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Posts Tagged ‘Procedural and Enforcement Regulations’

Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee 2012 Meeting Report

November 9th, 2012 No comments

The MHCC Holds First Meeting in 2012

Lois Starkey, Vice President, Regulatory AffairsThe Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) held its first and only meeting of 2012 on October 22nd – 25th to consider a number of recommendations for changes to the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Program. HUD intended to have two meetings in 2012 but problems with the approval of a new contract for the Administering Organization, the National Fire Protection Association, resulted in a hastily arranged fall meeting in Arlington, VA. All but three of the 21 members were in attendance. Representatives from HUD included the Deputy Administrator of the HUD Manufactured Housing Program, the HUD engineering staff, and a representative from HUD’s office of General Council.

MHI was surprised and disappointed that higher ranking officials who oversee the program from the Department’s Office of Regulatory Affairs were not in attendance at any time during the meeting.

The Committee worked over two days to conclude work on all outstanding items before the Committee and to consider several new issues. This is despite the frustration voiced by MHCC members and MHI over HUD’s failure to implement dozens of recommendations of the MHCC over the last four years or more.

Highlights of the Committee Recommendations

Southern Yellow Pine Design Standards – By a 15-2 vote, the MHCC recommended that HUD delay implementation of the National Design Specification (NDS) for Wood for 2×2 and 2×4 southern pine lumber, effective January 1, 2013, until such time that it presents the MHCC with a proposal for changes to the existing standards as required by law, or until such time that HUD issues an emergency rule under Section 604(b)(5) of the Manufactured Housing Improvements Act of 2000. This is consistent with MHI’s petition to HUD earlier this year, and with MHI’s testimony before the committee.

Hinged Roof Assemblies – The MHCC voted 15-2 to recommend that HUD withdraw requirements for Alternative Construction Letters for certain types of hinged roofs designed for Wind Zone I until HUD clarifies current regulations regarding the on-site installation of hinged roof assemblies known as “double hinged” and “ridge box or peak cap” assemblies. The industry argued that such hinged roof assemblies do not need AC letters because they are constructed in the factory and are part of the “close–up” requirements under the installation standards, 3285,801(f). Members argued that methods for completing the installation of such homes are much less complicated than many multi-section home “close-ups.” These types of assemblies are common practice in the industry, and installers are trained and certified to complete these types of installations.

Wind Design Standards – The MHCC voted 17-0 to recommend that the reference standards of the American Society of Engineers (ASCE 7) wind design standards be updated to the 2005 version from the 1995 version, and the existing wind speed design requirements in the HUD Code be adjusted accordingly. However, the committee did not recommend any code changes regarding design requirements for wind pressure. It voted to maintain the current three wind zones as opposed to four. The new wind safety recommendations are the result of many hours of work by an industry led task force that included HUD and members of the ASCE-7 committee, who concluded that any new requirements beyond what the MHCC recommended would not be cost beneficial.

Indoor Air Quality – The MHCC concluded action on pending recommendations debated over the last four years, to improve ventilation and indoor quality in manufactured homes. In a unanimous vote, the MHCC recommended that the HUD Code provide for the voluntary use of ASHRAE 62.2, Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality in Low-Rise Residential Buildings. In a change supported by MHI, the Committee voted to amend existing regulations to provide more flexibility in the types and size of ventilation systems that may be utilized to ensure adequate ventilation. (In a related issue, see information below on the GAO report).

Other MHCC Actions

In other actions, the Committee added new testing and certification requirements for certain types of vinyl siding; provided a new reference standard for Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF); updated and clarified language regarding construction methods; tabled a proposal regarding alternative foundation designs; rejected a site drainage proposal; rejected updated testing and certification requirements for windows and sliding doors; and referred new issues to MHCC subcommittees regarding water heaters.

Highlights of HUD (Designated Federal Officer) Report and Comments to MHCC

Status of MHCC recommendations pending at HUD

• Final Rules for the proposed 2nd set of updates to the standards, changes to roof truss testing, and changes to 3282, Subpart I, are in Departmental Clearance.

• A final rule for On-Site Completion of Construction is still being developed by HUD staff.

• HUD is still working to develop a proposed rule on a proposal developed by MHI regarding ground anchor testing. HUD is also working on changes to the regulations regarding Primary Inspection Agencies.

