At a pre-COVID19 Louisville Show a senior vice president for a major U.S. furniture supplier was marveling at the quality, eye appeal, and value of modern manufactured homes. Be they the entry level “shade and shelter” models or the more “residential” styles of HUD Code manufactured homes, he was clearly impressed with the value proposition. This was apparently his first time to a manufactured housing trade show. But when he was told how many HUD Code manufactured homes were being sold nationally, he was shocked at how low the total tallies were. This was a man used to walking through “parade of homes” events arranged by site-builders or other conventional builders show-homes. That senior VP became interested in the obvious question. ‘Why were so few manufactured homes being sold?’
This fact-packed op-ed then turns toward another obvious comparison. Looking at facts claimed by Clayton Homes recent annual report, the largest HUD Code builder in the manufactured housing industry, and then looking at some of their own data stated in 2011 vs. 2021, fascinating points come to light. Among the insights that emerge from the report below, using Kevin Clayton’s and his Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) owned firm’s statements, there are fewer Clayton owned retailer center operating now than a decade ago. This is despite the fact that total manufactured housing industry production – and total Clayton Homes – sales have grown between 2011 and 2021. 51,618 new HUD Code homes were shipped in 2011. By 2021, that national total of all manufactured homes had risen to 105,772. With more than double the sales in a decade, and during an affordable housing crisis, why had the number of Clayton-owned retail centers declined?
‘Announcing!’ ‘Manufactured Community Owners’ Association of America’ ‘Finally Bringing Fight To Manufactured Home Community Sector of the Industry’ – plus Sunday Weekly Manufactured Housing Headlines Review
This is but one of several factoids that merit serious investigation. Why? Because Title 42 §5401 in its “Findings and purpose” says:
Congress finds that—
(1) manufactured housing plays a vital role in meeting the housing needs of the Nation; and
(2) manufactured homes provide a significant resource for affordable homeownership and rental housing accessible to all Americans.
That section §5401 under “purposes” for the law enacted by Congress details valuable insights that perhaps a tiny fraction of manufactured home professionals have ever read. Here is how that reads per the federal GovInfo.gov website. Quoting:
The purposes of this chapter are—
(1) to protect the quality, durability, safety, and affordability of manufactured homes;
(2) to facilitate the availability of affordable manufactured homes and to increase homeownership for all Americans;
(3) to provide for the establishment of practical, uniform, and, to the extent possible, performance-based Federal construction standards for manufactured homes;
(4) to encourage innovative and cost-effective construction techniques for manufactured homes;
(5) to protect residents of manufactured homes with respect to personal injuries and the amount of insurance costs and property damages in manufactured housing, consistent with the other purposes of this section;
(6) to establish a balanced consensus process for the development, revision, and interpretation of Federal construction and safety standards for manufactured homes and related regulations for the enforcement of such standards;
(7) to ensure uniform and effective enforcement of Federal construction and safety standards for manufactured homes; and
(8) to ensure that the public interest in, and need for, affordable manufactured housing is duly considered in all determinations relating to the Federal standards and their enforcement.
(Pub. L. 93–383, title VI, §602, Aug. 22, 1974, 88 Stat. 700; Pub. L. 96–399, title III, §308(c)(4), Oct. 8, 1980, 94 Stat. 1641; Pub. L. 97–35, title III, §339B(c), Aug. 13, 1981, 95 Stat. 417; Pub. L. 106–569, title VI, §602, Dec. 27, 2000, 114 Stat. 2997.).”
Despite these important Congressional findings with the relevant and noble purposes for the federal law, nevertheless, manufactured housing is operating at a lower level today than it did in the year 2000. Furthermore, the overall rate of U.S. home ownership in America today is lower than it was in 2000.
- How those facts are possible merits federal, state, shareholder, stakeholder, legal, and media investigations.
- Where laws appear to have been broken, and there are examples of that in various linked reports, they should be fully prosecuted.
- Where laws are not being properly enforced, federal officials involved should be removed and replaced with those who will ‘enforce the law.
To be objective, manufactured housing in some ways is a symptom of a larger problem. That’s not to say that manufactured housing isn’t unique, when it clearly is in several respects. But the overall economy, legacy, big tech, and social media all are experience their own growing crisis. Aspects of that are found in our weekly round up of reports, further below.
