Given enough time and attention to details, events that may initially be obscured by claims and counterclaims often are clarified. Such is the case with several of the controversies that have been highlighted by the distinctions between the rival to the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), namely, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR). MHARR represents numbers of the independent producers of HUD Code manufactured homes. MHI, in its own words as their outside attorney David Gooch has said, claims to be “the nation’s leading trade organization representing all segments of the factory built housing industry.” In other places, MHI narrows that definition modestly by saying the they represent “all segments” of manufactured housing. Certainly, MHI has members that produce modular homes as well as HUD Code manufactured homes. So, an argument can be made that MHI ‘represents’ more than manufactured housing producers. But a question explored in more than one report linked below for the week that was could be this. How well does MHI ‘represent’ “all segments” of manufactured housing? Or all segments of “factory built” housing? Some are clearly saying, not well enough. Some are clearly arguing that MHI is not representing anyone effectively save a few insider, generally larger firms. MHI is allowing the manufactured housing industry to underperform instead of doing what it should be doing if it authentically wanted to represent “all segments” of manufactured or factory-built housing. But in fairness, a look at Goch’s letter on behalf of MHI to a doubtful and upset member – the document is cited at length and linked below – speaks volumes. It arguably has more meaning now than it did at the time the letter was first sent. Why? Because time has revealed many things since this letter was issued by attorney Goch who said: “My firm represents the Manufactured Housing Institute (hereinafter referred to as “Institute” or “MHI”).
Before going further, Goch represented MHI to HUD in a written communication too. Goch made that communication with respect to a former MHI vice president, Lois Starkey. At the time, the letter about Starkey seemed odd at best. MHI wanted to make sure, at least based on a reading of the letter at face value, that HUD would not employ Starkey. That letter from Goch about Starkey to HUD, linked here, came to light in part due to an article published in the Washington Post. That is not the focus of this particular report, analysis, and commentary. But when MHProNews publishes on a topic, we are aware of a range of issues that the vast majority of the population knows little or nothing about. We keep these background facts, evidence, and viewpoints in mind before we publish something new. Why does that matter? Because in the ideal, the ‘reality’ that emerges from reading our reports ought to be in line with the reality that can be tested and observed ‘in the real world.’ Is this article, or others linked below in our reports for the week in review, consistent across the various topics explored? Are they consistent with reality? If so, that’s a reason for staying plugged into what is published here. The case can be made that we are consistent, even though that consistency steps on toes. Some of those toes are big ones in our profession, and are often associated with MHI. Spotlights that aim at accountability that are done properly in the scope of journalism and viewpoint (op-ed) articles are a legitimate function of the media. Given that prior MHI general counsel Rick Robinson publicly acknowledged that MHProNews – among others including major corporate leaders – is a news media platform. Those prior admissions shed light on MHI’s responses (some more visible others less visible or obvious) toward the reports, fact-checks and analysis found on MHProNews/MHLivingNews.com. That relevant segue made, let’s return to Goch’s other letter referenced above that will now be continued below.
Said Goch, “By virtue of that definition,” (i.e.: representing “all segments” of the industry) “it is understood that MHI represents a spectrum on business interests within the industry (e.g.; business, size, geography, business models, etc.) and that this diverse membership will often express a wide range of views on issues and Institute activity. MHI, in fact seek out all points of view on industry issues anticipating they will contribute to our discussion and ultimately the most favorable, widely supported outcomes.” That part of his statement, even if it was sincerely uttered by Goch, is demonstrably untrue. It is as odd as what MHI did with intervening with HUD with respect to their former VP Starkey. But let’s press ahead with what Goch wrote.
“While both democracy and dissension at times can be a strenuous process, every disagreement, differing point of view, or opinion asserted (whether officially on behalf of the organization or in ones own personal capacity) does not warrant legal action, apologies, or the need for point by point rebuttals (the reason why, as stated above, this letter does not attempt to address all of your [i.e.: a then upset MHI member, not this publication] regarding, for example, that comments were “mean spirited.”
Goch doubles down on the claim that MHI seeks a full range of views. Quoting his letter to that MHI member again: “In conclusion, MHI/NCC will continue to work for the best interests of the industry inviting comments, the occasional contentious debate, pursuing the goal of productive meetings and measurable success.”
