“There are lies, damn lies and statistics.”
– Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel Clemens.
“It is easier to fool people than to
convince them that they have been fooled.”
– Mark Twain, pen name for Samuel Clemens.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that
good men [or women] do nothing.”
– Edmund Burke.
Deception is hardly new as the historic quotations above remind professional readers. That succinct introduction sets the stage for a new item of tension between the Arlington, VA based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Washington, D.C. based Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR). Which trade group’s claim is accurate in the dueling ‘news releases’ that follow?
MHI and MHARR have published a claim of credit for the same thing. Perhaps it is possible that each had this same idea at roughly the same time and that each independently acted upon the same notion. That’s possible, but is it likely?
So, too it is also possible that MHI has attempted to take credit for something that MHARR initiated. Note that phrasing. Because when asked about MHI’s claim, MHARR promptly provided MHProNews the evidence that they initiated the effort with a dated document that was delivered via FedEx. Will MHI do the same, and provide dated documentary evidence of when they made a specific request to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for an idea that they are now touting to their readers as their idea? Time will tell.
For our growing numbers of new readers that may not yet be aware, there are:
- a range of topics where nonprofits connected to factory-built housing have accused MHI have problematic and “deceptive” behavior.
- There have also been sources within MHI that sounded the alarm on a host of issues. For example, recently, some whistleblower provided documents that on their face point to a conflict of interest by MHI CEO Lesli Gooch.
- Prior to that, evidence was published that appears to be a prima facia case of perjury [i.e.: lying under oath, deception] and other problematic behavior by outgoing MHI President and CEO Richard “Dick” Jennison that federal documents indicate was sanctioned by the MHI Executive Committee.
- By contrast, there is no similar known claims lodged against MHARR or the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA), the later which publicly demanded recently that MHI stop what their Executive Director Tom Hardiman said was “deceptive” claims and misleading terminology that he argued harms the interests of manufactured home owners.
While some MHI surrogates have squawked about the fact that MHProNews published for readers the vexing assertions noted above, note that the documents and claims themselves are as of this time not formally challenged by MHI, Lesli Gooch, Richard “Dick” Jennison, the MHI board of directors’ executive committee – nor by their outside counsel, all of which have been asked for comment.
The leadership of MHI and their outside attorney remain silent in the face of the mounting evidence of controversial and problematic behavior, which routinely include the allegation that MHI is intentionally attempting to deceive their own members. One might think that if they were innocent of the charges, for the sake of their own reputations, they would simply provide evidence to demonstrate that they are correct and that MHProNews has somehow erred; of course, their right to remain silent is to be legally respected because these problematic allegations have not been adjudicated.
Again, for the sake of newer readers, for several years, MHI leaders promptly replied to inquiries from MHProNews – perhaps knowing that then as now, this is the largest and most read platform of its kind in manufactured housing trade media. Their leaders – in writing and on camera – also praised our pro-industry and pro-ethical growth efforts. That remained true until MHProNews questions about specific issues involving MHI behavior and performance apparently became too uncomfortable.
With that backdrop, here are the competing claims, first from MHI, and then from MHARR. As noted, MHARR’s statement is followed by the evidence linked here that documents their claim that this was their project that aimed to improve the problem of zoning and placement issues which are widely agreed cause manufactured housing operations of all sizes sales hurdles.
What follows these competing claims will be an analysis by MHProNews that relates to these issues.
HUD Takes Aim at Major MHI Priority – Alleviating Local Barriers to Manufactured Housing
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today continued its efforts to identify the local hurdles facing manufactured housing. In today’s Federal Register, the Department announced it is soliciting public comment about its proposal to collect information from the industry that will help identify the hurdles that impede the “financing, siting and development of factory-built housing systems in various communities.” This represents another important step toward a better regulatory environment for manufactured housing, this time with respect to local barriers to development.
According to the notice, HUD is seeking public comment about its plan to collect information from local land use planning officials, manufacturers, and retailers “to assess the cost-effectiveness of factory-built housing as a potential affordable housing option in urban and suburban communities.” MHI will be reviewing the proposed information collection to ensure that this effort to alleviate local hurdles is as effective as possible and not unduly burdensome on the industry. Comments are due by April 14, 2020.
Calling on HUD to help alleviate state and local impediments that discriminate against manufactured housing is one of MHI’s top regulatory priorities. Along with more than 300 of our members, MHI recently submitted comments to HUD outlining a number of federal, state and local regulatory burdens that limit access to manufactured housing. In our comments, MHI called on HUD to address zoning and land use rules that restrict the use of manufactured housing. MHI joined Secretary Carson for his visit to a manufactured housing plant as one of his first stops on HUD’s “Driving Affordable Housing Across America,” a multi-city bus tour to identify ways to eliminate regulatory barriers to affordable housing. As a part of the stop, Secretary Carson announced the first updates to the HUD Code in over a decade.