Business as Usual is Dead or Dying
MHProNews reported a few weeks ago about a global conference held in Dubai. Among the statements made there, akin to the World Economic Forum (WEF), is that business as usual is dead or dying. They made, among other points, a push for a “new world order.”
But it wasn’t only there that the infamous phrase was used. Joe Biden’s White House website uses that phrase too in a recent address to the Business Round Table. Biden tells the BRC attendees that the U.S. should lead that new world order. See the report linked above for more.
But are these claims of disruption and upheaval being born out in the ‘real world.’ You decide, after considering the following facts. Per Breitbart’s Business Digest snapshot on 4.30.2022, here is how April’s [Fool?!] market performance looked.
- “The Nasdaq Composite suffered its worse month since October 2008. That was the month that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers, AIG, and nearly the entire U.S. financial system. Congress rejected TARP and then, after some inconsequential fiddling and some very consequential stock market plunges, turned around and passed it. It was a time of panic in financial markets.”
- “That makes the current calm seem odd. The FAANG stocks—Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (which should now be properly called MAANA, fitting, because Facebook is Meta and Google is Alphabet)—had their teeth broken. Collectively, they shed about one trillion dollars of value in the course of the month. Netflix, one of the kings of the pandemic stay-at-home stocks, is down 50 percent in the month. Alphabet is down 19.2 percent. Apple and Facebook have lost more than 10 percent. Amazon has dropped 25 percent.”
- “The Fed is expected to raise its interest rate target by 50 basis points at its meeting next week. Bank of America analysts see the Fed raising rates by the same amount at the next two meetings and then raising them by a quarter of a percentage point every meeting thereafter.”
- “Most likely, real rates—meaning interest rates after inflation—will have to be brought up into positive territory, which would mean a Fed target higher than it has been in decades.”
- “The negative turn for first-quarter GDP certainly added to talk of recession risks.”
- “What may pose the biggest risk of recession is consumer psychology. Currently, consumer spending has remained strong because employment is high and wages are rising (although not yet as fast as prices). These have been the lonely supports for an already depressed consumer sentiment. If the Fed’s rate hikes raise unemployment and slow wage gains before inflation is tamed, which may be economically necessary, consumer sentiment could fall to all-time lows. The result of that would likely be a recession that might be deeper than even today’s pessimists are forecasting.”
- “If that sounds overly gloomy, we’ll remind you that we began today’s digest by describing the worst sell-off in stocks in decades. Certainly, the market reflects a gloomy outlook.”
Despite those grim factoids, CNN Business said on 4.28.2022 that “The US economy contracted in the first quarter of this year. Don’t panic.” But the next day, among the bullet-headlines from CNN Business is this one: “Amazon stock plunges as company reports nearly $4 billion loss.” The contradictions are so in your face that it calls to mind Thomas Sowell’s observation on the media, quoted below.
As our Saturday market report – the last day for the month – revealed that manufactured housing connected stocks and equities reflected that broad market sell-off on the last trading day for April. When demand for affordable housing is at a fever pitch, even the manufactured home vaunted industry’s REITs took a dip. The right hand column from our markets-at-the-close snapshot below tells the tale at a glance.
Massive fraud and apparent corruption has demonstrably occurred several times in 21st century America, as the partial list below reminds us.
· VW “Diesel-Gate”
· Bernard “Bernie” Madoff
· Lehman Brothers
· Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac (Government Sponsored Enterprises/GSEs).
Note, some of these problematic events occurred during the Bush-Cheney (R) years. Others blossomed or took place during the Clinton-Gore (D) or Obama-Biden (D) era. This is not a partisan issue, but it is a quality of our government issue.
Those listed scandals are a demonstration that much (not all) of the mainstream media can be slow to the dance in reporting or probing issues when warning signs were present. With that backdrop, MHProNews/MHLivingNews editorially contends that similarly large-scale corruption has been ongoing in manufactured housing for perhaps some 2 decades (+/-). Once someone graps that major scandals like those listed above can go on for years until they are brought to trial or are otherwise resolved, it becomes easier to believe that some massive corruption has been occuring in manufactured housing for years too. Thus the evidence that is linked and shown reveal a need to probe MHI and several of their major brands, which are not necessarily limited to those shown in the featured image at the top.
