There are a range of journalistic reasons to provide a subject of an article, topic or series of reports an opportunity to respond. Those reasons include fairness, legal, foundational, and other potential factors. For those who blog or publish but are not engaged in a serious journalistic effort, those motivations for outreach to a source may not be considered. With that brief background in mind, MHProNews reached out yet again days ago to Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) staff and board leaders, as well as to two of “the Institute’s” outside attorneys to provide them an opportunity to respond to a recent post linked below. Public responses by email to that outreach came not from MHI, but rather from two of their current/prior members. Each of those were illuminating. As sophisticated and regular readers of the Masthead on MHProNews know, an editor’s blog is editorial opinion, but can obviously provide facts and evidence in support of that opinion. Additionally, it is noteworthy that MHProNews has for years had on the top right corner a tagline under our logo. It simply states that this manufactured housing trade publication presents “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use.” The reasons to consider MHI as relevant at all should be seen through the lens of how effective it is at standing up to the rest of its own stated goals, posturing, and claims vs the actual actions and industry outcomes experienced. To do that based on evidence, objective facts, and applied common sense that provided opportunities for feedback from the critiqued source is about as fair as it gets.
For those who may think that any public critique of MHI is tantamount to washing the industry’s dirty linen publicly, several problems exist. One is that such thinking implies MHI has dirty linen.
The nature of the ideals of American journalism include accountability for a subject institution of business, government, nonprofits, or individuals.
Those points noted, MHI’s lack of response to questions from MHProNews stand in stark contrast to years of prior stated or implied praise of this trade platform by MHI leaders who were senior staff as well as several elected board leaders. To later give ‘the silent treatment’ instead of a cogent reply is a junior high school level of immature response not fitting for an authentic trade group. That is especially so when this publication routinely uses MHI’s own words verbatim and then objectively critiques them based on facts, evidence, and applied common sense.
Those points noted, MHI “emeritus member” George F. Allen, a retired Marine officer with his own apparently problematic history on thorny legal and performance questions, decided to issue his own response to this writer for MHProNews that openly copied dozens of individuals who are corporate and MHI leaders. That was initially reported in the article linked below. Note, among the glitches by Allen is a typo on this writer’s last name, which is “Kovach,” not “Kovacs.” “Tony” is a nickname.
In keeping with our stated program for the week, this post will examine Allen’s core message and provide the response given to him.
MHI member emeritus Allen’s subject line read as follows:
“Stop the Name Calling and Plan How to Move the MHIndustry Ahead During This Affordable Housing Crisis in the U.S….george allen” Allen’s email was dated 4.9.2022 at 10:04 AM and included several Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) senior staff/board members, Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) members and top staff, plus other manufactured home industry company leaders. It is unknown how many may have been BCC’d in Allen’s message.
Needless to say, characterizing factual- and evidence-based critiques and analysis of MHI as ‘name calling’ is an apparent ‘tell’ or clue on Allen’s part as to his stance on what follows. The highlighting of what follows is added by MHProNews for reasons that will become clearer when the response by this writer was provided. But bold, typos, and other elements in Allen’s missive were as sent in his original, which were screen captured and can be seen at this link here.
Indeed, beyond MHARR – which speaks for themselves – it is MHLivingNews and MHProNews that has provided specific solutions for manufactured housing advancement for years. The very premise of both platforms was to provide news, information, and analysis that would address the root issues that are holding manufactured housing in low gear. After a period of some years, as the reply to Allen and his fellow MHI members/staff/attorneys makes clear, our firm’s leadership came to the sobering conclusion that MHI was part of the problem instead of part of the solution. So, after attempting to deal with that quietly behind the scenes for a time proved ineffective. Later, over time, increasingly exposing to readers specific examples of how MHI (staff and/or corporate) were failing the industry were the logical next step. So, it is fair to say that the Masthead disagrees with Allen’s assertion or negative spin.
That noted, much that Allen said is quite interesting. Here is the balance of Allen’s message up to his self-promotional plug of a PS.
Again, background highlighting added by the MHProNews Masthead to illustrate some points that will be useful later on. Highlighting or showing Allen’s comments should not be construed as an endorsement of him, his colleague Spencer Roane, MHI, or their respective interests.
Not good form to begin a communique with an apology, but this time around it’s a must. The six individuals named on the TO line above received, and perhaps read, the latest lengthy diatribe (‘a bitter & abusive denunciation’) of the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), by Tony Kovacs. In it he solicited responses to, presumably, be used in future commentaries about the institute and what he perceives as shortcomings representing the industry and its’ post-production segments.