MHCC recommendations need a cost benefit analysis

HUD's Designated Federal Officer (DFO), Henry Czauski, reported that the MHCC/DFO must present to the committee its recommendations with an economic cost/benefit analysis. The recommendations must be in a format consistent with the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) regarding proposed rules and should include a preamble.

Manufacturers need to adhere to regulations regarding Alternative Construction

During discussion of hinged roof designs and Alternative Construction (AC) letters Mr. Czauski noted that there have been numerous instances where manufacturers are not following the regulations under 3282.14 regarding Alternative Construction. If the industry members demand a timely response it is imperative that complete information is provided and regulations regarding inspections, labeling and reporting be followed.

DOE has not communicated on energy efficiency proposals

In response to a question by a committee member, HUD reported that it has had no recent conversations with the Department of Energy regarding energy efficiency standards, although the law requires it, and a recent Congressional directive, sought by MHI, directs DOE to also consult with the MHCC.

Highlights of MHI’s Public Remarks to MHCC

MHI staff provided the following public testimony during each of the three public comment periods:

• Recommended that the MHCC consider HUD’s inappropriate action regarding enforcement of the new design standards for southern pine lumber.

• Urged the committee to review and comment, if necessary, on the recent and pending changes to the NDS standard for southern pine lumber.

• Recommended that the MHCC review HUD’s guidelines for quality assurance under the procedural and enforcement regulations and codify the guidelines.

• Expressed concern about lack of transparency and timely action by HUD and the MHCC on MHCC recommendations.

• Thanked HUD for recent actions regarding preemption and the City of Richland, Mississippi.

• Announced that MHI is working on an industry-based energy efficiency standard and hopes to bring it before the MHCC early in 2013.

GAO Report Published on Indoor Air Quality to Coincide with MHCC Meeting

Coincidently, related to MHCC’s recommendation on indoor air quality, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report entitled “Manufactured Housing Standards – Testing and Performance Evaluation Could Better Ensure Safe Indoor Air Quality” (available at www.gao.gov/products/GAO-13-52.) The report was requested by several members of Congress last year to examine indoor air quality standards for manufactured housing.

The report's key findings conclude that some provisions of the HUD Code provide a lower margin of safety against a carbon monoxide exposure incident than those for site-built homes. The report concluded that the primary reason for the differences in ventilation standards for manufactured homes and site-built homes is that the HUD Code has not been updated and has not kept pace with standards tied to ventilation and air quality for site-built homes. This is despite recommendations by the MHCC in 2009 and 2010 to update various ventilation standards and carbon monoxide requirements. The GAO report is consistent with MHI’s position that the HUD Code, to remain viable, must be updated.  

Lois Starkey, Vice President, Regulatory AffairsLois Starkey, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI)

“HUD Seeks to Institutionalize Expanded Regulation”

October 14th, 2011 No comments

Almost as an afterthought to its March 2010 proclamation that manufacturer compliance with new expanded in-plant regulation originally billed as voluntary would, henceforth, be “not voluntary,” HUD has recently announced that it intends to proceed with a new rule that would institutionalize that expansion and, at the same time, substantially alter existing regulations defining the pivotal relationship between third-party Primary Inspection Agencies (PIAs), manufacturers and HUD.  What is worse, is that HUD plans to institute rulemaking on this major and costly alteration of the existing in-plant regulation structure without a consensus of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) and without even presenting a complete proposal to the MHCC as required by law and as requested by the MHCC itself.  Indeed, the story of how this has come about is a textbook reflection of HUD’s efforts over the past decade to minimize, circumvent and evade the program reforms of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, and a case study for Congress when it examines the Department’s failure to fully and properly implement that law.

Back in 2008, HUD approached the MHCC with “concepts” for changing the fundamental role of third-party PIAs (and particularly private PIAs) as well as the nature of their relationship with both manufacturers and HUD.  These “concepts” ultimately led to HUD proposed revisions to elements of the Procedural and Enforcement Regulations (PER), that were presented, in piecemeal fashion, to the MHCC Regulatory Enforcement Subcommittee.  That process, however, was halted by a vote of the Subcommittee in September 2008, based on MHARR objections that the consideration of piecemeal proposals – that did not allow a complete evaluation of the interaction between various components – was improper, as was the consideration of such proposals without relevant cost information or justification as required by the 2000 law.