MHI will continue working on behalf of the industry to ensure manufactured housing is a part of the affordable housing solutions being discussed in Washington…
By contrast, here are the items that were produced by MHARR when asked about the MHI claim above. The hotlinks have been added by MHProNews, but the content is otherwise as in the original.
FEBRUARY 18, 2020
TO: MANUFACTURED HOUSING INDUSTRY MEMBERS AND CONSUMERS
FROM: MARK WEISS
RE: HUD UNDERTAKES STUDY PROPOSED BY MHARR
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) has published notice in the Federal Register of an impending study designed to identify and assess local barriers to the siting and utilization of HUD Code manufactured homes. Such a study was specifically proposed and requested by MHARR in an April 4, 2019 meeting with PD&R officials and in a subsequent April 24, 2019 communication to HUD Secretary Ben Carson (copy attached).
A study of local barriers to the use and placement of mainstream HUD Code manufactured housing could be a significant first step in addressing one of the two major national post-production impediments to the greater use and utilization of manufactured housing that MHARR has consistently emphasized to the White House, HUD and the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) from the start of the Trump Administration. These two major barriers, as stressed by MHARR, are: (1) exclusionary and discriminatory zoning against manufactured homes and manufactured housing consumers; and (2) the availability of consumer financing – and particularly personal property consumer financing – supported on a parity, market-significant basis by both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Nearly four years into the Trump Administration, neither of these issues has yet been addressed by concrete, on-the-ground, significant action. Thus, MHARR is pleased that PD&R has taken the first step of announcing this study.
In its April 4, 2019 meeting with PD&R, and in its April 24, 2019 letter, MHARR emphasized that discriminatory local land use, zoning and placement restrictions and exclusionary ordinances are among the key drivers in keeping inherently affordable manufactured homes out of large areas of the United States and simultaneously depriving millions of Americans of the affordable homeownership that they need and want. This has had devastating consequences not only for the availability of affordable housing and homeownership for moderate and lower-income American families, but for the industry as well, which has seen production levels fall far below its historic baseline over the past decade-plus.
And while HUD — as MHARR noted both at the time and in its recent comments to the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing — has all the statutory authority that it needs in order to overcome and invalidate such baseless restrictions, there has never been an authoritative federal study on the extent and negative impacts of these discriminatory edicts that could serve as the basis and underpinning for such action by HUD or possibly others.
Given the fact that this important step is finally being undertaken, MHARR will continue to follow-up with HUD to ensure that PD&R’s study is paired with concrete, actionable activity to address local barriers to the use and utilization of mainstream HUD Code manufactured housing. At the same time, MHARR will continue to press FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to take their own concrete, actionable steps to expand the availability of consumer financing for HUD Code homes.
President & CEO
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)
1331 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., Suite 512
Washington D.C. 20004
The evidence for their claim is a PDF and this MS Word version of the following letter dated some 10 months ago.
April 24, 2019
VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS
Hon. Ben Carson
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20410
Re: Discriminatory and Exclusionary Zoning of HUD-Regulated Manufactured Homes
Dear Secretary Carson:
As you know, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) represents the nation’s smaller, independent producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing in Washington, D.C.
One of the principal challenges faced by the manufactured housing industry and particularly its smaller businesses in providing inherently affordable, non-subsidized housing and homeownership for lower and moderate-income Americans, is the discriminatory exclusion of HUD Code manufactured housing from large areas of the United States under the guise of local zoning regulation. Such exclusionary and, in fact, discriminatory zoning mandates, affect not only single-home manufactured housing placements, but also the development and/or expansion of manufactured housing communities which provide much-needed land-lease (i.e., rental) space for manufactured homes.
In a 2018 speech to the Policy Advisory Board of the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies, you specifically identified and recognized the harmful impact of exclusionary zoning on the availability of affordable housing and homeownership for all Americans, stating that HUD would act “to identify and incentivize the tearing-down of local regulations that serve as impediments to the developing [of] affordable housing stock. Out-of-date building codes, time consuming approval processes, restrictive or exclusionary zoning ordinances, unnecessary fees or taxes, and excessive land development standards can all contribute to higher housing costs and production delays.” (Emphasis added).
And, indeed, in the case of HUD-regulated manufactured housing, the law provides HUD with powerful tools and authority to override local zoning actions that discriminatorily exclude or severely limit the placement and utilization of HUD Code homes. Specifically, in the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, Congress gave HUD the express authority to federally preempt state and local “requirements” of any kind that impair “federal superintendence of the manufactured housing industry” and the accomplishment of the Act’s congressionally-mandated federal purposes, including “facilitat[ing] the availability of affordable manufactured homes.” Indeed, in a November 13, 2003 letter to then-HUD Secretary Mel Martinez (copy attached), key congressional proponents of the 2000 reform law stated that enhancements to the scope of federal preemption set forth in that law “have given HUD the legal authority to preempt local requirements or restrictions which discriminate against the siting of manufactured homes (compared to other single family housing) simply because they are HUD-code homes.”
