House Approves H.R. 650

Bipartisan Bill to Improve Access to Manufactured Housing Now Moves to Senate

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, April 14th passed legislation to overturn federal regulations that have harmed consumers in rural America seeking to purchase or sell a manufactured home.

H.R. 650, which is designed to assist consumers seeking loans to buy manufactured homes, passed the House with bipartisan support by a vote of 263-162 as members saw through a smokescreen of misinformation disseminated by opponents of manufactured housing in the days leading up to the vote.

“This is an important milestone for millions of working families and retirees who are currently being shut out of the market for quality, unsubsidized, affordable housing by unfair rules that restrict their access to loans. I am pleased that a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives saw through the misleading attacks by opponents of manufactured housing and acted in the best interests of their constituents,” said Nathan Smith, chairman of the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Introduced by a bipartisan coalition of House Financial Services Committee members from rural America (Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN), Terri Sewell (D-AL), Andy Barr (R-KY), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ)), H.R. 650 preserves core consumer protections established by the Dodd-Frank Act while restoring access to credit for the purchase of manufactured homes by low- to moderate-income Americans, especially in rural and non-urban areas.

While opponents of the bill largely represented areas with limited manufactured housing, the bill’s bipartisan proponents were from regions where manufactured housing is a necessity. They spoke about the challenges their constituents face under current regulations, including difficulties in obtaining manufactured home loans, particularly for smaller balance loans.

With an average price of just $43,000, manufactured homes are a vital housing option for retirees, veterans and working families, because the monthly loan payments are typically well below average apartment rents and traditional home mortgages.

The CFPB has not used its statutory authority to establish appropriately flexible lending thresholds, leading manufactured housing lenders to leave the industry or eliminate certain loans because of increased liability, which has made it extremely difficult for buyers to find financing. The situation has also hurt the resale market, forcing existing owners to accept lowball, cash-only prices for their manufactured homes that also drive down surrounding property values.

H.R. 650 would improve consumer access to manufactured housing loans by adjusting percentage thresholds that already exist under Dodd-Frank to address the impact of fixed costs on smaller loans. The bill would also improve the definition of a mortgage originator, enabling manufactured housing retailers to help consumers as long as they receive no compensation – e.g., payments from lenders. This is the same standard applied to real estate agents selling site-built houses.

During floor debate, supporters of H.R. 650 argued that the bill would not tamper with the mortgage reforms of the Dodd-Frank Act as they apply to manufactured home loans. They pointed out that provisions such as the QM “Ability to Repay” requirement; prohibitions against steering a consumer to a loan with “predatory characteristics,” prohibitions against steering incentives (yield spread premiums), prohibitions on mandatory arbitration in connection with mortgage loans; required disclosures regarding APR, loan terms, etc.; and other state and federal consumer protection laws would remain unchanged.

A letter from former Representative Barney Frank (co-author of the Dodd-Frank Act) was read into the Congressional Record during the debate. The letter, from June 2011, responding to a constituent expressing concerns about the impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on the availability of manufactured housing financing, said in part: “I’m very proud of the work I have done with the manufactured housing industry for years, and I was regretful to realize that we did have this problem. I do not think it is necessary to include manufactured housing as part of our effort to prevent abusive mortgage practices.”

“Because this legislation helps consumers, it received support from members from both parties who represent areas of the country where manufactured housing is a critical source of affordable housing,” Smith said. “The Dodd-Frank Act’s ability to stop abusive lending practices will remain unchanged under H.R. 650.We hope the Senate will likewise endorse this measure for providing low- and moderate-income families and seniors with access to quality housing.”

If you have any questions, please contact MHI’s Senior Vice President, Government Affairs, Lesli Gooch, Ph.D. at (703) 558-0660 or lgooch@mfghome.org.

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