Ironically, Charlie Munger, Berkshire Hathaway (BRK) Vice Chairman, is among those on record saying regulators aren’t properly regulating. On this the weekend that CNN Business proclaims that Warren Buffett is taking a ‘victory lap’ in Omaha, a fawning mainstream media is apparently content with kissing the ample derrieres of those who merit being legally probed.
Let’s Be Clear
As the evidence mounted, it would have been much, much easier for MHProNews to have played the look the other way game in a similar way that MHInsider, ManufacturedHomes.com, bloggers George F. Allen, Suzanne Felber, and others at the state association level in MHVille have commonly done. Namely, we could have been part of the amen corner that simply cheerleads for MHI and their dominating brands. Our parent company could have ‘gratefully’ taken the crumbs the dominating brands tossed off their advertising budget tables to bloggers and publishers in MHVille. As a trade media that is routinely swimming against the current or tide – it has never been easy since we broke with MHI leaders who had for years praised our work.
For objectivity’s sake, to Kurt Kelley led MHReview’s partial credit, they periodically have published reports by the MHI-contrarian and evidence-driven Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR). Indeed, the history of MHARR has always been that of an independent producer’s trade group that broke away from MHI in the mid-1980s in order to advance even then the opportunties for more growth for HUD Code manufactured housing via regulatory reforms. So, an occasional viewpoint by Kelley other than that of MHI cheerleaders and choir members could at times be found in the pages of the MHReview. Additionally, Kelley’s publication has done interviews or articles that ironically yield comments – that when carefully examined – are a tantamount to a black eye for MHI and their so-called efforts. Examples of that in connection with MHReview are shown below.
But Kelley himself said his purpose was generally not to dig into the types of hot button and ‘industry politics’ charged topics that MHProNews, our MHLivingNews.com sister site or MHARR publish.
That noted, there is no one else in MHVille trade media that bothers to seriously examine the full range of claims and evidence, present it authentically, and then peel it back to reveal in an expert analysis fashion where the truth is to be found.
MHProNews launched in mid-October 2009 with a simple premise. Manufactured housing was underperforming. A proper mix of “Innovation, Information Inspiration for Industry Professionals” ought to spur the industry to achieve its true potential. That was the original tag line for our website’s original name, Manufactured Home Marketing, Sales, Management (MHMarketingSalesManagement.com or MHMSM.com)
In hindsight and candor, our vision and editorial view at the launch in mid-October 2009 was apt but in some ways, but was arguably naïve as well. How so?
Because there were always some very smart people in our manufactured home industry. Those corporate and association leaders ought to have suspected, if not known, that what occurred on January 30, 2009 was a serious antitrust violation. Choking off single-family manufactured home lending – especially on lower cost, better term home only (chattel, personal) property loans that have long made up the bulk of the financing for the industry’s sales – and keeping the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA) and its enhanced preemption provision from being properly implemented were symptoms of a bigger problem. Some state executives have said as much to MHProNews.
As a reminder that only MHProNews/MHLivingNews has – among MHVille focused trade media – that these are not just whimsical fantasies or conspiracy theories are congressional and federal probes of some of these same topics. While MHProNews and our MHLivingNews.com sister site have periodically reminded readers, Congress twice held formal hearings on the improper implementation of the MHIA. Enhanced preemption was very much part of the discussion.
Congress held hearings in 2011 and 2012 on the MHIA and the widespread complaints that it had not yet been properly implemented. Additionally, in 2014, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report on some of the problems with HUD and the MHIA.
While MHI postured and said what seemed to be the right things, they failed to do what were the obvious things. It was that paltering – that evidence-based and arguably coy posturing something similar to what MHARR says without doing what was logical to obtain the enforcement of good federal laws – that has to be pondered and probed. To former MHI award winner Marty Lavin’s credit, he wryly said for years that people in the manufactured home industry ought to pay more attention to what people DID than what they SAID. Lavin also cautioned the need to follow the money trail. Later – and all of these were said to MHProNews – Lavin became sharper and noted that MHI’s ‘big boys’ were acting on the industry’s behalf only when it benefited themselves.
While there are those who are apparently cowed by possible loss of a cushy job, fear of losing lending, or other critical needs to support their business interests largely into public silence, thankfully there are those who have supplied a reasonably steady set of tips and documents to MHProNews that demonstrate the apparent corruption occurring at MHI.