If you’re reading this, and want a copy of said document, request it from Tony directly. I do not have the space or time here to replicate it. Sorry ’bout that. Now moving on…
I’ve been in and around this industry and its’ realty asset class (i.e. land lease communities) since 1978, and have experienced several ‘up & down’ shipment cycles perpetrated by regulatory and financial matters. Have also, as a businessman MHI member, worked under no fewer than six MHI executives. And during those 44 years I’ve vacillated from being an enthusiastic supporter to critic of the way the institute does things – or doesn’t do what I think they should. So I somewhat understand frustration that’s ‘out there’ today, especially with our industry shipping only 105,772 new HUD-Code homes during year 2021, in the midst of our nation’s affordable housing crisis. We should be shipping many more new homes nationwide.
A perennial ‘whipping boy’ has been criticism that MHI does not truly and fully advocate for the entire manufactured housing industry, especially its’ post-production segments (e.g. communities, finance, state associations, service, suppliers, et. al.). And, in a sense that’s understandable – if true, since the majority of the institute’s operating funds come in from the manufacturers division of MHI. And today, the majority of those funds presumably come from just three companies, i.e. The Big Three C: Clayton, Cavco, & Skyline/Champion. How’s the bromide go? ‘Follow the money!’
So, what to do about this contested matter? In my opinion, if Tony, MHARR, and others of like mind, really and truly believe lack of representation is pervasive, then plan and convene a national gathering for everyone interested in improving advocacy for the post-production segments of the manufactured housing industry! Seriously. And here’s a suggestion. Convene a national meeting on the 16th of August 2022, at or near the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, IN. After all, the day before on the 15th, we’ll see ten RV & MH pioneers/notable executives inducted in to the prestigious Hall of Fame at that location. Simply stay over that night and convene the next morning. And hey. I’ll be the first person to sign-up. And I can think of several others that will as well.
There’s precedent for this bold suggestion. On 31 August 1993, 19 portfolio owners/operators of (then) manufactured home communities met at a hotel in Indianapolis, IN., to plan how to ensure effective representation for the realty asset class in the years ahead. (This meeting occurred one year before the first ‘community REIT’ was launched). And up until that time, representation of 50,000+/- communities nationwide, was handled by a committee of volunteers at MHI meeetings. Result? On 1 January 1996, under the leadership of MHI executive Jim Ayotte, the National Communities Council (later designated, NCC division of MHI) began its’ work. Has it lived up to expectations? That’s the worthy subject of another future critique.
Bottom line, Tony & MHARR? If you, and others, truly believe the post-production segment of the manufactured housing industry needs better representation and advocacy than is presently the case, plan now how to resolve the matter and get started this year! In a word: ‘Put up or shut up!’
GFA … ##
Interesting reply, thanks.
Let’s break down what you just sent in reply to presumably the following link. If my guess is in error, by all means, please clarify.
That said, quoting per George F. Allen’s (GFA) email below:
- “So I somewhat understand frustration that’s ‘out there’ today, especially with our industry shipping only 105,772 new HUD-Code homes during year 2021, in the midst of our nation’s affordable housing crisis. We should be shipping many more new homes nationwide.”
- “A perennial ‘whipping boy’ has been criticism that MHI does not truly and fully advocate for the entire manufactured housing industry, especially its’ post-production segments (e.g. communities, finance, state associations, service, suppliers, et. al.). And, in a sense that’s understandable…”
- .”..since the majority of the institute’s operating funds come in from the manufacturers division of MHI. And today, the majority of those funds presumably come from just three companies, i.e. The Big Three C: Clayton, Cavco, & Skyline/Champion. How’s the bromide go?‘ Follow the money!'”
For clarity, it isn’t just “Tony and MHARR” who has raised the concerns about the Arlington-based Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) trade association as ironically GFA himself has acknowledged in a post commenting (arguably errantly) about Samuel “Sam” Strommen from Knudson Law. Strommen is an industry outsider and legal researcher looking in at manufactured housing. He came to much the same conclusion that our years of research, reports, and analysis have yielded. This quote and linked commentary makes that point.
To Allen’s suggestion of holding a meeting, it might sound okay, but there is an obvious flaw to that perhaps well intentioned red herring. There is ample evidence that industry pros are routinely not willing to publicly challenge the status quo openly, perhaps due to the 21st Mortgage effect. Who wants to be the next company or individual that gets the shiv?
Note that neither Tim Williams/21st, nor Kevin Clayton, nor Berkshire Hathaway board members/attorney Ron Olson denied the authenticity of the base letter from 21st.
