Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) submitted a letter to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asking the department to adopt a new definition of recreation vehicles (RVs) that is clear and easy to apply.
HUD’s current definition for RVs was adopted over three decades ago and is outdated. Earlier this year, HUD published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would revise the definition of an RV as “designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy.” This definition will ensure that RVs are not subject to manufactured housing regulations and instead are treated as vehicles subject to Department of Transportation regulations.
In their letter, Coats and Donnelly encouraged HUD to adopt this proposed rule without inappropriate regulation of fifth wheel or other RVs.
Coats and Donnelly were joined on the letter by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Michigan). The full letter is below:
April 11, 2016
Office of General Counsel
Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 Seventh Street SW Washington, DC 20410-0500
Submitted via Regulations.gov
Re: Docket No. FR-5877-P-01; Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations; Revision of Exemption for Recreational Vehicles (RIN: 2502-AJ33)
We are writing regarding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Proposed Rule related to the definition of recreation vehicles (RVs). By way of background, several members of Congress have had a longstanding interest in updating HUD’s regulations defining a manufactured home, which were written over 30 years ago. The issue came to our attention most recently in October 2014 when HUD announced a new policy that many stakeholders believed reversed 15 years of practice and changed how certain RVs are measured. We were pleased HUD delayed enforcement of this policy until HUD could promulgate a new rule concerning the RV exception to the manufactured housing definition.
In a December 11, 2015 letter, several senators encouraged HUD to expeditiously publish the proposed rule that we understood would both encompass Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) recommendations with a clear, simple, and easy-to-apply definition of an RV and effectively make clear that the Office of Manufactured Housing (OMH) has no regulatory authority over RVs due to their exemption from the manufactured housing code.
HUD’s MHCC recommendation on how to define an RV included a broad consensus among stakeholders, regulators, and members of Congress. The recommended RV definition clearly distinguished between manufactured housing, which is regulated by HUD, and RVs, which are subject to extensive regulation as vehicles by the U.S. Department of Transportation and state motor vehicle and taxing authorities. In short, we agree with the MHCC recommendation that emphasized this point:
“The HUD Office of Manufactured Housing regulates manufactured housing. Manufactured housing designed and built to HUD standards under the HUD Office of Manufactured Housing program are permanent residences. RVs [are] designed and built for temporary recreational or seasonal camping accommodation in accordance with widely used/accepted national standards and are not manufactured homes.”
The MHCC recognized, as do many members of Congress, that regulating RVs is outside the scope of HUD’s mission and not contemplated by the National Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act. We believe that HUD regulation of RVs risks creating unnecessary and potentially burdensome conflicts with state and local laws, regulations, and administrative actions. Moreover, there is a fundamental difference between manufactured housing and RVs regarding their design and use. RVs are designed for recreational, camping, travel, or seasonal use, while manufactured homes are designed to be permanent dwellings.
HUD appropriately regulates permanent housing, but does not have a role in regulating vehicles.
Finally, the proposed rule asks for public comment on whether HUD should begin exercising regulatory oversight of “Fifth Wheel” RVs or “other forms of recreational vehicles.” We strongly oppose HUD’s OMH exercising regulatory authority over Fifth Wheel RVs, or any RV.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and all 50 states have already defined Fifth Wheel RVs as motor vehicles. This classification is based on the clear understanding that Fifth Wheels are not permanent housing, and HUD should not create regulations that run counter to this reality. We do not agree that Fifth Wheel vehicle trailers meet the statutory and regulatory definitions of a “manufactured home.” They are RVs and, like other RVs, should be excluded from HUD regulation.
In sum, we believe that the MHCC’s approach, widely supported by stakeholders, should be mirrored in the final HUD regulation. Any exercise of HUD regulatory authority over Fifth Wheel trailers and other RVs would be plainly inconsistent with the broad regulatory exemption that the MHCC recommended. We appreciate HUD’s responsiveness to Congressional concerns and hope these comments will be an important part of your consideration of this issue.