Skimmer alert: the subject isn’t a video per se. But we open this Daily Business News on MHProNews with a comment about a new video because it shines a light on broader issues that have drawn comments – also shared below – from a variety of industry personalities. Many are from the manufactured home community sector. But other voices from retail and production have weighed in too, as you will see.
A company president with interests in communities that has also done retail wrote a long missive that began as follows. “My first reaction when I saw the opening frames [of the Manufactured Housing Institute self-promotional video] was WTF????? OBVIOUS to me at least that this was made for folks who DON’T know the real details behind the [manufactured housing industry’s current condition] story. In a depressed industry, with competition slowly being choked out of existence, they [MHI] come out like we’re back in 1999! What a joke.”
“It’s a terrible idea,” said another large community owner during a 75-minute phone call to MHProNews, “to have communities lumped in” with producers, retail, and other industry segments at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). That pro said he hasn’t seen the MHI video, and said he could care less.
“What has MHI done to alleviate any of the concerns” for communities, was the response. Examples given by the caller included costly installations being mandated by HUD was part of that community owners comment.
He’s far from alone.
The Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and financing issues have sparked several responses from operations of varied sizes, from coast-to-coast.
“MHI pays lip service to communities. Sure, they have their community focused events. But in terms of policies, what has MHI actually done? It’s still a retail and production-oriented organization.”
“The dues paid by communities [to MHI] are not that bad,” said one. “But there’s no performance [by MHI] either. I’m waiting to see who will step up and do something that will be helpful for communities.”
MHI provides “a lot of sizzle, but the steak’s still kinda tough. We as an industry are still WAY below where all rationale says we should be, IF ONLY NORMAL MARKET FORCES WERE AT WORK HERE. I have long felt that to NOT be the case, as you [MHProNews] are also verifying through your investigative reporting.”
Put differently, one of the hot-topics include a growing sense of manufactured home market manipulation and monopolistic practices. There are many who believe that the industry should be performing far better, but that manipulation of the market has kept the industry at far below it’s capability.
A Wink and a Nod?
“I have no doubt that deals are made [at MHI] with a wink and a nod” that benefits some operations at the expense of others stated a partner in a community operation.
Nathan Smith was a name that drew repeated fire. “What a likable guy, who sadly is working every ——ing day to get politicians elected who harm everything independent business people in our industry stand for and need [in order] to be successful.” Without saying so, it is likely a reaction to the report found by clicking on the hot-linked box below.
“I just want an organization that helps keep Big Brother off my back,” explained one, commenting about MHI. “We have modest working-class [MH] communities. There are no clubhouses. Having to put in high-cost pads only increases the costs to consumers. MHI’s promos only shows photos or video of freshly black topped streets, that have double wides1, garages, and swimming pools. Hey, that’s great for those few that actually do offer that, but that ignores the reality at over 80 percent of the properties in our industry. It’s like they [MHI] are embarrassed by the reality that millions are happy to have a home that they can call their own, even if it is modest, it’s theirs.”
1 – sic terminology error in the original. More properly,
multi-sectional manufactured homes. Note to Industry
newcomers – percentages shared by reader comments
may or may not be precise, but can be understood
as broadly on point.
One mentioned a comment by Kevin Clayton, on an occasion when he said that the industry should “…dance with those that brought them to the dance.” Meaning, the industry should not forget the entry level product. “But this Clayton/MHI new class of homes absolutely ignores the ones that brought manufactured homes to the housing industry dance. Not providing them with Fannie [Mae] and Freddie [Mac] lending is another case of leaders doing the opposite of what they’ve said. Their program does nothing for community owners, and all of our industry’s existing home owners. It’s outrageous.”
It’s why, one said, so many community people walked out last year from the MHI presentation at their Congress and Expo. ICYMI, you can learn more about that by clicking on the box in the report linked below.
There have been questions and comments about the new national manufactured home community organization.
MHProNews has spotlighted the emerging group, and without endorsing it, has noted that at least NMHCO has condemned MHI’s performance failures for communities, which is a hopeful sign that those organizing community owners not only understand the issues, but have plans to address them.
An industry veteran said the need for MHIdea and the new community organization could not be more pressing, saying in part that while most are figuring out how to do more or better business, “SOME in our industry focus on an entirely different goal every morning: “What can I do today to make my competition go away?“”
One pro said that whatever MHI or Clayton say they want, automatically sparks skepticism. She gave an example, citing the fact that MHVillage has launched MH Insider, which has praised Kevin Clayton and MHI makes. That pro now questions not only that publication, but the parent operation too. “If someone is promoting those con artists,” that person alleged, “after the reports we’ve read [on MHProNews], they are either blind, naïve, or part of their con.”
Are Tech and Emerging Trends Threatening to Undermine MH Communities?
An interesting observation has been about the changes on the horizon in transportation. Out West, where Elon Musk and his Boring Company have been doing tests on the hyperloop, there’s a gnawing concern that in conjunction with other trends, that hyperloop could in time undermine community values in or near metro areas.
“Some of us [in the community sector] have thought about or sell properties to big box stores or multifamily housing redevelopers. But as technology like hyperloop develops, it may become ever-more important to be resident satisfaction focused. While today, communities have great stability and lots of exit options, that may not always be the case. If so, that could be [a] good [development] for residents, and the industry, in the long run.”
“More people work from home than a decade ago,” observed another. “Their [a home owner’s] location doesn’t have to be near downtown, or even in a suburb. Where is there any drive [by MHI] to attract that [home buying] audience?”
“The fact that MHI used Nathan [Smith] to attack the new communities association in their so-called newsletter is [a] clear reason to believe that they know that there’s unrest among many NCC [National Community Council] members.”
“Anyone who has gone to a few Congress and Expos knows that they have very low actual attendance at most of their breakout sessions,” said one. “They have a few keynotes [that get better attendance], but beyond those, most [community professionals] take off and talk business with others or are handling calls and messages.”
Regarding MHI/NCC meetings:
> Education could be better and more relevant, as often low attendance at actual sessions underscores.
> Lobbying on behalf of actual needs and concerns of communities is almost none-existent.
> Some argue that MHI is undermining communities, by favoring initiatives that tilt toward clients of what previously was known as Clayton Bank, 21st, Vanderbilt, or other Berkshire Hathaway brands operating in manufactured housing.
Some – as was indicated earlier – used choice, blunt words.
“Nathan is a disgrace to our industry,” is one example. “How can he be in a leadership role? I wouldn’t be surprised if he helped that d-mned Richard Cordray in his Ohio campaign for governor [the comment came from several states away, Cordray was prior head to the Obama Administration CFPB]. Nathan’s whole schtick is like a carnival barker, an embarrassment to those of us who try to run an honest business.”
“I wouldn’t mind supporting more than one association, if a new group actually wanted to do something real. Once they [a new organization] proved themselves, dropping out of MHI would be no problem.”
Other who aren’t in MHI – but may or may not be members of state associations – are hopeful too.
“I’ve been told that the mixers and events [for MHI] exist for two main reasons. They want independents [retailers, communities] to come which raises money for MHI, but it also gives the portfolio operations a chance to —ing schmooze us into selling [to them]. That video you guys have of Nathan [Smith] laughing while he says he wants all the communities for himself says it all. You guys [MHProNews] need to use that Monopolistic Housing Institute logo more, because that’s like a meme that captures what they [MHI] are all about.”
Anger Over GSEs and Financing
While community owners like the rates and terms they get on refinancing a property with one of the GSEs, when the topic turns to lending on actual manufactured homes, they often get angry.
“It’s worse than an insult to promote this Clayton [Homes] backed ‘new class of homes,’” said one. “It undermines what the HUD Code stands for and has accomplished. MHI has essentially helped the GSEs avoid supporting 95% of what consumers want to buy, in favor of something that is totally unproven.”
A concerned producer and MHI member indicated that the lower rate offered by the GSEs on that new class of homes is cancelled out by the far higher cost of the product. That same producer soberly said that the majority of producers couldn’t build such a home the way they are configured.
Put differently, that professional was explaining why most of the 130 some plants producing homes in the U.S. are being undermined by this Clayton/MHI initiative, that they purportedly got the GSEs to buy into.
Another MHI only member producer stressed that modular homes already qualified for GSE lending. “This [new class of homes] was just unnecessary.”
“There are clearly conflicting interests at MHI, and they always tilt toward what Berkshire Hathaway wants.”
The two most heard or read words?
“Thank you,” with an example from one who added, “for giving voice to those of us who’ve been abused by a train of lies and broken promises.”
“You [MHProNews] are smart to be mixing in those videos and reports that teach the basics of what made America great,” because “what the reality of what is happening to our country could cost everything we hold dear if we don’t change [the trajectory of] the culture.”
Articles on related topics are linked further below. NMHCO has promised a new, formal statement on their latest is in the works. MH Idea is also found further below. Quotes may or may not represent the views of MHProNews. That’s this afternoon’s “News through the lens of manufactured homes, and factory-built housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
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