Preface. To set the table for the headline report, there are those who may not realize that the term used in the headline can means something other than illegal activities. The Google definition for ‘whistleblower’ says “whistleblower – a person who informs on a person or organization engaged in an illicit activity.”
Illicit can mean illegal, but means “forbidden by law, rules, or custom.” Something that is misleading, covered up, or is immoral can all properly be construed as illicit.
COVID19 in MHVille
After MHProNews and some state manufactured housing associations began to publish items about COVID19, MHI finally did so too. A long-time Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) connected source told MHProNews in reaction to certain reports that MHI ‘rarely leads and often follows.’
More substantive and specific while underscoring that sources comment is the following that came to MHProNews. Encouragement to blow the whistle by industry members tired of the status quo and related game playing has resulted in new tips and insights. Given years of industry underperformance, often arguably tied to insider who are supposed to be protecting and promoting the industry, fosters frustration leading some to act with new, fresh tips and insightful leaks.
New Leaks Involving MHI and Communities-Focused WHA
With that backdrop, two emails were sent to MHProNews as tips or ‘leaks’ from an insider source that said the following as part of their cover-message that included the leaked emails.
Per that insider source, MHI “go and partner themselves with these other coalitions (countless of which are available in Washington every week on numerous subject matters), let them do the work and if the result is positive, they immediately take credit for it [with their members/mailing list]...and if not, they deep six the damn subject matter and, given the sheer number of such ongoing activities, nobody would know about it.”
Rephrased, that MHI-tipster explained that MHI signs onto issues as part of a “coalition” that if it is successful, they claim credit for – but if the effort fails, they never mention it.
Indeed, that source’s comment was quite insightful, as MHI has for years patted themselves on the back for some claimed accomplishment where they were part of a coalition. Per sources, the Arlington based trade group’s Johnny-come-lately COVID19 page is little more than a compilation of the work of others.
What years of evidence from their messages reflects that MHI routinely fails to show how “X” moved the needle on new manufactured home sales. That is patently clear from the downturn in new HUD Code manufactured home shipments in 2019 compared to 2018, during an affordable housing crisis. Indeed, the argument is made that MHI uses “coalitions,” photo ops, videos with public officials or other red herring methods precisely to distract from the woeful underperformance by the industry at a time when new manufactured home sales should be soaring. The graphic linked here tells the tale.
With that foundation, the following was reportedly an email from Sheila Dey of the Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA) to MHI staffers shown in the related message that follows further below.
Dey stated the following, with the text of her message unchanged, but the bold and brown added to make the quote ‘pop’ as MHProNews has often done for some years.
Typos/errors such as the spelling of Gooch’s first name in the below are in the original.
“I learned yesterday that the regulations issued very recently (still have not been published in the Federal Register) by the SBA and the Treasury, used the SBA standard lender guidelines for SBA loans which were published in 2019 for PPP loan eligibility. Contained in that guideline is ineligibility for MHPs and apartments for SBA loans. So as a consequence, MHPs may not be eligible for PPP loans once the regulations take effect. I checked with Lesli Gooch and she said they are well aware of the problem and are working with the other housing groups to get this oversight changed. Leslie asked me to let you all know so you are not caught off guard. If you want to see the lender guidelines they are linked below and the language about MHPs and apartments in on page 105.
With that note, I wish all of you a Happy Easter.
Sheila S. Dey
Western Manufactured Housing Communities Association (WMA)
455 Capitol Mall, Suite 800
Sacramento, CA 95814
The same source also provided this message from MHI CEO Lesli Gooch, addressed to Sheila Dey and two other MHI staffers.
From: Lesli Gooch <LGooch@mfghome.org>
Sent: Friday, April 10, 2020 9:42 AM
To: Sheila <email@example.com>
Cc: Kara Beigay <firstname.lastname@example.org>; Leah Kehoe <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: SOP 50 10 5(K) FINAL 2.15.19
Yes, we are acutely aware of this issue with the PPP regarding the exclusion for “mobile home parks.” We are in a coalition with NAA, NAHB, NMHC and others about this and other COVID-19 concerns. We have been working with SBA and Treasury to see if the regs can be loosened. In the meantime, the Treasury’s Main Street Business lending program is what we are being directed to utilize. The rules of that program came out last night. We are working on some info about it for our members. Here is the announcement about the other program: https://www.manufacturedhousing.org/release-federal-reserve-takes-additional-actions-to-provide-up-to-2-3-trillion-in-loans-to-support-the-economy/
Lesli Gooch, Ph.D.
