A Cup of Coffee with… Richard Weinert

A Cupt or Coffee with...1) Who, What and Where: (Your name, and your role/job title at State of California Department of Housing & Community Development and MHCC).

Hi, Tony, thanks for the coffee. My name is Richard Weinert. I am the Programs Operations Manager for the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), Division of Codes and Standards. My civil service classification title is Codes and Standards Administrator III. I have worked for HCD for almost 21 years, all with the same department and division. Prior to state service, I have been employed by RADCO, Golden West Homes and Redman Homes, to name a few. My current duties as a CSA III include overseeing our Office of the Mobilehome Ombudsman, Occupational Licensing, Mobilehome Parks / Special Occupancy Parks, Factory-Built Housing, Employee Housing, Manufactured Housing Programs within the Codes and Standards Division.

2) Background: (Educational/Professional before entering your current positions and the factory-built housing arena).

I grew up in upstate New York (Byron, NY), dropped out of college and then wandered west looking for ‘something’ and found employment in a manufactured housing facility in Colorado. I then moved to Sacramento and have been employed by Golden West Homes (QC Mgr), RADCO Inc. as an IPIA inspector. Prior to working in state government, I have considerable experience and background within the manufactured housing industry in construction, management and inspection.

3) When and How: (When and how you got into your role at State of California Department of Housing & Community Development and MHCC and how it relates to the Manufactured Housing Industry).

I was hired by HCD in 1989 as a field inspector, working in Sonoma and Marin Counties, which I loved. I inspected and enforced MH installations, MH alterations, mobilehome community construction, farm-worker housing and construction of MH accessory structures. Subsequent promotions within the department brought me to the HCD headquarters in Sacramento, where I was the SAA administrator for HUD, auditing MH manufacturer compliance with federal law and regulations for construction defects, and overseeing third-party agency activities in construction of commercial modular, factory-built housing (modulars) and recreational vehicles and manufactured home communities, to name a few of my duties.

4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?

Most of my spare time seems to be spent running. I find it to be a huge stress-reliever, and the physical benefits are outstanding. I’ve never felt better or stronger in my life. I run marathons, ultra-marathons and other trail runs. Through running I have made a great number of lasting friendships. It’s a special bond you can form with someone while running 9-10 hours up and down hills or mountain trails to the point of exhaustion – then continue on past that point of exhaustion. It’s great. Of course after the run, there is always ice cold beer & food waiting.

5) Please give us a backgrounder on the MHCC its role and history.

I was part of the original MHCC committee that met starting in 2002 and am still on the committee today. I remember the first meeting being an agonizingly long-winded discussion of committee by-laws, rules, and other matters not directly related to our stated purpose of being an advisor to HUD. While the first few meetings were largely a test of wills between MHARR and HUD (which continues today), somehow those disagreements get set aside when needed and the committee gets down to work. Many may not know this, but this committee is largely made up of good, hard-working people who are committed to making changes for the good of the industry. We often work through our lunches and into dinner, and read material at night to be ready for a vote or debate the next day. We worked very hard to meet the statutory requirement to produce national model installation within18 months for submittal to the Secretary. Meeting as a group 2-3 times a year plus teleconferences doesn’t leave much time to produce much of anything, really, but somehow we did. Most of us on the committee have full-time duties in our own state, and the work that we produced on-time was a real accomplishment.

6) What is your take on the current controversy surrounding the MHCC?

There is controversy? Really?

MHARR and others can say what it wants in its newsletters and at the MHCC meetings but, as the Act states, the MHCC is a federal advisory committee. We are chartered to advise HUD and propose changes to the standards, mostly. The MHCC is not chartered to interpret the law, HUD does. There is an awful lot of oxygen used up during our meetings providing HUD with different interpretations of the MH Improvement Act, but the reality is that the Act designates HUD as the federal agency responsible for its enforcement and interpretation. It’s really that simple. I have had my share of disagreements with HUD on its interpretations of the federal regulations, but when HUD makes its decision, that’s it. I can either accept it, or ask the CA Attorney General’s office to go to federal court – which is usually not going to happen. Let’s just get over it and move on. The constant harangue and negativity is unhealthy and non-productive.

7) I’m sure you realize that MHI and MHARR may have a different perspective on this issue. In all likelihood, so do HUD officials.

Yes. I find MHI to be very reasonable and wanting to promote the same goals as HCD does. I have a lot of respect for both their national and state leadership. I work closely with Jess Maxcy of CMHI on state (HCD) matters affecting the CA-MH industry, and appreciate his counsel, right or wrong. Additionally, the current HUD MH Housing Program administration has been one of the best I’ve worked with since I’ve been at HCD. Bill Matchneer, Elizabeth Cocke, Lane Pethel, and others are very supportive, efficient and effective. I can’t ask for more than that. Unfortunately Bill has been “reassigned,” which is really a shame. Hopefully Teresa Payne will be every bit as effective as Bill Matchneer was, we’ll see. I’m not a shill for Bill Matchneer, but being in government for a number of years like I have, you sometimes work with other governmental agencies that are virtually ineffectual. Despite what is currently being published, it is not true with this current group at HUD.

8) What do you consider the largest challenges facing the manufactured housing industry today?

Financing, financing, financing. Hopefully that will get worked out soon, or it will be over. Other than that, product acceptance is a big challenge. I think the industry somehow has to look forward and be leaders, not be forced to change. Look to the green standards as a positive; use better design and more quality & durability, and most important: somehow provide utter simplicity of purchase and installation. I think the industry old-timers still want the good old days to return, but they must adapt or die. ‘Modulars’ and ‘prefab’ are terms that are being used by publications like Sunset Magazine and the LA Times that encompass both modular and manufactured home products in a positive way. They usually feature a story about a cute home that was affordable, energy efficient and easy to install. However the ‘trailer’ image is indelible. Too many times, consumers go to a dealer looking for the ‘prefab’ cool, modern cottage, but what they sometimes receive is the same old problem that has plagued the industry for years. If the floors squeak or the roof leaks and the consumer continues to get caught in a struggle between manufacturer and dealer and installer, the trailer image will never go away.

9) If there were one thing you could change about the industry what would that be?

Do whatever it takes to provide a lasting, positive public image. This industry can be very resilient and adaptive if given the chance. I believe manufactured homes could be designed that can eclipse both the state-modulars and site-built products – providing architectural style, energy efficiency and affordability. But industry needs to devise services to assure that the consumer is never burdened or caught in the middle of disputes between the factory, dealer and installer. Unfortunately, working at an enforcement agency, I see the not-so-good side of the industry, including some really bad installers and dealers.

10) Closing thoughts or comments, sir?

I hope that people see HCD as being supportive of the industry and trying to do whatever we can to facilitate its growth in California, while at the same time acting as a consumer advocate protecting public health and safety, which can be a challenge.

I appreciate this chance to address your readers, and look forward to doing what I can on the MHCC and at HCD to create positive change. If anyone would like to call me and talk about these issues, my direct line is 916-327-2838.

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