‘Alexa, play John Michael Talbot.’
‘Shuffling John Michael Talbot playlist from Apple Music.’
A decade ago, that would have been science fiction. Not so today.
It was more than a decade ago that a HUD Code manufactured home producer, and it wasn’t Clayton Homes, told MHProNews that they had researched establishing a factory that was virtually all done by robotics. Robotics and robots are similar, but not the same thing. That noted, according to that highly intelligent and quite successful professional, they determined that a factory could be operated by only 3 people. 3 humans could run a factory otherwise operated by machines. At that time, it was cost-prohibitive, but doable.
But what about today?
In Amazon’s warehouses, there are already significant levels of mechanization and automation. The plan that Amazon has, per various sources, is for more of that ahead. No surprise there.
Amazon workers in the United Kingdom (UK) and in the U.S. have gone on record with complaints about often grueling work conditions. The ubiquitous Drudge Report has featured with increased tempo over the past several years various developments in AI – artificial intelligence – robotics, and human-like machines, such as Sophia.
So will the day come that someone of means will say, ‘Alexa, make breakfast’? Would it be a surprise if some billionaire already has a device that can do that today?
You can’t punish success, is what a former Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, an antitrust official, has said recently about antitrust laws in a video linked here. But Baer said that you can use federal laws to punish bad behavior. The FTC recently made a reported $5 billion-dollar settlement with Facebook. That’s an all-time record fine for misbehavior. But for a firm worth north of $500 billion dollars, Facebook’s fine is a slap on the wrist.
Nevertheless, it may be a sign of progress that the federal government under the Trump Administration is starting to act. Several federal investigations are reportedly underway. Democrats and Republican lawmakers are taking a keener interest in antitrust enforcement. The Supreme Court has made a recent antitrust connected ruling that could have implications for our industry and others.
Are There Specific Cases or Investigations Underway Involving Manufactured Housing?
While the antitrust angle is not entirely clear, it is a matter of record that Democratic lawmakers are pushing Clayton Homes and their Berkshire Hathaway lending affiliates on several federal fronts. HUD under Secretary Ben Carson’s term is investigating Clayton and the Berkshire manufactured home lenders too.
Don’t be surprised when more of that news hits the mainstream. But will the MHI amen corner report on it until it is totally obvious? Time will tell.
Bi-Partisanship, Affordable Housing, and Manufactured Homes
As reports found only on MHProNews and MHLivingNews – several linked below – in manufactured home trade media reflects, there is an increased level of interest by lawmakers and 2020 candidates in various aspects of manufactured homes. The reasons are simple. Affordable housing is becoming a hot-button topic. The Trump Administration – spotlight HUD Secretary Ben Carson as an example for a few moments – has been engaged with our industry for the past 2 years too.
Manufactured housing – especially the industry’s remaining independents – represent too small a collective group to be able to flex the kind of political muscle that might bend one party over the other into responding to our consumers, professionals, and investors challenges.
Rephrased, not only is bipartisanship prudent, it is necessary.
Further, as a minority, but growing number of the black community are realizing, there is value to being engaged with both major parties, not just one.
Our factory-built home industry won’t achieve its potential without specific regulatory, zoning, placement, finance, and other road-blocks being removed. That said, there are factory-builders who are prepared to jettison, right or wrong, the HUD Code. They have said so to MHProNews privately. Agree or not, other factory-builders have already begun their own transition some time ago, and in some cases are doing more modular than HUD Code homes; for zoning, placement, and finance reasons.
But they may overlook the point that there are also reports from various jurisdictions of modular homes being discriminated against too. Each product type has its value. But when the goal is affordable homes, why not build more HUD Code homes?
This publication has long advocated that factory-builders should not put down each other’s building types, but that is another topic. Suffice it to say for now that HUDs and MODs should support each other to a reasonable extent. Each has its niche in the marketplace. Many builders do both, but some modular builders insist on diminishing HUD Code homes, arguably to their own disadvantage.
That segue aside, flipping back to those who ponder dumping the HUD Code. There is ‘Big Blue’ pushing their pet project of a ‘new class of homes’ that are built to the HUD Code. Others at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) have followed in their wake. Fannie and Freddie – the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) that are supposed to be regulated by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) – have gladly gone along with that Clayton/MHI backed move. Meanwhile, the GSEs are largely ignoring the balance of the HUD Code industry’s production. That’s not what the law asked for, as the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) and others in MHVille have noted.
Those following ‘Big Blue’ are perhaps overlooking the point that Clayton has done several test products in the past, that have gone virtually no-where.
It must be remembered that Kevin Clayton himself has said that they can afford to lose money for 5 years, and Warren Buffett would be okay with it, so long as they are widening and broadening their moat. See the second half of the report with video at this link here. That’s not hypothetical. Clayton has reportedly closed over 100 retail centers since that video was produced. Those centers lost money for some time before they were closed.
