A link arrived in an MHProNews inbox to a report published on The Quad City Times (QCTimes) by writer Graham Ambrose published on April, 24, 2020. The headline read, “‘Sure, it sounds unfair. But there’s nothing illegal about it’: How residents of Quad Cities trailer parks [SIC1] are getting pinched by real estate empires.”
The article’s focus included Impact Communities, the rebranded name for Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds’ manufactured home land-lease communities business, formerly known as RV Horizons. There have been several tips with respect to Impact Communities, Frank Rolfe, and other community operators in the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) in recent weeks. Some of those MHI-member brands will be the subject of a planned upcoming report. Sufficient for now is the teaser that MHAction is planning on putting a focus protesting specific firms, with Rolfe and his compatriot’s Impact Communities specifically named, among other MHI members.
Also cited in the QCTimes was this: “The report singled out YES Communities as “one of the largest owners of manufactured home communities in the U.S.,” with some 200 mobile home communities in 18 states. YES is partially owned by the $440 billion sovereign wealth fund for the Government of Singapore, the $56 billion Pennsylvania Public School Employees Retirement System (PSERS) and San Francisco-based Stockbridge Capital, which manages $13 billion in assets.”
What the report didn’t mention is that Yes! Communities, MHAction, the Private Equity Research Project and Frank Rolfe/Impact Communities all have common ties: MHI and Warren Buffett’s brands and/or donations; sometimes via so-called “dark money” sources.
Ambrose’s QCTimes article had familiar elements in it for those who follow mainstream media reports closely and objectively. Stiff site-fee hikes was just one of them.
For example, there was a senior named Kathy Braga that told her story about Impact Communities. Braga was a good subject, as she was a retired business person, had lived in manufactured homes for years and thus made a fine foil for Rolfe and company’s exploits. Photographer Jessica Gallagher took numbers of photos of Braga. For those who understand the news business behind the camera, some of those photos by Gallagher of Braga were clearly staged for effect.
Another resident referenced in that mainstream media report was this. The terminology errors – SIC1– are in the original. “Seven years ago, when Alondra Paredes bought her first mobile home, the American Dream was attainable because it was affordable. The trailer cost $10,000. Rent for her modest lot in Silver Creek was manageable.
Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who came to the United States fleeing violence. Now she has two children and supports them as a waitress. She takes her responsibilities seriously. She sends her kids to school every day. She doesn’t smoke or do drugs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, she regularly worked more than 60 hours each week. That’s in addition to intensive English classes she’s enrolled in, which have helped her become fluent. She hardly has time to see friends, let alone shop for groceries…”
With credibility, tension, controversy, and competing ‘behind the curtain dynamics’ in their report established, what made this QCTimes article rather useful for white hat independents in the manufactured housing industry is this key point. That headline they used was a direct quote from Frank Rolfe.
Rolfe on Monopolies
Rolfe was quoted saying: “If you like having a monopoly, holding all the cards, knowing the tenants won’t move their homes out, never worrying about someone building a new property near you and taking one of the tenant’s biggest assets if they default, then you’re going to love mobile home parks.”
Is it any wonder that numbers in the mainstream media, along with even greater numbers of community residents, love to hate Rolfe?
MHPHOA is short for the Mobile Home Park Home Owners Allegiance. MHPOA on December 27, 2015 cited Dave Reynolds, Frank Rolfe’s partner, saying the following on the Mobile Home University (MHU) website.
There is no better way to make money in the mobile home park business than to increase rents. Every dollar of that increase goes directly to the bottom line and is worth 10 times more in determining the value of the park. Increasing rents by $1,000 per month yields $120,000 in sales value enhancements, at a 10% cap rate.
Groom the Park Into a 20% Cap Rate
If you push the rents by about 10% each year, it will take you only about seven years to double the rent. Can you push rents this aggressively? You bet. At $3,000 or so to move a mobile home, there is a huge barrier to moving out, so tenants will accept pretty much whatever you raise the rents to.
Dave Reynolds, Mobile Home University (MHU)”
MHPHOA also cited that same quote by Rolfe, used by Ambrose in his QCTimes report.
