By Greg Illes
It’s early April, 2016, and the RV Internet is a-buzz with gossip, rumor, and (fearful) speculation concerning a soon-to-be-released regulatory revision from the HUD government agency. A quick search for “HUD RV” will turn up plenty of threats and worries.
Quick summary: the rule benefits RVer’s and does not restrict residency. Here’s why:
HUD is an acronym for Housing and Urban Development (you can read its mission statement here). As you can see at its web site, HUD is responsible for many aspects of housing regulation in the U.S, too many to summarize here. But in particular, one of HUD’s areas of authority is the setting of construction standards for housing.
Recently, HUD published a rule-making proposal in which the wording was perhaps a tad obscure. The regulation has to do with using RV’s and “tiny houses” as residences, and required some placarding to the effect that the units were not intended for permanent residency. The full text is available here, but few will have the fortitude to read through it – or understand its intent and implications.
The rule sponsored a fire-storm of reaction from people who thought their RV’s would become “illegal” under the revised regulation. But it was a false alarm. In fact, some of the furor even seems to have been promulgated for sensationalism’s sake.
The rule is endorsed by the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and should not be a cause for RVers’ worry.
Detailed Discussions – We have limited space here, but you can read much more about the ruling and its background in some other articles.
One of the better reviews of the whole fracas can be found in the excellent Snopes site, where (with their usual diligence), the writers explore details and concerns surrounding the regulation. You can read that here to get a thorough understanding, and we’ll summarize things below.
Another important communication to review is the statement by the RV Industry Association (and others) enthusiastically endorsing the HUD regulation.
And here is another very readable analysis from RV Dreams, with some additional references, providing more clarification and insight.
So what’s all the fuss about? Essentially, the confusion – and concern – arose from the wording in the regulation. The phrase “not intended for” permanent residency was never intended to indicate “not permitted for” permanent residency. In fact, the regulation is an important exemption for RV manufacturers, which permits them to create their products independently from the restrictions for fixed housing. In particular, the rule is intended to differentiate RV “housing” from mobile-home housing. This is why the RVIA is not only supporting the rule, but actually participated in drafting it.
OK, but what about safety? HUD, and the RVIA, are trying to more explicitly draw the line between fixed and mobile habitats. HUD is clearly responsible for regulating the quality and safety of fixed homes (including mobile homes) – and RVIA is, and wants to be, responsible for similar issues on RV residences.
So can you still live full-time in your RV? This is, and always has been, largely a local-regulation issue. Across our vast country, there are an equally vast number of regulatory variations on who can live where, and in what. If you look carefully, regulation seems always to be a matter of where the RV is parked – not how long (or permanently) anybody has been living in it. And realistically speaking, what conceivable government agency is going to try to keep track of how many days any of us spend living in our RV’s? Even Big Brother doesn’t have that many resources.
On balance, it’s easy to see that there have been some over-reactions to the ruling. Some may even have been intentional, for the sake of hits and clicks on a website. But clearly, the support of RVIA, and analyses by objective reviewers, shows us the actuality of the situation.
For easy reference, here are the links mentioned above in the article text.
The ruling: https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2016/02/09/2016-02387/manufactured-home-procedural-and-enforcement-regulations-revision-of-exemption-for-recreational
HUD mission: https://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/about/mission
Snopes review: https://www.snopes.com/hud-tiny-homes-ban
RVIA statement: https://www.rvia.org/?ESID=preleases&PRID=1739&SR=11
RV Dreams article: https://www.rv-dreams-journal.com/2016/02/hud-proposed-rule-clarifies-definition-of-rvs-for-a-limited-purpose.html
Greg Illes is a retired systems engineer who loves thinking up RV upgrades and modifications. When he’s not working on his motorhome, he’s traveling in it. You can follow his blog at www.divver-city.com/blog.