Chief Executive Officer
1655 Fort Myer Drive, Suite 200, Arlington, VA 22209
The MHI announcement ‘article’ in Gooch’s email is a brief teaser that points to a page on the Federal Reserve’s website. That page is linked below.
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
Sheila Dey’s reference to page 105 of the SBA document attached here ought to be one of several red-flags to those who grasp the significance of the email exchange shown above. That report is from February 2019, over a year ago. Using the Nathan Smith logic below, the time to have dealt with this issue was in 2019, not in 2020 during a pandemic.
Gooch and Dey apparently being reactive during a time of crisis is the opposite of what Ohio Manufactured Home Association (OMHA) Executive Director Tim Williams referred to Gooch’s efforts “superb” leadership. If Gooch is so “superb,” why wasn’t this dealt with in advance of a crisis and pressing needs?
While MHI is relying on an interpretation of manufactured home retailers as being an essential business during the Wuhan Virus shutdown orders found in many jurisdictions, the smaller and production-focused Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) pro-actively stepped into the gap to seek formal clarification on that topic. That clarification ought to have been sought by MHI, which claims to represent the post-production sector.
Rephrased, there are numerous red-flags in the above emails for savvy manufactured housing professionals, advocates and investors to consider and unpack.
Given the insider insight from an MHI member firm that told MHProNews that they were exploring ‘stealing’ workers from shuttered production center(s), there are reasons to believe that people involved in MHI are using COVID19 to advance their own agendas in a fashion that will harm their competitors.
While it would be unfair to expect MHI, WMA or others to have anticipated this pandemic, it is entirely reasonable for them to have pursued the robust application of good existing laws such as the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA or 2000 Act) – specifically, enhanced preemption – or the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) 2008 and the Duty to Serve by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to facilitate financing. Would there be an argument that MHI and WHA could have made with the SBA that manufactured homes have federal preemption and that based on that preemption, their lumping manufactured home communities in with apartments or multifamily housing was mistaken?
One takeaway is that years of posturing without clearly measurable results as determined by new HUD Code manufactured home shipments has left manufactured housing underperforming and thus vulnerable. The bigger and stronger the industry would be, the more influence it would have in Washington. Given the laws that already exist that are favorable to manufactured housing, had they been routinely and properly used years ago, such issues now during the COVID19 pandemic might not even exist.
Rephrased, those email messages between Gooch and Dey above arguably spotlight years of failures. They reflect the opposite of what they are posturing for others who may have read those messages. They are the “Illusion of Motion” vs. actual results.
There is a need for manufactured housing professionals to develop a mindset that gets to the root issues, not the superficial ones. If the root problem is addressed, the more superficial matters will be cured too.
Gooch’s conflicts of interest – which MHI leaders have chosen to pretend not to exist – are not only problematic on the level that may also reflects badly on the risks from MHI being in certain coalitions. Gooch’s moonlighting for others with MHI’s board tacit if not active approval makes it plain that she wasn’t using time advocating for others to better understand manufactured housing and for dealing with the roadblocks facing our industries independent communities, retailers, producers, lenders, suppliers and service providers who don’t happen to be part of the Berkshire conglomerate or some other larger firm connection.
The need for a new post-production association is thus spotlighted in the Dey-Gooch email exchange, as well as in the related items linked from this report and analysis. It was other independent communities that said as much.
Gooch and her colleague Mark Bowersox are purportedly being paid to posture, while fostering a climate the favors more consolidation. These aren’t merely hypothetical. They are the published statements of larger MHI insider companies that say they are focused on consolidation or “M&A” activities. These are just a sampling of the evidence for that, which ought to be warning flags for every industry independent.
The revelations from Marcus & Millichap’s data and related statements are also relevant in this regard. The report and analysis below hits community-specific issues.
To learn more, see the in depth report that MHARR produced encouraging a new post-production association that they would be willing to work with to advance the interests of ‘white hat’ manufactured home companies. But as the problems related to CrossModTM reveals that MHI and their big boy members are arguably making the industry’s problems worse, not better.
Until that day comes when an equally motivated post-production trade group emerges to compliment MHARR on the production side, exposing the arguably corrupt, fumbled, conflict-ridden and otherwise mismanaged behaviors of MHI, certain affiliates and their ‘big boy’ members will require ongoing vigilance. That vigilance is supported by news tips such as those two emails above.
For more such tipster activities see the related reports.
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.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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