Note those words: “measurable success.” That begs the question: how is success measured in manufactured housing? Is it by how robustly (…or modestly) manufactured housing is being sold during an affordable housing crisis? Isn’t that a reasonable measure of success? Or how efficiently and effectively MHI has managed to get various existing federal laws enforced that were passed more than 1 or 2 decades ago? Note that MHProNews, in the tapestry of reports, has already explored this question, based on what MHI itself has said. That’s found in the report with evidence and analysis linked here. That Masthead editorial references evidence including federal filings by MHI that are signed off by MHI staff after being approved by the MHI board. Those filings were also first reviewed by yet another outside professional firm. See that report, and then circle back to this one to get a solid handle on what the various puzzle pieces mean based on how they fit into the big picture. Reports linked in our week in review below will shed additional light on how dissatisfaction and what might be called seemingly open rebellion are growing in MHVille among MHI members as well as others. Again, returning to Goch’s letter to an that then angry MHI member who had threatened legal action against MHI.
“Notwithstanding the foregoing, however, MHI’s most valuable asset is its name and reputation.” MHProNews reported some years ago about the statement made by a Congressional staffer. Per that staffer, MHI is seen as being ‘anti-consumer’ by numbers on Capitol Hill. Hold that thought, as we return to Goch’s narrative. “Over the years, MHI has diligently worked to serve the industry and establish significant good will within its membership., the industry at large, as well as with the government and the consumers the membership serves.” Once more it can be argued that Goch may have made that claim with sincerity, but it is demonstrably untrue. Consumers protested at and disrupted an MHI meeting, as MHProNews has previously published. MHI’s prior president and CEO, Chris Stinebert in his exit message urged MHI to focus more on making consumers happy. Why would Stinebert do that unless he realized the direction that MHI was going? In other words, wasn’t Stinebert in an ideal position to realize that MHI’s corporate leaders were increasingly those that were later branded as “predatory” by various consumer group leaders, manufactured home residents, and members of Congress that were often Democrats? Goch’s letter is revealing! But what is revealed are an array of disconnects between statements he made on behalf of MHI and the sobering realties that contradict his assertions and claims.
Returning to Goch’s apparently posturing and flawed narrative, he insightfully wrote: “MHI actively monitors and proactively addresses any attempts by third parties who wrongfully disparage the organization. Therefore, to the extend any third parties communicatees (orally, in writing, electronically) untrue, false, fabricated deleterious statements regarding MHI, the Institute is firmly committed to pursue every legal remedy available to preserve the reputation it has worked so hard to establish and maintain. This includes statements made from its membership as well.”
That is not a thinly veiled threat by Goch. That was an apparently in your face threat to that then MHI member. Don’t speak or write ill about MHI, or the Institute will go after you.
Goch brings his letter to a conclusion by saying, “If you have any questions regarding this foregoing, please feel free to contact me. Sincerely, David P. Goch. Goch CC’d MHI’s then chair and Richard Jennison, then President and CEO of MHI. The PDF of that letter from Goch to that then angered MHI member is linked here.
More on that letter by attorney Goch on behalf of MHI will be the focus of today’s postscript. Don’t miss it.
With no further adieu, let’s pivot to the headlines to reports, fact checks, analysis and more expert commentary on the issues that are obviously keeping manufactured housing underperforming during a serious affordable housing crisis. These headlines cover 5.8 to 5.15.2022.
What’s New from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
What’s New from MHLivingNews
What’s New on the Words of Wisdom by Tim Connors, CSP
What’s New and Recent from the Masthead
What’s New from Mainstream Media Outreach Provided by MHProNews/MHLivingNews
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
Programming note before going into that letter above was addressed to Spencer Roane. There is a significant manufactured housing related legal development that will be reported tomorrow by MHProNews.
That noted, the letter from Goch to Roane is dated November 30, 2012. Once more for emphasis, we opened this column by saying “Given enough time and attention to details, events that may initially be obscured by claims and counterclaims often are clarified.”
MHI, Roane and his buddy and ally in SECO, George F. Allen have all been quite revealing since that letter by Goch on behalf of MHI was written.
A short version of that history between Roane, Allen and MHI could be summed up like this.
- Allen and Roane were in reasonably open revolt.
- MHI marginalized at the time Allen and Roane, that is what Roane was in part complaining about.
- In response to MHProNews referencing that letter, Roane said in a message to MHProNews some weeks ago: “As best I can recall, the letter from the MHI attorney was sent via US mail & email – that’s been my experience w/ most other attorneys too. How, by the way, did you get a copy of the letter?” In another reply to MHProNews, Roane said: “My contact w/ MHI & its attorney was pretty limited and was, as I assume you know, a long time ago. What interest do you have in that situation?”