That letter is what Strommen said is a prima facia case of an antitrust violation that involves a prominent MHI member brand. Recall that Tim/21st was an MHI chairman. Note too the timing of that letter January 2009, wasn’t that shortly after the start of the Obama-Biden Administration? Recall who Warren Buffett prominently supported in a public fashion that election cycle, wasn’t it Obama-Biden that year, and then Hillary Clinton in the next?
While I’m not speaking for MHARR, my expert opinion has been that obviously that some who have been, or previously were, involved MHI have also been critical of MHI’s ‘leadership.’ Some recent history makes the point.
More recently, Kurt Kelley’s MHR published an announcement that is essentially an insult to MHI’s failure to defend manufactured housing with the mainstream media.
George and all. Note that neither the backers of that MHR announced ‘project’ were willing to step out of the shadows? Who did they use as a spokesperson? Someone from outside of MHVille, see the report.
When Kurt, Frank, Dave and others were asked about their ties to this effort, all were silent. So, if those were the players behind the scenes, even some in MHVille with reasonably deep pockets are critiquing MHI virtually and without stepping forward and claiming ‘credit.’ So, well intended or not, George, your notion has been tried and/or ducked by others who think there is a need for some post-production trade group that clearly think MHI isn’t getting the job done properly.
There is fear out there, which is why I also mention the Hobbs Act and RICO.
The fact that MHI, Berkshire brand leaders, some of the mouthpieces and cheerleaders have been invited to do an in person and/or virtual debate of industry issues and the lack of performance. But they decline engaging in such a debate. Doesn’t that failure to speak up reveal much? That pattern of MHI ducking public accountability has gone on for years, as was documented in the visual and written report linked below.
But let’s pivot back in time to a phase when Allen had not yet cut a purported deal with MHI that brokered a true between them. Here is what he said in those days, per his own blog posts.
And who could forget this next one, George or any others willing to weigh in with evidence-based thoughts and logic instead of slurs or distractions?
To George’s credit, he obviously reads MHProNews, as do virtually all in this thread.
I’m told on good authority that since the exchange by Lesli Gooch and Ivory Mewborn that MHI has done nothing further on this opportunity to get enhanced preemption enforced by using MHI’s legal team.
There are reasons why our reports are apparently read more than anyone else who blogs or pubishes in the manufactured home industry. It is because we lay out FACTs, EVIDENCE, and then apply common sense. We also have a memory and a sense of history. Would whoever is behind the latest ‘new’ post-production association effort have launched via Kelley’s MHR if MHI had actually followed through on Tim Williams’ promises and statements below?
Note Williams sent that to MHProNews for publication. He also sent the following.
And perhaps therein lies the dilemma, from Berkshire and MHI’s perspective. There are too many pieces of evidence of those folks praising our work and objectivity and then later ducking out. That pivot by them occured after we realized what the devil was seemingly going on in MHVille that explains why the industry is underperforming, which GFA is obviously correct in observing.
For those who need a factual refresher, here is where Warren Buffett apparently contradicted the claims made by Tim Williams in the January 2009 letter above.
And this is where Tom Hodges echoes the “moat” principle, with so much more evidence.
And as to the harm done by all of this? Ironically, turn to Kevin Clayton, who told Congress under penalties of perjury the following.
That same testimony to Congress, linked below, includes statements on enhanced preemption. So, we have top people at Berkshire, perhaps the most powerful people involved at MHI, spelling out what is needed to advance the industry. That begs the question. Then why have those with deep pockets not sued the feds, or towns like Ayden, NC that violate the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of (MHIA) 2000? Why not sue the FHFA, or the GSEs, to get the Duty to Serve manufactured home financing enforced?
To close the loop on apparent failures, fumbles, front- and back-stabs, MHI’s stunning admission in their own email on the DOE energy issue speaks volumes.
Let’s sum up.
1) GFA admits that the industry should be doing far more in sales. On that, Allen and myself would concur. So too did prior MHI president, Richard “Dick” Jennison.
2) So, MHI is on record, with documentation available that Tim Williams/21st was in the loop for that comment, that the industry should be doing 500,000 new home sales. I think that is still low, but it is supported by other evidence.
3) There are MHI leaders, including from Berkshire brands, but others too that say that the industry should be doing far more in sales than it has been. Let’s use Cavco’s leader as an example, just for fun.
4) Warren Buffett is on record saying he has no apologies for Clayton’s affiliated lending.
5) Democratic lawmakers used the phrase ‘near monopoly’ with respect to Clayton and their lending.
6) Doug Ryan publicly accused MHI of de facto providing cover for Clayton/Berkshire lending.