Despite this enhanced preemption authority, however, HUD has failed to take action to stop the baseless – and expanding – exclusion of safe, decent and affordable HUD-regulated manufactured homes from numerous jurisdictions around the United States. Consequently, while your above-quoted comments regarding the toxic impact of exclusionary local zoning mandates on the availability of affordable housing and homeownership opportunities were – and are – exactly on target, and while HUD has specific legal authority to correct this matter with respect to federally-regulated manufactured housing, nothing has been done to date in this area. And, with reports circulating of your possible departure from HUD at the conclusion of President Trump’s first term, smaller manufactured housing industry businesses are becoming increasingly concerned.
In an effort, therefore, to assist HUD in this matter and jump-start a process leading to the enforcement of Congress’ enhanced preemption regime to remove such baseless, discriminatory barriers to the availability and utilization of inherently affordable HUD Code manufactured housing, MHARR met with officials of HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research (PD&R) on April 4, 2019 and requested that HUD, as a first step, utilize its resources to research, study and analyze such discriminatory and exclusionary zoning and its local and national impact(s) on the availability of affordable housing and homeownership in light of relevant national housing policies. Such research and analysis could then serve as a roadmap for further HUD action going forward. Accordingly, we ask that you authorize and advance such a study within the Department.
Quite simply, in order for manufactured housing to reach its full potential as an inherently affordable, non-subsidized housing resource for millions of lower and moderate-income Americans, it cannot, should not, and must not be unfairly and illegitimately excluded from significant areas of the country. In order to stop and reverse this phenomenon, leadership from HUD and by you, personally, as HUD Secretary, is essential and, indeed, indispensable.
The MHARR Board of Directors, in order to cooperate and ensure proper assistance to you in this matter, directed the Association, at its recent Membership Meeting, to pursue appropriate legal action, as necessary, to address one or more particularly egregious instances of the discriminatory exclusion of HUD Code manufactured homes via local ordinance. Given the destructive impact of such discriminatory and exclusionary local mandates on the availability of affordable, non-subsidized housing and homeownership, in direct conflict with Trump Administration policies designed to increase homeownership among Americans at every rung of the economic ladder, we ask that HUD join with MHARR in this effort to end such baseless discrimination and the virtual exclusion of safe, decent and affordable HUD-regulated manufactured homes from entire areas of the United States, including many of its most heavily-populated local jurisdictions.
MHARR thanks you in advance for your assistance in this matter and will contact your office soon to schedule a meeting to address this and related issues affecting federally-regulated manufactured housing.
President and CEO
cc: Hon. Mike Crapo
Hon. Maxine Waters
Hon. Mick Mulvaney
HUD Code Industry Manufacturers, Retailers and Communities
MHProNews – Additional Information, Analysis and Commentary
At the base of MHI’s emails is a statement like the one that followed the one above. “© 2020 the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), Arlington, Virginia. All rights reserved. The content and works provided herein are protected under US copyright law and, where indicated, US trademark law. Without the prior written consent of MHI (which may be withheld in MHI’s sole discretion), reproduction, distribution, transmission, caching or other commercialization of MHI copyrighted or trademarked material is strictly prohibited.”
By contrast, several of MHARR’s items have a statement that reads like this.
“MHARR-Issues and Perspectives” is available for re-publication in full (i.e., without alteration or substantive modification) without further permission and with proper attribution to MHARR.”
Now that stark contrast between how the two trade groups handles their respective notions of news begs the question. Why does MHI want to forbid the forwarding or sharing of their emails? By contrast, why is MHARR addressing the entire industry i.e.: “HUD Code Industry Manufacturers, Retailers and Communities…” and invites republication so long as it is properly attributed to MHARR?
Before delving into that question, let’s note for new readers and a reminder to longer term ones too that MHI’s outside attorney was specifically reminded in writing what should be obvious. If MHI claims to be putting out “news” “updates” and “alerts” then those matters are by their nature becoming public information. You can’t have it both ways. Furthermore, the law provides protection for media such as ours to publish even copyrighted materials. See that report which unpacks that issue, linked below.
Additionally, the law provides protection for whistleblowers. When what seems to be problematic behavior is involved, the wrongdoer can’t expect staff, members or others to be a tacit party to intentionally misleading misinformation. One can argue that there is a duty to blow the whistle in several cases, as the quote from Edmund Burke above reminds people.
