America is in a well-documented affordable housing crisis.
As MHLivingNews and MHProNews have noted for years, an important part of the solution for that crisis has been hiding in plain sight.
Uncommon Sense, Stating the Obvious, Affordable Housing Crisis, and Manufactured Homes – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Let’s dust off some common sense. Or as some may quip – tongue-in-cheek – as uncommon sense. Manufactured homes aren’t weaker than standard conventional housing, they are as strong or stronger. Two videos with award wining professionals prove that point, by using common sense and actual video footage, to the realities vs.
When a Harvard University researcher predicted in a document cited by the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) that manufactured homes could for several good reasons overtake the conventional housing builders in total numbers, the claim made good sense to many at the time.
So what happened?
Why did that Harvard prediction not come to pass?
Stating the Obvious often helps clarify a subject, especially for those outsiders looking into the industry, as well as for industry newcomers.
Rephrasing, Stating the Obvious Benefits:
- Manufactured Home (MH) Industry newcomers. There are thousands of millennials and other demographic groups who have entered the industry in the last decade. Numbers of these, per industry sources, have insufficient knowledge about several of the facts and mechanics of their own industry. This topic about HUD is one of them.
- Researchers, including academics, media (who are increasingly on our trade-media websites),
- non-profits, and housing advocates.
- Investors (both foreign and domestic),
- public officials: federal, state, and local.
- others housing industry professionals, who may sincerely believe they understand an issue related to manufactured housing, but in fact may need to reset perceptions, based upon new insights, and industry changes.
- Last but not least; our own operations will reference this report, to recruit and orient new MHPro Team members to our consulting, trade media, services and related operations in the first quarter of 2018.
Executive Summary: Major HUD Code MH Office Shakeup
In this specific news and analysis column, we will look at additional details from yesterday’s breaking news about Pam Danner and Lois Starkey’s departure – at least for now – from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Manufactured Housing Programs.
Word of Danner’s and Starkey’s temporary – perhaps permeant? – departure has come to the Daily Business News via a series of tips, initially from industry readers.
The HUD website has not yet reflected the change, but tips have been confirmed by other informed sources.
The Daily Business News has been told that Teresa Payne is the acting administrator.
We have also been informed that it is not unusual for a delay to occur in this type of personnel change to be noted on the HUD website.
For all those who may not realize the full meaning and potential impact of this shakeup at the HUD Office of Manufactured Housing Programs, is the following, detailed, Special Report, with the background and analysis warranted.
Why the HUD Shakeup Matters, “Inside MH”
As industry veterans and numerous public officials ought to know, HUD is the federal agency that has the primary authority for federally-regulated manufactured housing’s construction and safety standards.
Researchers, media,and others are at times under the false impression that the terminology surrounding manufactured housing is optional, a matter of taste, or a marketing tool. Each of those impressions would be inaccurate.
As the Louisiana Manufactured Housing Association’s (LMHA) Steve Duke succinctly stated it, the terminology matters because the terminology defines the construction standards. Using the wrong term, therefor means an inaccurate description.
There have been no ‘mobile homes’ built in the U.S. since the advent of the HUD Code for manufactured housing, which went into effect on June 15, 1976.
Lakeland, Fla. June 15, 1976 – Ever since the industrial revolution, factories have been a driving force in the economy – and in American culture. But the fact that millions of those 1950s- to mid-70s-era homes still exist today is silent testimony that they, too, often had enduring qualities.
That’s a legal, building standards/code, and terminology distinction.
It’s not just Duke or industry pros who’ve made this statement. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) used the following to make a similar point. Manufactured homes are routinely safer, more durable, and energy saving than their pre-HUD Code counterparts.
They are also safer – somewhat less fire prone – than conventional housing. But would you know that from some media reports?
Avoidable Tragedies! Mobile Home Fires vs. Manufactured Home, and Conventional Housing – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Every unplanned, uncontrolled fire outside of a fireplace, grill or pit is often a story about tragic injuries, deaths and/or property damaged or destroyed. A recent fire reported in Champaign County, Ohio, was no different.
So misusing the terminology means inaccurate, inappropriate, and words can lead to a false conclusion.
“Home Sweet Home” – Assistant Mayor Wants to End Housing Choice Stigma – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
Portsmouth, New Hampshire assistant mayor Jim Splaine is doing what he can to put an end to the stigma that’s often felt by people who live in manufactured homes. Too often, the areas where manufactured homeowners live are improperly referred to as ” trailer parks.”
