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N.C. RV Park Offers Take On Tiny House Friction

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August 6, 2015 by   Comments Off on N.C. RV Park Offers Take On Tiny House Friction

The following is from the website of Coral Sands Point Recreational Village in North Carolina. For the full posting click here.

We read an article about a group in Colorado that was successful in acquiring a zoning change to allow a new tiny house community. Kudos to them. But, because the article didn’t specify whether that community would allow tiny houses on wheels, we contacted them to find out.

Nope – as expected, they will allow tiny houses but on foundations only.

During our conversation, the young fellow we spoke to mentioned that the RVIA (Recreation Vehicle Industry Association) “refuses to play nice with the tiny house movement” (his words) by denying membership to tiny house companies and builders.

Although we tried to explain the reason for this, as told to us by our sources at the RVIA, this young fellow had become convinced the RVIA has unfairly discriminated and excluded the “tiny home” from its membership.

Because others may be equally as uninformed and misled, this compels us to explain via this blog post WHY the RVIA will continue to shy away from allowing members who produce products that are referred to as “tiny houses” or “tiny homes.” (However, the RVIA does allow “tiny home” builders to join as long as their units are built to park model RV standards.)

First, a little history lesson. The modern RV industry had its beginnings in the late 1920s and 1930s when they were more commonly called mobile homes.

In the 1950s an informal distinction began to be made between the larger mobile homes that were not moved often and the smaller, more mobile version but it was the SAME industry producing the SAME product with the primary difference being size. No building codes or safety standards existed for these wheeled structures and most were not suitably built for full time living.

However, out of necessity, many low-income folks often took to living in mobile homes/recreational vehicles as permanent residences which created a proliferation of substandard and slum-like living conditions in many mobile home parks. Consequently, in 1965, several federal housing agencies were combined to form the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) whose mission today includes protecting consumers and mandating fair housing practices.

As such, in 1976, HUD made a formal distinction between manufactured homes for single family dwellings (no longer called mobile homes) and recreational vehicles for part-time or seasonal use. HUD now mandates that manufactured homes be built to federally preemptive construction standards, clearly defines recreational vehicles, and specifically excludes RVs from HUD-mandated building practices and uses.

The RVIA was formed in the 1970s as a membership association for manufacturers and has NO federal or state-level authority regarding how recreational vehicles are built or used. Recreational vehicles are allowed to exist ONLY because HUD has specifically excluded them from being subject to HUD’s building codes, thereby establishing two (and only two) types of dwellings on wheels.

Knowing that consumers desire consistency in construction and some guarantee of safety when purchasing a recreational vehicle, the RVIA established consensus safety and building standards for both traditional recreational vehicles (ANSI/NFPA 1192 Standard) and park model RVs (ANSI 119.5 Standard) to which their members voluntarily agree to adhere. One of the perks of membership in the RVIA is their inspection program which allows RV manufacturers to certify their RVs as meeting agreed-upon industry standards.

With so many local zoning boards now classifying tiny houses on wheels as RVs, and now that Tumbleweed and a few other tiny home companies now market their product as RV only, WHY won’t the RVIA allow members who create tiny houses or tiny homes that are intended for full time living?

Because HUD says they can’t, that’s why. By HUD’s definition, a recreational vehicle is ONLY for “temporary living quarters for recreational camping, travel or seasonal use.” If the RVIA were to allow tiny house membership and thereby condone full time living in RVs, that practice will most certainly be challenged by HUD, the entity on which they rely for existence.

We recently spoke with Matt Wald, Executive Director of the RVIA Park Model division who told us, “it has to do with intent of use” and then pointed us to this blurb titled, “Are Park Model RVs Tiny Homes?”

Clearly the RVIA wants HUD and everyone else to know that RVs and the modern tiny home on wheels are NOT the same thing and the RVIA does not (CANNOT) promote nor condone full time living in recreational vehicles. The RVIA only represents RV and park model RV manufacturers, not manufacturers of permanent housing, no matter what they may be called.

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