Tougher safety standards placed on mobile homes

January 16, 1994|By Knight-Ridder News Service

MIAMI -- Federal regulators imposed dramatically tougher safety requirements Friday on mobile homes sold in hurricane-vulnerable states, ending months of debate set off by the devastation of Hurricane Andrew.

The move largely ignored manufacturers' protests that the new rules would make mobile homes too expensive for the families who need them most.

The Manufactured Housing Institute, a manufacturers' lobbying organization, had estimated in June that the proposed rules would raise the average price of a mobile home by as much as 35 percent, from $27,300 to $36,855. But regulators said prices will jump no more than 6 percent.

"Prices will undoubtedly rise," said Michael Charles, manager of regulatory affairs for the American Society of Civil Engineers. "But we believe the government has struck a responsible balance between cost and safety."

The new construction standards become effective in July, but they will not affect old mobile homes.

The new rules triple the pressures some mobile home parts must withstand. They add requirements to account for the intense force that high winds lash at corners and edges. They abandon a labeling system under which mobile homes were approved by the federal government as "Hurricane Resistive."

"The federal government has apparently decided that it is unacceptable to suffer the kind of loss caused by Hurricane Andrew," said Peter Sparks, a member of the Wind Engineering Research Council who testified on the subject before a congressional subcommittee.

The new rules cover all of Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, as well as many coastal regions from Texas to Maine.

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