Further, it may be as insulting to home owners and professionals as the N-Word is the a black man, as the Rev. Donald Tye, Jr. told MHProNews.
All of these are good reasons for mainstream media journalists, editors, and producers who want to adhere to the ideals of the Society for Professional Journalism’s code of ethical standards should habitual use.
If a factory-built home carries the HUD label and a HUD data plate, it is a manufactured home, not a mobile home.
The generic quote from Daniel Patrick Moynihan reflects a point that it is a disservice to potentially millions when the improper terminology is applied to manufactured housing.
The graphic below represents the evolution from trailer houses, to mobile homes,to manufactured homes, while providing a visual that dramatically reflects the differences between those various kinds of building.
HUD is the Primary Federal Regulator of a Federally Preemptive Code
Anecdotal evidence suggests that most state and local public officials don’t realize that manufactured homes are federally preemptive.
Yet, under the terms of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000), that federal preemption of local standards was labeled as “enhanced preemption.”
While it is beyond the scope of this report, that enhanced preemption over local zoning is often ignored, but that doesn’t mean the legal status doesn’t exist. Reasons why preemption are important are covered in a recent legal case, linked below.
Because Regulatory Enforcement, or Overreach Matters,
The Danner/Starkey Shakeup at HUD Matters
Against that backdrop and the issues noted below, the news about Danner and Starkey’s status is a significant issue for the manufactured housing industry.
As the primary regulators for the manufactured home industry, the program’s director is an important role in how legal standards, “guidance,” and interpretations of rules and standards are carried out, or not.
This has been a hot topic for industry professionals on several levels, including, but not limited to,
- installation standards,
- the (in)ability for local jurisdictions to mandate such items as fire sprinklers, and
- the revised alternative construction (AC), on-site completion standards.
Each of these impacts the costs and complexities driven by regulations of the manufactured home (MH) industry.
Regulatory Impacts in the National News
In the post-World War II era where regulatory forces have grown stronger at the federal level – at the state and local levels too – regulations can serve multiple purposes, and has a wide range of effects.
The Trump Administration’s dramatic regulatory roll-backs are given credit by many as a factor for the increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The graphic below reflects what some researches have said are the costs to the U.S. economy driven by regulation.
Those regulatory costs hit the manufactured home industry too. See as examples the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and National Association of Manufacturers studies linked below that suggest the impact of regulations on business.
Those higher costs must be passed along to consumers, so ultimately it is the consumer that pays.
The NAHB’s “Priced Out” report states that for every $1000 in higher costs, some 200,000 potential home buying consumers are priced out of the ability to buy a home.
Among the effects on business are the widely recognized reality that regulations can be a barrier of entry for a business.
But as Dodd-Frank and other examples have demonstrated, regulatory complexity and risk can also prove to be a barrier for staying in an industry.
The heavier and more complex the regulations, the greater the impact on business.
That in turn impacts job retention/creation.
Segue – Trade Media vs. Mainstream Media
Another Stating the Obvious bullet point is that Trade Media – trade journalism – is ideally understood as a subset of news media, but is also different from, mainstream news journalism.
In doing any story, the journalists basic goal is to answer the questions of “who, what, when, where, why, and how.” These are the same for mainstream and trade media.
But informed trade media have an obvious advantage in a specialized field, if the trade journalist is seasoned, and has the necessary insider insights and sources within an industry.
Thus, for years, MHLivingNews and MHProNews videos has often carried the subtitle, “This Is Inside MH” ©. Those “MH Insider” © insights can – and should – completely transform any story that relates to factory-built housing.
For example. In the case of federally regulated HUD Code manufactured homes, when the manufactured home industry trade journalist knows and understands the perspectives of:
- Regulators: who can be federal, as well as state and local officials.
- Business: independent operations, as well as the larger corporations. In the case of MHProNews/MHLivingNews, as both trade media, and as a multiple awards and recognition winning MH industry veteran who does ongoing industry consulting/services, ours is arguably an unmatched perspective. Why? Because we have a depth of knowledge about the MH Industry in journalism. What we don’t know about MH – because no one knows it all – we can rapidly grasp, because we have worked in the trenches of the manufactured home (MH) industry for over a quarter century. Our network of industry contacts is extensive.
- Associations: the two primary national association – the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), plus the dozens of state manufactured home associations and their staffers. In the case of this special report writer, most of those individuals are known personally, along with numbers of business professionals across the industry’s spectrum.
- MH Home Owners and Prospective Consumers: including years of first-hand knowledge, as well as knowledge gained via third party university, insurance, or other outside research.
- Media: as trade media and as a professional, we have years of interaction with mainstream media. For years prior to and since launching MHProNews, and later, ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com (a.k.a. MHLivingNews.com), we also interacted with other industry trade media, as well as with mainstream local, regional, and national media in the course of our work.
An uncommsioned third party look at our work is linked below. By way of disclosure to mainstream media, investors and researchers, the journalist who wrote that linked story, worked afterwards with our for a time as a contract writer.
Federal Regulators, HUD, and Manufactured Housing
While all levels of government arguably impact a business, in the case of the federally regulated construction and safety standards of manufactured housing, not all other industries are as regulated as manufactured housing is.
Against that backdrop, the shakeup at the manufactured housing program office could play a significant role in how several controversies surrounding regulatory and placement issues are played out.
For example, there is university research that MHLivingNews has previously reported, commissioned by HUD, which has an important revelation to those seeking proven solutions to the affordable housing crisis. When NIMBY – Not in My Back Yard – mentalities strike, it is often due to the mistaken notion that manufactured homes cause the depreciation of conventional housing. The HUD PD&R research linked below demonstrates that such as not the case.
Other, more recent research, also demonstrates that manufactured home values can rise-or-fall for the same reasons as conventional housing values do.
The Pam Danner, Lois Starkey Controversies
Few items spotlight the dramatic difference between the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR).
MHARR’s basic instinct for years has been to carefully analyze a piece of rule making or legislation, and then plan a strategy based upon education to address or stop it.
MHARR, unlike the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), has no political action committee (PAC). They work with an elected (or appointed) official based upon rezoning and engagement alone.
Does that work?
A recent example reveals that MHARR’s method can and does bear good fruit.
By contrast, the much larger and many times more expensive MHI team, which has a PAC, has routinely failed at obtaining their own stated objectives.
Instead, MHI attempts to dazzle their members with
- busy work in the form of emails, that don’t achieve their stated goals,
- meetings which many admit are pleasant functions and which may for some yield networking opportunities, but that nevertheless fail to achieve their stated purpose. Namely, to do what is necessary to stop or reverse bad legislation or regulations.
Mighty MHARR? Meek MHI?
That MHARR success example could be buttressed by others, which are linked within the Daily Business News article above, where MHARR and other industry voices – often carried here on MHProNews – successfully caused MHI to change their position.
This issue of Pam Danner is arguably one of those forced pivots.
First, the readers digest version, then the details. Last week, the WVHI sent out their newsletter with a column apparently written by their co-president, George Gunnell. Gunnell is an RVP for Clayton Homes. That article and others in the same newsletter indicated that MHI wanted Pam Danner ousted from her role at HUD.
It is sad and stressful to many in the industry that this scenario exists, where the two national associations routinely fail to agree on important issues.
In fact, on the issue of Pam Danner and her appointment itself, is a case where the two national associations ‘agreed’ in principle to both support Vic DeRose for the administrator’s role. But then MHI reportedly failed to keep their end of the bargain.
The industry could have had Vic De Rose – an attorney with deep connections and knowledge of the industry – for the non-career administrator that the two national associations met and agreed upon for the leadership of the HUD Office Manufactured Housing Programs.
But per multiple sources in D.C. and Arlington, an MHI insider allegedly helped Danner get the nod. And that coup for Danner – that has widely been seen as harmful to much of the industry – was ‘achieved’ by MHI, even though Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN), wrote a letter in support of Vic DeRose.
Is that MHI’s meaning of “Got Clout?”
Avoidable Fumbles, Missteps, and Failures
Which begs the question. If MHI is forced after a time to pivot or change their position, why did the pick an arguably weaker or flawed position to begin with?
- Was it a flawed MHI analysis?
- Was it reactive, vs. proactive, thinking – as prior MHI Chairman Nathan Smith said the association must admit has occurred? A problem Smith said he wanted to avoid at MHI in the future? See the video below to hear Smith in his own words.
- Or has it been so because – as several voices inside and outside of MHI have alleged – that the largest companies that dominate MHI benefit directly or indirectly regardless if their claimed position is successful, or not.
- Which is it? And if one is objective, given their track record for failing to achieve their own claimed primary goals many years, does it matter to their rank-and-file, mom-and-pop to mid-sized dues paying members?
MHI literally and figuratively, per several sources, is picking ‘winners and losers’ in the industry. If that is so, and if that is their meaning of “clout,” then more than one attorney has told MHProNews that MHI may be more akin to a racket than a traditional association.