- True enough, that letter from Goch to Roane was “a long time ago,” nearly a decade ago now. But the interest in that Goch letter, as Roane and the broader industry should know from studying this report and related information, are the takeaways that letter and what has occurred since revealed.
- Roane, Allen, and others associated with MHI have all shared stage time with SECO. That may be the subject of a future report. But using their own records, it is apparent that the dust-up Goch addressed circa 2012 have since been patched over. As MHProNews reported, there was some agreement – a quid-pro-quo per informed MHI connected sources and evidence – between Allen and MHI. Once that truce was reached, Allen toned down prior attacks on MHI/NCC and some of MHI’s dominating members. Allen has in the past de facto made similar claims as MHProNews, but he did so without providing the same level of documentation as MHProNews has published for readers. Allen became an apparent foil and part-time attack dog for MHI, used to attempt to distract or undermine MHARR, MHProNews, MHLivingNews and any others who dared challenge the MHI narrative. Restated, for good or ill, Allen was MHI’s blogging surrogate. That doesn’t mean that MHI told him what to write, because MHI would clearly have written things quite differently than Allen writes. But what it does arguably mean is that Allen, Roane, SECO and MHI share many things in common.
- Among them? Allen, Roane and MHI are all funnels for consolidators of the community sector to engage with independents who are the targets for acquisition of those larger, consolidating MHI member firms.
It is perhaps no surprise that Goch, Allen, or others in that circle-fest of “deception and misdirection” are unwilling to engage in a sustained discussion or debate about MHI’s effectiveness. Equally unwilling is Allen or Roane to address some of the questionable ‘education.’ An MHI connected attorney told MHProNews that what Roane, with Allen’s support’ has for years promoted in terms of lease purchase sales is illegal. One of Roane’s/SECO connected community operators became embroiled in a legal dustup involving several residents and public officials. See the report that sparked a series of mainstream media investigations, linked below.
That pattern of problematic behavior associated with Allen-Roane are in some ways similar to the behaviors found among MHI members.
What are the takeaways from the above and linked evidence?
Several lessons learned are possible. Among them, in no particular order of importance are these:
- A) MHI clearly claim they represent “all segments” of the industry and also asserted through Goch that they want or encourage robust discussion. But an evidence-based case has been outlined above that indicates why their claims made via attorney Goch don’t hold up to scrutiny. Whether Goch lied, was spinning, or was simply ignorant of the facts is another question.
- B) Allen and apparently others have said recently and previously that unrest among MHI members is growing, and the reason is failure to properly represent the interests of independents. See the report linked above and here.
- C) NAMHCO previously made a similar claim, backed up by two state associations breaking away from MHI for failing to represent their members’ interests.
- D) Goch clearly said that MHI seeks to protect its reputation. While that has its own problematic aspects, it is demonstrably true that MHI tries to protect its image. Which begs the question, why doesn’t MHI do the same with respect to the industry’s image as they promised to do?
- E) Despite being a loyal MHI member, MHVillage’s now Co-President Darren Krolewski are among the MHI members who have stated that more bad news being generated than good is a problem for the industry.
- F) MHProNews previously reported on another MHI outside attorney who claimed he is being paid by MHI to monitor our publication for possible statements that may violate, in their view, their trade group’s rights and the law.
- G) MHI has repeatedly attempted to silence MHProNews. Some of that has been done by using a different legal theory than the one Goch threatened Roane with in his letter to Goch.
- H) MHI’s argument against MHProNews could be summed up in the notion that our platforms don’t have their written permission to quote their published and copyrighted materials. It is an interesting theory, but their theory arguably doesn’t hold legal water, based on federal guidance and court precedent. As media, we have the right to publish materials as part of our reports, fact checks, analysis and commentary. Given that MHI leaders praised our publications for years, it is difficult for them to switch gears and claim that we aren’t news media at all.
- I) The documented threats made by MHI against MHProNews are noted because that Arlington, VA based trade group clearly wants to dominate – as much as possible – the narrative in the industry. That is one more example of an ‘over the target’ reaction by MHI. Previously, MHI directly and routinely responded to MHProNews inquiries and for years provided MHProNews their reports for republication. Indeed, at various times, MHI sponsored content with MHProNews. But in more recent years, as the questions by this publication to MHI leaders apparently became to unformattable for them to respond to, the Arlington based trade group has used surrogates or oblique messaging to attempt to distract from the mounting evidence that they are not performing.