“The main federal law that protects whistleblowers is the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows employees to report instances involving fraudulent or false reports made to the government. It also protects informers from retaliation by their employer,” That was published by the Legal Match site on April 24, 2018.
As the above indicates, there are other federal laws that offer protection, and states often do as well. See how Wikipedia put it in the screen capture below that also documents the point above.
Now, let’s return to these two very different approaches by MHI and MHARR. MHARR wants their news shared, which makes sense. By contrast, MHI wants their so-called ‘news’ to be carefully managed and controlled. That should be a warning sign to their own members and to others. Bluntly, per sources, MHI wants to keep MHProNews from publishing such analysis and fact checks. It doesn’t make them look good.
For years, MHI asked – indeed at times, compensated – MHProNews to publish their materials. See the link here. One must keep in mind what Kevin Clayton and Warren Buffett – both of whom exert significant influences over MHI – have each said. They think long-term. MHProNews published on March 2, 2015 the notice that MHI had requested that we stop publishing their news. But as the Lanham Act report linked above makes plain, they can’t stop us from doing a fact-check and analysis of their news.
Why should MHI and their leaders mind if there is nothing to hide?
But therein lies the rub. The case can be made – indeed, has been in the reports linked below – that MHI is purportedly involved in a campaign that includes paltering, spin, razzle dazzle and other methods of deception. Their latest “over the target” reaction, per sources, was to wind up a surrogate – Tim Williams of the Ohio Manufactured Home Association – and try to use him to blunt some of the heat coming from our reports. Williams praised Lesli Gooch and MHI. That’s his right to do. But his claims of how effective Gooch is are not born out by facts such as the drop in manufactured home shipments, the concerns raised by MHBA, MHARR or others.
In drawing this to a close, it is a good thing if HUD produces a good study on this issue that MHARR and MHI are both claiming credit for raising. But far more important is that the law be promptly enforced. The argument can be made that MHARR – also thinking longer term – has asked for this research for a strategic purpose. But what MHARR and thoughtful industry professionals should and do want is to have those zoning barriers eliminated. That can be done by applying the portion of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000 known as “enhanced preemption.”
The reality that MHI has routine access to Secretary Ben Carson, HUD’s Brian Montgomery or Teresa Payne and yet none of those 3 have mentioned in recent years the words “enhanced preemption” in writing or publicly should speak volumes to industry professionals. That silence on that topic is deafening, and points to the party that has the most access, MHI. While Dr. Carson may be ignorant of the law, Montgomery and Payne can’t claim a similar ignorance, per our sources.
If MHI has the courage of their claims and convictions, they will provide us promptly with the evidence of their claim, which we will gladly publish. As an acid test of MHI’s ‘integrity,’ is this potent insight from MHARR last year. Why didn’t MHI allow or even encourage state associations to join them in legally fighting problematic zoning? There are direct and indirect reasons to doubt MHI’s sincerity, which can be summed up in their self-praise cited earlier above – “MHI will continue working on behalf of the industry to ensure manufactured housing is a part of the affordable housing solutions being discussed in Washington…” If that were true, then why isn’t enhanced preemption even mentioned on the MHI website by name? The case can be made that they are either massively inept or shrewdly devious. It is difficult to forge a fact-based case for something else. See the MHARR report below for a better understanding.
The powers that be that rule at MHI can hide, posture or say whatever. But there are nettlesome facts that they have failed to explain. For the record, MHProNews believes these to be well educated and intelligent people. That suggests that their inability to grow the industry and get good laws properly enforced are caused because of a plan to consolidate the industry. Where is there direct, logical response to that allegation?
There are more developments looming on this and related topics, so stay tuned.
To go deeper on the growing track record of related issues that have arguably been keeping manufactured housing underperforming during an affordable housing crisis, see the timely reports further below. That’s it for this report on manufactured housing “Industry News Tips and Views Pros Can Use“ © – MHVille’s runaway #1 news source, where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (News, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary.) Notice: all third party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com. Soheyla is a co-founder and managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. Connect with us on LinkedIn here and here.
There is more than enough evidence that there is corruption, deceptive trade practices and other arguably illegal activities that are benefiting a few to the harm of the many. See the related articles below.
The bad news is that the opposition to ethical ‘white hat’ businesses, investors and other professionals have deep pockets and they are politically connected. But the good news is that Bernie Madoff could have once made that similar claim. Today, Madoff sits in a federal cell. It took persistence on the part of a few professionals with federal officials to finally topple Madoff’s multi-billion dollar empire.
David Dworkin, National Housing Conference, Compared and Contrasted with Lesli Gooch, Manufactured Housing Institute on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Proposed Modifications to FHFA on Duty to Serve Finance Plans