What Was Starkey Doing?
Starkey was, per sources, reportedly blamed by MHI president Richard “Dick” Jennison as having been the reason that Pam Danner got the top job over the MH program at HUD. There was friction reported between the two, as MHProNews has previously noted.
Was that alleged friction between Jennison and Starkey an example of the hostile workplace environment, previously reported at the link below?
When Starkey exited MHI, was there a settlement? A non-disclosure agreement? Industry attorney William Hart informed MHProNews that such settlements often come with a non-disclosure agreement.
Given the rapid shift of Starkey to HUD, and now her exit from the program office, there are unanswered questions. Those questions may be clarified, if MHI opened their books for a forensic, third-party examination.
Even MHI board members have voiced their frustration to MHProNews with the secrecy that has dominated the group, most notably since Jennison has come into office, and Berkshire Hathaway has exerted more dominance over the direction of the organization.
That BH dominance is exemplified by having two of the four executive committee seats held by a Berkshire Hathaway member, with a third seat held by a company led by a former Clayton Homes division president. The fourth seat, is held by ELS. ELS reportedly have done business with Berkshire Hathaway (BH) owned divisions.
But it is ELS Chairman Sam Zell who on the MHI stage made the statement below, which can easily be interpreted as a dig against MHI, and against Berkshire Hathaway’s financial dominance.
Even an exiting MHI President politely criticized the organization for its failures, see that document linked here.
The Bottom Lines?
Manufactured housing growth dropped almost 20 years ago, and has been stymied for years, even though Harvard researchers and others believed there would be a recovery and gr0wth.
There are several indicators that BH units that dominate various sectors of the industry are happy with how MHI functions. If not, then wouldn’t they logically change staff leadership, and the association’s directions?
The rational conclusion is that BH and MHI take their courses of action because they like them, which fits the thoughtful, planned, long-termed mode of Warren Buffett, chairman of big Berkshire.
That would then lead the independents of the industry to conclude that MHI is either inept, ineffective or on a course of action that is deliberate. Those who believe the latter, say the reasons are clear. If MHI gets what they claim to want, the biggest companies – which include units owned by BH – benefit. If MHI fails at obtaining what they claim to want to accomplish, then independents struggle, and are consolidated or fail.
These are among the reasons why Democratic lawmakers are pushing federal officials to investigate BH, Clayton, and perhaps MHI itself.
Make no mistake. Our sources tell us that this step reflects the “fingerprints” of the Trump Administration. They, per our sources, are “aware” of the problems.
And if MHI – once more, belatedly – makes a claim that this was somehow their doing (cough, cough), then they should be asked, why they waited so long to take make this pivot?
- How do they respond to Democrats who charge BH dominates MHI as a near monopoly?
- And how do they respond to the fact that just days before the election, MHI had two paid Hillary Clinton supporters on their stage?
- Hasn’t MHI dumped on each of the two major party constituencies?
The problems at the HUD Code manufactured housing program office have led to two major groups being impacted. Consumers, and independent businesses.
On a cautionary note, HUD has per our sources not yet finalized the transfer of Danner. Our sources say it is for 120 days, and that Teresa Payne will be the acting head in the interim.
I have been a vocal critic of HUD’s Alternative Construction (AC) approval for carport-ready homes. I don’t believe an AC approval for homes built with a host beam is warranted or that the AC approval process is the proper regulatory procedure. I communicated my concerns to Pamela Danner, Administrator of the federal manufactured housing program in a face-to-face meeting.
Thousands of industry professionals will cheer this shakeup at HUD.
Home > association, Image, Legal, Manufactured Housing Industry Commentary, Manufactured Housing Professionals, Zoning > McCrory Lawsuit – “Significant Victory Against Zoning Discrimination” – Manufactured Homes The McCrory lawsuit is a significant victory against zoning discrimination that many working families in Arkansas face from cities and towns when they attempt to place a factory-built dwelling unit in a territorial jurisdiction governed by municipal ordinances and regulations.
But this struggle against the so-called DC Swamp isn’t yet a done deal.
HUD Secretary, Dr. Ben Carson, Vice President Mike Pence, and any other Trump Administration officials in the loop on this need to know that this was a move that needs to be made permeant. They also need to learn who is, and isn’t, working for the broader interests of consumers and the independent businesses that have been hog-tied for too long by bureaucrats, such as the one who has headed up the HUD Code manufactured home program office.
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