Confronted with this rejection, HUD responded with a three-pronged strategy.  First, beginning in late 2008, it embarked on a campaign to expand and fundamentally change in-plant regulation on the ground, without first complying with the due process requirements of the 2000 law, based on an elaborate series of “enhanced checklists,” “field guidance” documents and “standard operating procedures” that were not – and still have not been – presented to the MHCC for consensus review or published for notice and comment rulemaking.  Initially, and for nearly a year-and-a-half afterward, HUD characterized the major changes implemented by these documents as a process of “voluntary cooperation,” only to ultimately deem them “not voluntary” in March 2010.  An August 24, 2011 article in the Capitol newspaper “The Hill” aptly describes this type of process (being used increasingly by regulators), stating: “Th[e] new guidelines are  supposedly ‘voluntary,’ but don’t be fooled.  The federal government … has long been engaged in an egregious and unconstitutional regulatory power grab.  The strategy simply is to saddle disfavored industries with regulations disguised as ‘voluntary,’ and therefore not subject to the normal rulemaking process and judicial review.”  Although written about a different set of “voluntary” guidelines, the same logic and analysis holds here.

Second, in 2009, HUD returned to the MHCC with a unified regulatory proposal to amend the PER regulations in a way that would legitimize and provide legal support for such “on the ground” expanded in-plant regulation.  In a formal September 2009 letter ballot, however, HUD was unable to secure an MHCC consensus on this proposal, specifically due, as reflected by MHCC minutes, to the Department’s failure to provide the Committee with adequate justification showing the need for such changes, as well as its failure to provide concrete information regarding the cost-impact of its proposal.

Third, when MHARR continued its objections to the “on the ground” imposition of such a costly regulatory expansion without compliance with relevant due process protections, HUD, on February 5, 2010, issued an “interpretive rule,” without opportunity for public comment, designed to ensure that the MHCC would never get an opportunity to review its expanded in-plant regulation checklists, “field guidance” and standard operating procedures, by simply reading catchall section 604(b)(6) – requiring MHCC consideration and related rulemaking for any change in “inspection practices” – out of the 2000 law.

Now, HUD is taking the next step to institutionalize expanded in-plant regulation.  As announced by HUD regulators at an August 17, 2011 meeting of the MHCC’s Regulatory Enforcement Subcommittee, the Department plans to go forward with a proposed rule relating to the role and activities of the PIAs without further consultation with the MHCC, despite the absence of an MHCC consensus due to HUD’s own failure, in 2009, to provide justification and cost information that the MHCC is required to consider by the 2000 law.  Questioned about this procedure, HUD’s representative stated that the MHCC had “had its chance” in 2009.

This stance, however, flouts (once again) the requirements of the 2000 law. Section 604(b) of the law requires that the MHCC consider every proposed PER regulation, absent a declared emergency.  Further, section 604(e) of the law requires that the MHCC consider the cost-impact and justification for any such proposed regulation.  The MHCC, however, has never been provided with this requisite information by HUD.  As a result, there are two possible scenarios in this matter, both of which violate the 2000 law – (1) if HUD’s new proposal is in any way different from the proposal that failed to attain an MHCC consensus in 2009, then it has never been considered by the MHCC and violates section 604(b); (2) if the new proposal is identical to the 2009 proposal, it still has not been properly presented to and considered by the MHCC in accordance with the law, because mandatory elements required for MHCC consideration in accordance with the law – cost-impact data and a showing of justification – were never provided.  Put differently, if HUD’s position were correct, the Department could effectively evade the consensus requirements of the 2000 law on every proposal simply by refusing to provide the MHCC with cost-impact, justification, or other  information needed or required for MHCC review and consensus comments.

HUD, in an attempt to minimize this further restriction of the role and authority of the MHCC and its own obligation to comply with the due process requirements of the 2000 law, noted that Committee members could submit comments during the public comment period on the proposed rule, but this misses the central point of the MHCC and the 2000 law – that regulatory changes should be based on the consensus agreement of all program stakeholders.  And there is not – and never has been — a consensus on any changes relating to the role of the PIAs or an expansion of in-plant regulation.  Simply stated, a federally-regulated industry that has lost more than 80% of its production over the past 12 years, should not allow this kind of incremental evasion of the law.

In MHARR’s view, this proposal, a vestige of prior program management that sought to minimize and bypass the reforms of the 2000 law, should be withdrawn by the new program management and re-submitted to the MHCC, this time with proper cost-benefit information and specific justification – if one exists.

MHARR VIEWPOINT
By Danny D. Ghorbani

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) is a Washington D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing.