The federal government should not subsidize mobile homes until safety, durability and consumer protection standards are strengthened, the Washington-based Housing Assistance Council has concluded.

At the same time, it would be difficult if not impossible to deny subsidies for mobile home use to low-income mobilehome occupants, the council noted in recent report. HAC provides training, technical assistance and seed money loans to housing development corporations and to authorities sponsoring and developing subsidized housing for low-income people in rural areas and towns with populations of less than 25,000.

"Unfortunately the resolution of these apparently incompatible aims may of necessity be a compromise: If within a reasonable amount of time adequate safeguards over mobile home quality have not been required by regulations, then exsisting subsidies should be withdrawn," the council said. "Until appropriate regulations are promulated, new deep subsidies, such as for homeownership, should not be instituted."

"If it is true, as some industry spokesmen claim, that higher standards in safety precautions and consumer protection will price the mobile home out of the low-income market," the council added, "then the federal government should expand its effort to identify and promote other cost-effective means of producing safe and durable housing for rural low-income people and not spend limited subsidies on mobile homes."

The study, called "Risk or Resource: Mobile Homes in Rural Areas," said that the hazards of mobile homes outweigh their economic benefit over conventional housing in rural areas.

Half the mobile homes in the country are located in rural areas, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development invests at least 47 percent of its mobile home insurance in communities of less than 50,000 people, the housing group said. By contrast, less than 25 percent of HUD's total housing resources go to communities of that size, it said.

The Farmers Home Adminisration is studying financing methods for mobile homes, the council noted, adding that "there are indications that, like HUD, FmHA may turn in the future to mobile homes to meet the shelter needs of those who cannot afford FmHA site-built home."

But insufficent manufacturing and installation seem to have eliminated mobile homes as a preferred option for solving America's shortage of decent low-income housing.