Thanks to a lawsuit and changes in federal and local laws, manufactured homes are at last receiving equal treatment with homes built at the permanent site.

Because of these changes, Kevin Schmidt, manager of Schmidt's Homes, 3955 S. Redwood Road, believes manufactured homes will capture more of the market in coming years due to lower costs and the desire for some people to get out from under their heavy mortgages.What are manufactured homes, you ask.

A manufactured home is one made in a factory, shipped to a site in two halves and placed on a foundation either with or without a basement. It probably could be described as a cross between a mobile home and a house built on-site, Schmidt explains.

Until mid-1989, manufactured homes were confined to mobile home parks in Salt Lake County because of a county ordinance. A lawsuit filed by several people on behalf of their manufactured home companies against the Salt Lake County Commission resulted in a consent decree signed July 12, 1989, by U.S. District Judge David K. Winder.

The consent decree said the county ordinance violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it "rendered it unlawful for any person to maintain any mobile home used for human habitation upon any plot of ground in the county except in a licensed mobile home park or subdivision."

Since that time, several communities have changed their ordinances to allow placement of manufactured homes at locations outside mobile home parks, Schmidt said.

Mobile homes used to be health and fire hazards, Schmidt said, with their aluminum wiring and high windows that made it difficult for people to escape. .

The federal government got involved several years ago, saying that mobile home construction wasn't regulated and there was a need to protect the public safety.

In June 1976, Congress passed a building code to be administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The code ensured the construction of affordable housing on a federal level, superseding local building officials' authority to regulate mobile and manufactured homes in their communities.

This allows homes to be mass produced in factories for large areas of the United States without having to change construction standards for every city and county in a state, Schmidt said.

The ability to manufacture homes in factories is much like the automotive industry. That is, federal inspectors go into the plants checking on construction standards and providing for recall when defective parts are discovered.

After the lawsuit was filed and settled by consent decree in 1989, the Legislature in 1990 passed SB81, amendments to the Uniform Building Standards Act. The amendments were made to align the political subdivisions in the state with the authority of the federal government to supersede the local building officials' right to inspect manufactured homes, Schmidt said.

He said the HUD building code is an alternative to the state code and either can be used when put-ting a manufactured house on private land.

Schmidt said a big part of purchasing a home is financing and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has seen to it that manufactured housing qualifies for almost all of the current mortgage programs including Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Administration, Utah Housing Finance Agency and many conventional loans.

Many people believe manufactured homes are for people with small incomes, Schmidt said. He said that isn't true. Many of his customers are looking to get out from beneath their mortgage so they take their equity, purchase a manufactured home and still have a home with comforts like walk-in closets, Jacuzzis, fireplaces, walk-in showers, island kitchens and sky-lights.

Schmidt said most customers are older than 40, but that is gradually changing as more young couples purchase a manufactured home as a "starter" home. Many of the homes are being placed in rural areas and many are sold to corporations.

When customers visit Schmidt's Homes, Schmidt can show them 50 different floor plans and dozens of items that can be installed during the building process. The homes range in size from 1,050 to 1,760 square feet and can have a many as five bedrooms and three full baths.

A customer can pick from a list of many extras. Manufactured homes come with window coverings, floor coverings, wall cover-ings, a refrigerator and range. Depending on the extras chosen, a manufactured home can cost $25 per square foot while a house built on a site will cost between $35 and 40 per square foot.

Schmidt said the saving is due to the factory assembly line production of the houses and the fact that weather doesn't hamper the building process because it's done indoors.

In an effort to keep up with the latest in manufactured housing, Schmidt will go to Las Vegas Oct. 8-12 to the Western U.S. convention of manufactured housing dealers and manufacturers.