HUD’s Proposed Rule Affecting RV Living And Tiny Houses Causes Uproar On Regulatory Docket

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has a proposed rule on the docket that would modify a current exemption in the Manufactured Home Procedural and Enforcement Regulations. As the tiny house and RV living trend grows, more people are choosing to live in alternative types of homes with less space and less overhead.

According to the proposed docket information, “questions have arisen regarding whether park model recreational vehicles are regulated by HUD’s manufactured home program.” RVs are, according to the docket, now being built with screened in porches, and other extensions. Some are marketed as suitable for year round living, and many people are doing just that.

HUD’s new proposed rule would define an RV as “a factory build vehicular structure, not certified as a manufactured home, designed only for recreational use and not as a primary residence or for permanent occupancy.” HUD’s rule would require that units claiming the RV exemption display a notice that identifies the standards used to construct the unit and state that the unit is designed only for recreational use, and not as a primary residence or permanent dwelling.

A steady stream of people began transitioning from living in conventional homes to living in RVs and tiny houses after the United States experienced a housing market meltdown and a massive recession, according to writer David Dawson.

“In an effort to combat the fragile housing market, certain investors began looking into tiny houses. These tiny houses were designed to be lived in comfortably for a fraction of the price of a regular home,” Dawson writes. People are living in RVs, and people are living in tiny houses.

Supporting material on the docket from February 2 indicates that HUD does not regulate the construction of recreational vehicles, but this revisions’ certification requirement may “improve the safety of Park Model RV units, resulting in some beneficial impact to RV owners’ living environments.”

If someone wanted to live in any unit on a full-time basis, it would have to meet standards set for primary residence dwellings. People are upset with the proposal that would go into effect this month and are leaving comments on the docket.

“Please do not modify current HUD rules to forbid using RV’s and tiny houses as permanent housing. Millions of Americans, by no fault of their own have become victims of an economy that makes permanent housing unaffordable. Additionally, many retirees and senior citizens downsize to RV’s for housing as a matter of choice, convenience and personal economy,” Brian Mink wrote.

“This is a blatant use of authority on a minority group,” Jen Loewen said. “Tiny homes and RVs and their owners are not causing any damage or harm but because you can’t make money off of them, you seek to abolish them. For some people it is the ONLY form of housing they have because cost of living doesn’t line up with poor wages. “

“I live in an RV full time and have for a number of years,” wrote 55-year-old recent widower Jeff Stanford. “The job that I work does not really pay enough for me to find and live in a more permanent structure. As I will be retiring soon I am sure that I will not be able to afford to move out of my RV. Since my RV is not in a condition to be moved I feel that it should be treated more like a mobile, manufactured, home. This will put an undue financial burden on Senior Citizens and the retired. We have enough to worry about without you folk further meddling in our lives.”

Still, TinyHouseBuild.com featured an article about the new proposal and its possible impact on tiny houses on wheels (THOWs).

“No matter what HUD decides, or the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) for that matter, we as tiny housers should not be concerned because our goal is to live in our tiny houses permanently, not to certify them as RVs. After all, that’s specifically what HUD’s recent proposal aims to clarify.”

The new HUD proposal would make a tiny house, if built to ANSI or NFPA standards, an RV and not suitable for permanent occupancy. To clarify though, in most places in the United States, it’s already illegal to live permanently in an RV. Local zoning ordinances dictate whether you can permanently live in a tiny house or an RV. In most U.S. communities, RVs are considered temporary shelters only and tiny houses often can’t qualify for a certificate of occupancy. The IRC is a residential code that regulates minimum requirements for all aspects of residential home construction like plumbing, energy efficiency, and electrical work. A certificate of occupancy is given after an IRC-compliant build. Tiny houses can’t meet some current IRC standards like height and design requirements. Also, many tiny houses are built on trailers and the IRC doesn’t recognize trailers as an allowable foundation for a permanent dwelling. Tiny houses often have a difficult time qualifying as a full-time dwelling, even by current standards.

A Timber Trails article pointed out the issue the proposed rule would create. The article stated that “the prices of RVs would skyrocket overnight if RV manufacturers had to seek government approval for vehicles that might be used as domiciles. Further, few tiny house builders could afford to face the rigors of becoming authorized facilities for manufactured homes.”

The text of the new rule doesn’t blatantly oppose tiny houses, though. In fact, a HUD blog post from 2012 featured a HUD employee’s tiny home journey. HUD said its mission is to “create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.” The new rule would help qualify whether a tiny dwelling unit would be regulated by HUD’s manufactured home program or exempt, but if exempt, it would not be considered acceptable for full-time residential use.

[Image via Pixabay]