Some of those will be linked up as today’s Postscript, so don’t miss it.
The bottom line is hard to swallow. America is an impressive country on many levels. It is still possible to live the American Dream. But it is also more difficult to live that dream than it was in years gone by. Several research and factual points make that clear. Certain members of both major parties have at times been so ‘bought off’ that they seemed fine looking the other way when the kind of major corporate corruption listed above was occurring.
In MHVille trade media, in all modesty, there is simply no one else that asks the tough questions and then seeks the answers as does MHProNews and our sister site. We look at macro issues, as some of the headlines for the week that was below indicate. Those help set the context for the broader environment that manufactured housing is operating in. We also look at manufactured housing specific reports, such as the exclusive on the controversial backlogs issues that is found below and no where else in MHVille – or beyond at this time.
With no further adieu, here are the headlines for the week that was from 4.24.2022 to 5.1.2022.
What’s New on MHLivingNews
What’s New from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s New on the Words of Wisdom from Tim Connor, CSP
What’s the Latest on the Masthead (Facts, Evidence, and Expert Editorial Opinion blog)
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
In the first segment of today’s report above the headlines for the week that was, Clinton, Bush 43, Obama and Biden were all named. We did not name the 45th President of the United States (POTUS), Donald J. Trump in that same group. Why not?
First, to set the Trump years in the context with respect to MHI and evidence of corruption promised earlier. MHProNews pointed out that the appointment of Bryan Montgomery at HUD was a problem.
The failure of HUD, the FHFA, and others to properly enforce the law were also reported by our platforms as problem. That was balanced out by the obvious enthusiasm of HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who was perhaps the biggest cheerleader for HUD Code manufactured homes at the federal level in years. Put differently, and for brevity’s sake, the Trump years were a mix big for manufactured housing. The Trump Admin was quite good for the industry’s independents in some ways, but some of the vexing problems faced by the industry during the 21st century remained. For instance tax reform under Trump was a plus.
But as an MHI insider said exclusively to MHProNews recently, MHI had high level access during the Trump years and failed to use it properly.
The apparent corruption that occurred during the Jennison and now Gooch-Bowersox era’s has been amply documented.
A combination of MHARR, MHI ‘team’ tipsters and others thankfully began to open the eyes of MHProNews to the problems within the industry in a different light. That the industry was underperforming was always understood. But that it was underperforming because certain elements of the industry that dominated MHI were using MHI to keep the industry in low gear was a notion that editorially MHProNews demonstrably resisted for some time. It was only the steady weight of evidence, patterns of MHI behavior, years of obvious failures, plus a stream of thoughtful tips that often provided evidence that simply could not be denied.
From early on, MHProNews provided both MHARR news and MHI news with a “We Provide, You Decide” © tagline. MHProNews often took the MHARR viewpoint on key issues, even at MHI meetings and events. But when the evidence mounted and it became clear that MHI was posturing without any serious intention of doing what they claimed – namely, to see enforcement of enhanced preemption, DTS, FHA Title I, DOE or other issues – MHProNews began to politely raise questions. The answers were often unsatisfying. When MHProNews – following evidence from a tipster that MHI had demonstrably mislead its own members in an email that supposedly Richard “Dick” Jennison and Lesli Gooch had signed off on -called for the termination or resignation, that may have marked the beginning of the end of an era.
While MHI membership, events, and trips cost tens of thousands of dollars – arguably under false or fraudulent pretenses by MHI – there is a silver cloud to the dark lining. It was this. For some 7 years, we had a ringside seat – including for a time a Suppliers Division board seat – to how MHI operated. Thus, we can be empathetic to those who may somehow still believe that MHI is sincere in representing “all segments” of manufactured housing. Unless they mean to add a qualified that they represent all segments ‘badly,’ the claim is demonstrably untrue.
