Would unused trailers manufactured to serve people affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 be a good fit for residents of earthquake-ravaged Haiti?

As the government continues this month auctioning off 100,000 of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-owned trailers at a fraction of the market value, some experts pose the question of looking into the feasibility of sending them for relief efforts in Haiti, according to the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune.

By not doing so, some recreational vehicle and manufactured housing leaders believe, the auction could have a crippling effect on their business, which has the nation’s largest presence in Elkhart County.

A joint news release issued by the Manufactured Housing Institute, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform and the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property states the auction could hamper the “already struggling manufactured housing and RV industries … causing losses to builders and sellers of these products and resulting in the loss of jobs in both of these sectors.”

The introduction of almost 9,000 “FEMA-spec” manufactured home units into the market would represent a number of homes greater than 85% of all new manufactured homes shipped to the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi during the first 10 months of 2009, according to the release.

The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) told The Tribune that it is “pursuing” the notion of helping Haiti, but had nothing definite to announce as of Thursday.

“We’re contacting people to see if it would be viable,” said Bill Baker, senior director of communications for RVIA. “It could be beneficial to the RV industry and to the people of Haiti.”

As for the government auction, Phil Ingrassia, vice president of communication at the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), believes it could hamper sales at dealerships nationwide — in turn affecting several Elkhart County businesses.

“We’ve been pretty consistent on our position on this,” Ingrassia said. “We responded quickly and cooperated in getting trailers to FEMA. So our position is that the government should do everything it can to minimize the impact of the auctions on the local markets. In some cases, they’re talking about introducing hundreds of units in a market that sold 70 in an entire year.

“We encourage the government to explore an avenue to minimize the impact on local dealers.”

As for possibly redirecting the trailers to Haiti, Ingrassia added that the RVDA didn’t have a formal opinion, but added: “It would be one way to use the trailers for what they were meant — emergency housing, whether here or Haiti,” he said.