Porches are common features on the outsides of park model RVs, used by many campgrounds as rental units.

Porches are common features on the outsides of park model RVs, used by many campgrounds as rental units

A recent move by federal regulators has rattled the recreational vehicle industry, prompting it to rally behind a congressional bill that would more clearly distinguish RVs from manufactured housing.

The Elkhart Truth reported that on Oct. 1, Pamela Beck Danner, administrator of the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a memo to the RV and MH industries stating that for units built after April 1, 2015, the porches of park model RVs will be included in their square footage. The change could push some park models over the 400-square-foot threshold, removing their exemption from HUD regulations on manufactured housing standards.

That would change both the types of loans needed for financing and how the units are taxed once they’re owned. It could also raise the cost of park models if manufacturers have to produce and ship porches separately.

Park models technically are mobile in that they have wheels and a chassis that allows them to be moved. But buyers typically have the manufacturer deliver them directly to a quasi-permanent site, such as a campground, where they stay each year.

Historically, regulators have allowed the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) to set standards for how RVs should be built, including the practice of excluding exterior porches from square footage calculations. Danner’s announcement marks a complete reversal on how the agency has viewed park models, said Matt Wald, executive director of park models at the RVIA.

HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan disagreed, saying Danner’s memo follows a HUD regulation in place since 1988. Sullivan said the RVIA misguided manufacturers in 2012 by incorrectly stating that exterior porches should not be included in square footage calculations.

“They went out a bit on their own on this,” Sullivan said of RVIA’s 2012 guidance. “That’s not how rules are made, issuing guidance without our clarification. This is why we published the memo, to clarify confusion in the marketplace. This is not radical, nor is it a departure.”

But John Soard, general manager of Nappanee, Ind.-based Fairmont Park Models, said he has attended meetings as a member of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committeee, a group jointly comprised of industry and HUD officials, in which agency administrators have declared that porch areas should not be counted.

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