- J) Even loyal MHI affiliate Texas Manufactured Housing Association (TMHA) has effectively undermined MHI’s claims, see the report linked above and here.
- K) Even pro-MHI cheerleaders, such as the Wisconsin Housing Alliance and MHI member ManufacturedHomes, have been demonstrably ineffective.
These are directly or obliquely relevant to the importance of that Goch letter.
As was noted, Goch said: MHI is “pursuing the goal of productive meetings and measurable success.” It is precisely the lack of “measurable success” MHI success that MHProNews and our sister site has been focused on for over a decade.
For some 7 years, some of which included time as a peer-elected MHI Suppliers Division board member, MHProNews attempted to work from within MHI to advance the industry’s growth. That effort was focused on promoting honorable, profitable, legal methods that were pro-consumer and pro-white hat independents. So, quite in contradiction of Goch’s claims, apparently MHI’s leaders could not handle even polite questions during their meetings that undermined their narrative. As CrossMods and other MHI projects have proven, their so-called strategy to advance the industry has been ineffective if not harmful.
After our last attended MHI meeting, where we asked several producers and others a simple question, MHI issued an unsigned letter to terminate our firm’s membership on a demonstrably false pretext. Their pretext was that they didn’t have a category for news media, ignoring the fact that we are a service provider, industry expert and consultants, not just news media alone. Their ridiculous written claim further ignored the obvious meaning of their own words that Goch cited above. If they represent “all segments” of the industry, that “all” should include trade journalists too, even if they ignored our other professional services.
Put differently, the Goch letter is useful because of how it illustrates the various weaknesses and flaws in MHI’s own claims. If they could prove otherwise, they could publicly debate or directly respond to the various allegations (some noted herein), as has often been offered.
The case can be made that MHI is facilitating violations of the Sherman Act. That carries criminal as well as potential civil penalties. There is a factual and evidence based legal argument to be made that MHI is also violating RICO laws, and perhaps supporting violations of the Hobbs Act too. Who makes that argument? Directly, Samuel Strommen with Knudson Law. More obliquely, James A. “Jim” Schmitz Jr. with Minnesota University and the Minneapolis Federal Reserve.
‘When Thurman Arnold was at DOJ, He, Colleagues Attempted to Protect Factory [Built] Housing Industry’ ‘Monopolies Sabotage, Destroy Markets’ – Prof Jim Schmitz to DOJ; plus Manufactured Home Equities
Our publications have used the full breadth of evidence from a range of sources:
- Mainstream media
- University, nonprofit, and federal research
- Industry bloggers and publishers
- MHI state affiliates
- MHI member firm’s publicly traded firms official statements
- Attorneys for MHI and/or their state affiliates
- Resident groups
Those sources have been scoured in recent years testing the notion that MHI and some of their dominating brands are consolidating the industry to the benefit of a few of their insider – and thus favored – brands.
While MHI claims to be working for “all segments” of the industry, that claim is demonstrably false. Untold tens of thousands of residents of MHI member communities who think their companies are “predatory” would deny that MHI is representing them in any normative sense.
In sports, there is an expression: “You are what your record says you are.” MHI isn’t necessarily what they claim. Rather, they are what their record says they are.
An MHI connected mid-level manager wrote MHProNews some weeks ago to say the following. “Crossmod has been a dismal failure and it sent a message to the rest of the HUD industry … you’re chopped liver; it actually helped the site builder get an entry level home but with little success. Mainstream [HUD Code manufactured housing] has been ignored… there is reason. Elephant in the room….”
This article reflects a reasonable summation of that MHI record. Their record is one of one failure after another, based on their own claims and “measurable” and objective standards.
Beyond other relevant news that keeps manufactured housing professionals informed, follow up reports planned by MHProNews will probe more closely some of MHI’s so-called “predatory” members in greater depth. They will document and reveal how they shed additional light on the symbiotic and problematic relationship between problems in our industry and how often they can be traced back to specific MHI members and/or MHI state association affiliate members. Stay tuned for that and more.
Stay tuned for more from your most complete source for “Intelligence for Your MHLife,” © where our facts, evidence and expert opinions like the above can be used by professional readers, advocates, researchers, and public officials in a useful “We Provide, You Decide” © fashion. ##
PSS: When faced with those in or out of manufactured housing that are seeking to shut down your concerns, find the courage and smartest ways to push back.
Again, our thanks to you, our sources, and sponsors and God for making and keeping us the runaway number one source for authentic “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © 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 MHProNews.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
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.