “where required” or “as needed” federal fire sprinkler should not even be an issue, because under the enhanced federal preemption of the 2000 reform law — if properly construed and fully implemented — state and local sprinkler mandates should be preempted right now by the “fire safety” standards of the HUD Code. Thus, MHARR will continue to press HUD to complete this review and preempt fire sprinklers based on the current standards, rather than running the risk of adopting a “where required” standard that eventually could balloon into an across-the-board sprinkler standard.
As MHCC activity intensifies in advance of the October 2011 in-person meeting, MHARR will continue to make the case against the adoption of a federal sprinkler standard and will closely monitor all other pending issues and debates.
cc: Other Interested Industry Manufacturers, Retailers and Communities
Mark S. Weiss
Senior Vice President
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform
1331 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., Suite 508
Washington, D.C. 20004
Editor’s Note: the parenthetical word (that) was inserted in the third paragraph by MHMSM.com. That word was not in the original document released to us from MHARR.