The nature of the pending MHARR white paper on manufactured housing is not completely known. But regardless of what MHARR might yet reveal, what is apparent is that common sense steps to grow the industry have been stubbornly avoided by MHI. Their board composition speaks volumes and has for years. MHI represents big brands, not smaller ones. To publicly claim otherwise could lead to fewer independents being members, and it is industry independents that are the fodder for consolidators. NOTICE. In many devices the collage of quotations below can be expanded to a larger size. Additionally, the image can be downloaded and expanded to be read full size. </i>
If only MHProNews and/or our sister site, or even if only MHARR and our trade media were the only ones that saw the world of manufactured housing this way, perhaps it could be plausible to write us off as wackos wearing tin foils hats. But those with no skin in the game have made comments that support the thesis being advanced here for several years.
MHI’s own members, members of their state affiliates, and independents have said things that undercut their association’s own claims.
Bluntly, no one could be as incompetent as MHI senior staff has been for perhaps a decade or more. The industry has good laws that are not being enforced. MHI’s own staff leaders have said the laws aren’t being enforced. Yet, they fail to take legal action when the opportunities to do so are replete and when MHI has the budget to do so.
Additionally, MHI has failed for years to promote the industry as Kevin Clayton said would occur in 2011. Kevin, what happened to that promise?
From at least 2005, the industry has said it needs to address image issues, yet MHI continues to promise and then deliver something entirely different.
Again, bluntly, MHI must be investigated by legal authorities. It could begin by past-current members pressing the matter. It could be based on apparent antitrust and other market manipulating violations, as Samuel “Sam” Strommen suggested.
Nor should the probe stop with MHI. Voices like MHInsider, ManufacturedHomes.com, George Allen, Spencer Roane, and perhaps others should be investigated too for an array of possible legal violations. The coordination and deflection on the part of outsiders for MHI is an issue. What they pass off as ‘education,’ ‘news,’ and ‘marketing’ is often arguably anything but authentic. The results speak for themselves.
There is a cesspool of corruption that arguable extends into some of those engaged in the resident-advocacy realm too.
But perhaps if enough residents wake up to what the late Bob Van Cleef came to realize, then the odds of traction for state and/or federal probes increases.
It is also possible, based on communications with public officials and private attorneys that probes that began in a fairly limited fashion could over time expand into other bigger issues such as those outlined herein
MHProNews has demonstrably and consistently reported and probed issues that others – with the primary exception of MHARR and some in the sincere side of the resident advocacy world – have too long ignored. When attorneys have told MHProNews that evidence of serious wrongdoing is there, and outsiders looking in like Strommen, James A. Jim Schmitz, and others have sounded the alarm, the time is ripe for investigating the boards and organizations involved in what seems to be a pattern of corruption that is costing taxpayers and affordable housing seekers vast sums of money and potential wealth.
Ironically, while straddling the fence, MHI award winner George Allen has undermined and questioned the trade group while also questioning those – like MHProNews and MHARR – that have ripped MHI. Allen can’t seem to make up his mind, or perhaps more to the point, is trying to stay relevant in his retirement. Note: in many devices the image below can be expanded into a larger size for easier reading. See tips below the image for ‘how to do expand the image.’
Indeed, if MHI were serious about getting ‘enhanced preemption’ enforced, they had an ideal opportunity to do so when former HUD adminstrator for the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP) William “Bill” Matchneer, J.D., was essentially in the MHI orbit. But MHI failed to do so. That speaks volumes, as the report below details. MHI is either massively inept, or is saying one thing while doing another. The possible motivation for the latter? Consolidation. It is difficult to consolidate an industry when it is growing.
Enforce the Law? HUD Office of General Counsel “They Would Not Enforce” Enhanced Preemption Provision of Manufactured Housing Improvement Act, Per Tip-Longtime HUD Insider; plus Sunday Headlines Review
The fact that MHI and their dominating brands have ducked these issues in public discussion or debate only underscores the apparent seriousness of the matter.
Because MHI and their corporate leaders can’t have it both ways. They can’t admit they have erred in the past, and then not be responsible when those errors are still being made. They can’t praise MHProNews for providing evidence and objectivity and then deny that we are working for the same sustainable growth goal we have since we first launched in 2009.
What industry professionals and others can count on is this. With however many or few willing to fight the good fight, MHProNews/MHLivingNews will light the candles and shine the light of truth rather than curse the darkness.
Stay tuned for more from your primary source for manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © which provides actionable “Intelligence for your MHLife” © that is planned for the days ahead.
Again, our thanks to you, our sources, and sponsors and God for making and keeping us the runaway number one source for authentic “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing.
For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
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