“Fight Like Hell” for Independence, Says Trustee – Manufactured Housing Inspiration?

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The story from the Boston Globe has nothing on the surface to do with housing, much less factory-built housing. But it had much to do with independence, and the willingness to fight in an arguably increasingly monopolistic, manipulated or ‘rigged system’ society.  Who says? The New York Times, see the column, linked here.

A snapshot from outside of our manufactured home industry is worthy of a few moments consideration to gird you or others as to the nature of the struggle – and the inspiration needed – to the good fight for independence.  Because manipulation and ‘rigged systems’ are not only found in our industry, they are increasingly evident elsewhere too.

Here’s what the left-of-center Boston Globe sent to the Daily Business News on MHProNews yesterday, and we’ll then look at what this tale should inspire in our industry’s professionals, investors, and others keen on affordable housing for millions of Americans.

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Two Hampshire College trustees have resigned in recent weeks, a result of the increasing acrimony enveloping the board as it charts an uncertain future for the liberal arts school.

Gaye Hill, the board chairwoman, resigned this week, saying she had become a lightning rod. Another trustee, Mingda Zhao, also stepped down, saying he was forced out.

Zhao’s resignation letter offers a hint about what’s next for the private Amherst college. It says board leaders seem to be pushing for the school to close and be acquired by another institution. But he said it is also possible to “fight like hell” to keep the school open and independent,” said the Boston Globe, in an article linked here.

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What Zhao is describing, per the Boston Globe, is what could be called a backstab of the college by various people with ‘special interests,’ including other members of its own board of directors. Stop and think. How is that different than the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) being accused of betraying the interests of the independents in the manufactured housing industry?

Yesterday two different reports came into MHProNews from two different sources that represent different parts of the manufactured housing industry.  One came in from NAHMCO, the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners. Another came in and had already been published from the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR).  ICYMI, see the linked text-image box below for that report.

 

Historic Manufactured Housing Industry Decisions Were Made Here on 3.27.2019

While entirely different, each one reflects a vote of no-confidence by their respective associations and members in the so-called leadership of Arlington, VA based MHI.

Washington, D.C. based MHARR cites post-production issues that the see MHI as having not only failed at, but arguably having manipulated against the interests of the majority of firms in the manufactured home industry.  Among the points they made was diversion of Duty to Serve (DTS) financing by the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) away from the majority of manufactured homes into an untested program promoted by industry giant Clayton Homes. Clayton, a Berkshire Hathaway brand along with others in the manufactured home industry, is widely seen as dominating MHI, along with other ‘big boy’ companies, as MHI award winner Marty Lavin, JD, has put it.

NAMHCO also cited DTS yesterday and the need to obtain more market rate financing. The NAMHCO statement bears some clarifying, which MHProNews plans to do in the days ahead before publishing their full document.  But it is noteworthy that NAMHCO – still in its infancy – and MHARR, decades established, de facto or explicitly take a viewpoint contrary to the happy talk fed by MHI to their members and state association affiliates.

 

Why Is There a Need to Fight to Implement Existing Laws?

That existing laws have to be fought to get them properly implemented is itself an outrage. Manufactured housing enjoys some of the finest federal laws that consumers or the industry’s honorable professionals could want.

The reality is that those laws are not being implemented. Cities and local jurisdictions are increasingly limiting or banning manufactured housing. And when one pulls back the veil on why those laws are not being implemented, time and again, there is evidence that a Berkshire brand or other MHI connected firm is benefiting at the expense of independents.

Barbara Hames of Hames Homes in Iowa may or may not have thought much about the fact that Havenpark Capital is an MHI member. She may or may not have thought much about how the apparent collusion between 21st and Clayton Homes, with no warnings from MHI, arguably harmed the interests of the communities she has now sold. Would Hames have sold at all, in the absence of the market manipulation by 21st, Clayton Homes, and Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway documented at the link here?

 

Where Was The Buffett Mantra in Tunica Last Week?

What independent industry professionals and others must consider is this question. When Warren Buffett preaches the importance of protecting a firm’s reputation, why did Clayton, 21st and MHI all decline to attend the meeting of independents? Those independents wanted to hear first-hand what the counter argument might be to the documents and video linked above and here. Those independents wanted to hear that directly from the horses mouth.

Why did Clayton, 21st, MHI, Fannie Mae, et al stay silent?

Those manufactured home industry independents – including representatives from MHARR and NAMHCO.  They and those in attendance reflected the interests of some 200 industry locations.  They were there to begin the process that NAMHCO started some 2 years ago, or that MHARR began decades ago.

Like Zhao urged those that want to save their college from a takeover, the independents of manufactured housing must “fight like hell” if they want to stay independent.  How else will they survive the purported market manipulations and failures to act that the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies stand credibly accused of, and failed to respond to once more in Tunica last week. Their trade media surrogates likewise opted not to attend, is it any surprise?

Susan Brenton told the independents there at Tunica that she saw value to their doing what NAMHCO has already started. It is worth noting that NAMHCO, as a post-production association, has a D.C. lobbyist, but not Washington metro office at this time.  That’s a reminder that a post-production trade group has no specific need for a costly D.C. metro office.

While there are obvious expenses to forging a new non-producers trade body, it is modest compared to the potential upside. The ‘Axis’ in manufactured housing obviously hopes it is never formed, as former MHI chair Nathan Smith quickly slammed NAMHCO in a written statement a few months ago, as the article linked further below the byline and notices reminds readers.

Affordable housing isn’t a partisan issue. It matters not if the person fighting for affordable manufactured homes is a Democrat, Republican, or an Independent. That is underscored in another article linked below.

Democrats, Republicans Agree – “Manufactured Homes Can Play a Vital Role in Easing” the Affordable Housing Shortage – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

For years here on MHLivingNews and our professional sister site, MHProNews, we’ve worked with a simple premise. Affordable quality living is a non-partisan issue. Rephrased, that means it should be a bipartisan effort to understand and promote the most proven kind of affordable housing that America has ever known.

The fear tactics, restraint of trade, manipulation of access to financing and other methods arguably being employed by specific Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington connected brands have arguably cost the industry’s professionals tens of billions of dollars since Warren Buffett made the move in 2003 to buy Clayton and it’s affiliated lenders, and control other organizations.

Fortunately, Berkshire has the deep pockets to pay those billions. Instead of proposing problematic or unconstitutional wealth taxes, and other floated notions by 2020 candidates, why don’t they focus their energy and talents on something that is doable, legal and useful?

 

Who Will Act? Will Senator Elizabeth Warren, and/or the Trump Administration Act to Restore Open Markets, Thereby Supporting Affordable Manufactured Homes? – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com

variation of a Texas maxim. Seeking bipartisanship can be dangerous, as the dark humor noted above reminds readers. But let’s risk finding common ground for the next few minutes. Affordable homes ought to be a non-partisan or bi-partisan issue. The topic of this column, properly understood, is likewise a non-partisan challenge that at least on paper enjoys bi-partisan support.

Why not break up Berkshire, do whatever the law allows with MHI, and fine them billions as the EU has Google for violations of antitrust and other laws?  Why not make an example of them, so that others won’t be tempted to so manipulate this industry or any other ever again?

As independents begin the process of organizing, the time is now.  Like Zhao suggested in his scenario, one must fight like hell, for a heavenly cause.

That’s this morning’s first look at “News Through the Lens of Manufactured Homes, and Factory-Built Housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)

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Submitted by Soheyla Kovach to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.com.

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