Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Maryland Considers Discrimination Against Modular Housing

For years modular homes being built in Maryland were required by law to have sprinkler systems while site builders were not. Last year the state required all new homes to have sprinklers which leveled the playing field for modular home builders.

However, Maryland lawmakers responding to outcries from site builders are considering allowing counties to decide if sprinklers will be required in site built homes and at the same time enforcing the state mandate that all modular homes remain sprinkled. If this is discrimination, I don't know what is.

Maryland lawmakers held a hearing Tuesday to determine if counties can opt out of a new state law requiring all newly constructed homes be equipped with sprinkler systems. The goal is saving lives, but some builders and homeowners say it's too expensive.

“The building I was in did have a sprinkler system, which contained the fire,” said James Hillman, who survived a fire at a Prince George’s County body shop three years ago and credits sprinklers for saving his life. “I was the only one who had major burns, so it helped a lot of my coworkers not sustain any of these injuries.”

In Annapolis Tuesday, a committee hearing was packed with firefighters who support the state requirement that new construction must include fire sprinklers.

“Having residential sprinklers gives that early intervention to save lives to get those folks out of the house, and it's also saving firefighters with the light construction, these houses are starting to collapse much sooner,” State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci said.

But the housing industry wants counties on the Eastern Shore and in western Maryland to be able to opt out of the state requirement. Builders want sprinkler systems to be optional because they say some people in rural areas can't afford the extra costs for construction and water supply.

“Permits have dropped dramatically in that area since this mandate took effect,” said David Reel, of Manufactured Housing Institute of Maryland. “The market is slowly recovering from the great downturn. This is just chopping the legs out from people that need and want affordable housing.”
Builders say smoke detectors are almost as effective as sprinklers, which can cost $6,000 to $20,000 to install.

"I know businesses that have closed because they aren't selling homes, and up in the rural areas where they’re so close to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, you’re finding that those people are moving out of state," said Larry Checca, of Manufactured Housing Institute of Maryland.

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