MHProNews – Unpacking the Threads – Details Matter to White Hat Brands, Residents and Honest Public Officials
MHLivingNews did a previous report that shed light on this same topic. Rolfe and his buddies want to limit the construction of new manufactured home communities. He has said so in his own words.
But what mainstream news sources may or may not realize is that they can be tools of Rolfe’s purported methods. Shock tactics gets mainstream news coverage. Those tactics attract certain types of investors. Those investors fuel the purchases that kept Rolfe and Reynolds expanding through acquisitions or “consolidation” of manufactured home communities for years.
Rephrased, bad news was arguably marketing for Rolfe and Reynolds. But there is more.
Bad news often leads to rent control. Rent control is harder on the smaller, ‘white hat’ community operator than it is on the larger ones. Who says? While it was phrased differently, Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) made the point during an investor relations call that they knew how to navigate rent control laws.
Wittingly or not, Ambrose has joined others in media such as the New York Times, Bloomberg, the Washington Post and the Guardian in becoming a billboard for Rolfe. Rolfe also happens to have years of billboard business too.
Rolfe on their MHU website says: “America takes pride in the concept of freedom of competition. That’s the reason that the Federal Government blocks potential mergers through anti-trust complaints. And the reason that we have laws against unfair competition. We’re the country that puts people in jail for price fixing, and even elects our President through freedom of choice. So how in the world did mobile home park owners get such an unfair advantage – the ability to completely avoid free competition and operate in an environment free of competitive forces?”
The answer is found in Rolfe and likeminded allies found at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). While MHI has an antitrust statement, it appears to be much like their Code of Ethical Conduct; namely purported window dressing for regulators, public officials and media that may not have time to dig into details due to fewer mainstream reporters, financial pressures that result in tighter deadlines.
Why are there fewer journalists and media? Because of monopolistic market pressures by Facebook and Google, per the News Media Alliance.
There are evidence-based reasons why MHProNews has created the satirical logos for MHI previously shown, including the fact that they are laced with serious insights into what is arguably the true nature of the Arlington, VA based trade group.
MHProNews, beyond the planned MHAction targeting of MHI members report, also has video of Frank Rolfe making some interesting admissions on stage and on video camera. Watch for those reports in the days and weeks ahead.
In the meantime, these are additional reasons to question the rhetoric of the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies. They are further reasons to promote the development of a white-hat trade organization that could team with potentially millions of residents for mutual benefit. It is insanity to have resident groups and elements of the manufactured home industry’s professionals at loggerheads with each other. That tension is de facto accepted by MHI, because there is no apparent move to enforce their code of ethical conduct against the outrageous behavior of Rolfe, Havenpark Capital or others with ties to MHI.
The solution for white hats must include making a bright-line distinction between black hat behavior and white hat operations. Otherwise, the prevailing narrative – cleverly manipulated by oligarchs with monopolistic motivations – paints the industry as a whole badly. That in turn fuels more of the very consolidation that harms resident interests and thus practically stunts manufactured home industry’s growth.
Quoting Rolfe “Sure, it sounds unfair. But there’s nothing illegal about it.”
“If you like having a monopoly, holding all the cards, knowing the tenants won’t move their homes out, never worrying about someone building a new property near you, and taking one of the tenant’s biggest assets if they default, then you’re going to love mobile home parks.”
The irony is that antitrust violations, deceptive trade practices, elder abuse, and market manipulations are illegal. A case must be developed for that, which can be done by state or federal agencies and/or private attorneys. While Rolfe’s statements may be brazen, but they are revealing. The fact that MHI tolerates it despite their so-called code of ethical conduct – and that MHI placed him on their stage – are reasons enough to see through their charade too.
For those who have not yet come to realize that the system in manufactured housing has purportedly been ‘rigged,’ the question that the gentlemen in the report linked below applies. “Where the hell have you been?”
The links below the byline are relevant to this topic. That’s a wrap on this hump-day morning report from your runaway #1 source of manufactured home “Industry News, Tips and Views Pros Can Use” © 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 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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