Such facts and statements are important for competitors to grasp. Keep in mind all of the nice talk by Kevin Clayton in that interview, praising independents. Meanwhile, besides closing 100 of their own sales centers, scores of independents folded or sold out too. Coincidences?
Why Fight for the HUD Code?
The genius of the reform of the HUD Code since the passage of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, and the value – at least on paper in both cases – of the Duty to Serve manufactured housing provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 are that these are federal law already. Those laws already include provisions such as the enhanced preemption of manufactured homes.
Put differently, there is no need to pass additional laws that may or may not be implemented. Rather, the clear need is to enforce the laws that are already on the books. Modular housing doesn’t have that federal backup, but manufactured homes do.
That enforcement of existing laws should not be a political question. It should be a simple case of following the law. But what other aspects of American life has revealed that some laws exist and are often ignored and/or twisted beyond recognition. The manufactured home industry’s professionals need look no further than the border and immigration debacle, or the failure to robustly enforce antitrust laws since the AT&T monopoly breakup, to recognize that leaders in both major parties have often failed not only our industry, but the public at large, on several counts.
There is plenty of blame to go around. That reality may be helpful in terms of dealing with Democrats, Republicans, and the Trump Administration now. How so?
Because despite the posturing and political theater that often occurs, there are times that the two major parties come together in a truly bipartisan way. The MHIA and HERA are two examples of that from the past and the criminal justice reform bill is a more recent example of that in the present.
Lawmakers and their staffs are routinely more pragmatic than their political labels and public persona may cause one to think. As campaign season gets hotter, the desire to deliver an actionable result intensifies.
Those points noted, there is both hope and much work ahead.
There is no blogger, no trade publisher in MHVille that even begins to report or track on the breadth of issues that directly or indirectly impact our industry, other than this resource you are now reading. Perhaps that is why MHProNews are the runaway most read in MHVille? Our thanks to our sponsors, business development services clients and thousands of daily readers like for making that so.
Man has walked on the moon. We can do what is necessary easier than that effort required. Before AT&T was broken up, who would have believed it possible? As or more important, look at the good that followed in the marketplace once AT&T was broken up.
That’s why antitrust – anti-monopoly – laws exist. They are supposed to protect the population and business from specific, abusive practices.
Alexa, are you listening? Of course you are, just as mainstream media reports that Google and Facebook are gathering data on each of us, you and Amazon are too, right?
Alexa, please tell Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Mark Zuckerberg that a growing number of professionals and the general population are beginning to realize how the economic and political system has been manipulated by a relatively small number of monopolistic minded firms and their leaders. That awakening is promising. It will be the re-awakening of ‘We, the People’ that can make the difference.
Sobering yet promising are the words of Abraham Lincoln, cited above and below.
Lincoln fought against more than chattel slavery, as will be reviewed here someday. But until then…
…awaiting new exclusive reports on MHProNews and MHLivingNews in the week ahead…
…with no further adieu, let’s dive into the news, reports, fact-checks, and analysis that you will find exclusively on MHProNews during the week that was 7-14-2019 and 7-21-2019.
What’s New on MHLivingNews
What’s New on the Masthead
“One Giant Leap,” Genuine Competition, Deep Fakes, Affordable Housing, Unlocking Manufactured Home Potential
50 years ago, on July 20, 1969, President John F. Kennedy’s vision for putting an American on the moon was fulfilled. It was in a sense a great competition between the United States of America (USA) and the now defunct Soviet Union.
What’s New from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
JULY 15, 2019 TO: MHARR MANUFACTURERS MHARR TECHNICAL REVIEW GROUP (TRG) MHARR STATE AFFILIATES FROM: MHARR RE: MHARR MEETING WITH NEW FHFA LEADERSHIP An MHARR delegation met with senior officials of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) on July 11, 2019, including newly-confirmed FHFA Director, Dr. Mark Calabria.
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
Senator Warren Targets Private Equity “Vulture Capitalists,” plus Manufactured Home Equities Updates
Texas, Florida Cities Plan Manufactured Home Ban, Legacy Housing, FMHA, Lance Inderman/Jessup Housing React
Epic Hypocrisy? Tom Steyer Faces Past Ghosts of Farallon Hedge Fund, 2020 Heats Up, plus Manufactured Home Stock Updates
Manufactured Homes Can Grow in Value, Says Omaha World Herald – Berkshire Owned – Sheds Light on Manufactured Housing Dilemma
Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Monthly Economic Report vs. Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) Report – Comparisons
“Brass Tacks” Special Report to Fully Implement Duty to Serve Federal Law Duty to Serve Manufactured Housing Via Robust Home-Only Lending
“Manufactured Housing Presents an Unparalleled Opportunity to Provide Market-Wide Relief,” Says Non-Profit
Concern Addressed, HUD Staff “Waiting Out” Secretary Carson Tenure to “Return…Harsher…Costly…Unnecessary” Regulations
Last Sunday’s weekly recap is found in the related reports, linked below. That’s a wrap on this week’s recap of manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views, Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Weekly headline news, analysis, and commentary in review.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
Soheyla is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.
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