7) While Lesli Gooch denied that claim at the time, Tim Williams/21st in a session at an MHI meeting reportedly said he was glad that the Duty to Serve pilot project had failed. Note he said this months before the actual announcement, now how did Tim know that would happen? Magic? Or did he have insider information?
8) It has been a year since the FHFA posted this on their website, from this page:
Is this statement. Note Gooch and others were on the virtual session when this statement below was made. It followed a similar statement in Washington D.C. in 2019 when Gooch and I were both in the same room, along with officials and others.
That statement to the FHFA outlines through a series of quotes and linked evidence why manufactured housing is underperforming. Has MHI, the Berkshire brands, or any of their mouthpieces responded to it? Not that I’m aware of…
9) So, we’ve tried to do what we can to inform the industry and the general public.
10) And as always, we stand up for the good news about manufactured housing, not just the problems.
So, George. If someone wants to challenge any of those facts, evidence, viewpoints, or analysis, we’ve offered to do so face to face in public or virtually, as Andy Gedo and I did a few years ago.
Why is the industry underperforming? There are several reasons. But GFA has a point when he says that three letters that bear attention are MHI. The fact that state associations need to either continue to feed us periodic tips and/or actually stand up publicly and fight back, is a given. Either tips or public fighting back vs. MHI is better than nothing.
Because the status quo benefits a few while harming millions. That’s this expert’s opinion and contention, based on the evidence.
The fact that MHI, their attorneys, Berkshire, their corporate leaders and attorneys won’t try to defend that evidence, well, that says something doesn’t it?
Huh. I guess MHI wants to know what we say, and has either figured out it is true, or they are unwilling to expose themselves to possible litigation where discovery could open up records that they may rather keep hidden.
I’d like to see someone for MHI, Berkshire, et al try to defend their record publicly. The fact that they don’t is perhaps an indicator why some have tried, so far unsuccessfully, to launch an alternative to MHI that actually means what they claim to stand for – a group that represents all segments of the industry, which ought to include consumer interests! Who said that? Former MHI President Chris Stinebert.
Avoid red herrings, cheap slurs, or artful dodges, and deal with the facts, evidence, and reason. I’ll debate this in any reasonable venue, virtual or public. MHI? Berkshire brands? Other MHI Board members, attorneys, or corporate leaders? Anyone willing to debate these publicly with evidence?
Or, in the alternative, let the various players involved do their public “mea culpa,” and prove their sincerity by beginning a series of lawsuits that advances the industry’s interests, instead of threatening those who have the chutzpah to point out that there are those who are long on talk, short on action.
I rest the outline of my evidence-based expert opinion case. Anyone ready to debate the other side of that case?
Tony … ##
In response, Allen colleague Spencer Roane did precisely what the above asked not be done. Namely, to avoid slurs and stick to facts, evidence, and reason-based viewpoints. In response to Roane’s lowbrow tactic, was this reply.
Spencer, this is George’s list, not mine. That said, slurs without evidence are a Saul Alinsky tactic. Odd that you would be using such slurs, given your history:
Much more could be said, but those links are plenty to digest. Briefly, neither Allen, Roane, or MHI communicated further in that thread.
A funny thing about facts and evidence. It is routinely a useful way to shut up those who posture but fail to perform. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was quite right. People are entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts. Facts are, by definition, objective reality. Facts are not subject to change by opinion.
Allen was correct in saying manufactured housing was underperforming. Better to be late to that dance than not come at all. MHProNews has made that argument virtually since day one, as it was part of the premise of the launch of this platform over a dozen years ago. Perhaps the reason that industry professionals and others interested in the truth about MHVille flock here by the thousands daily is because we spotlight reality. Once the causes of underperformance are understood, implementing solutions becomes easier. For an example, see the recent fact-check of another pair of “proud” MHI members, linked below.
Stay tuned for more of what is ‘behind the curtains’ as well as what is obvious and in your face reporting that are not found anywhere else in MHVille. It is all here, which may explain why this is the runaway largest and most-read source for authentic manufactured home “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.
Biloxi Manufactured Housing Show Compared to Louisville, Tunica, and Prior Manufactured Housing Industry Trade Shows – Show Ways Unlimited Tips – Lessons, Tips, Facts of Import for Brighter MH and Trade Show Future
“Trailerpalooza” to Manufactured Homes “Boomerang” Effect – Affordable Housing Crisis, Nov 2021 Manufactured Housing Production Data – 2022 SWOT Analysis – Housing Crisis Spells Danger and Opportunity
Darren Krolewski, Co-President at MHVillage and publisher of their MHInsider magazine made another bold claim in their most recent issue. As regular and close readers of MHProNews fact-checks may recall, a problematic claim was made in their prior issue too, and no known correction of that factual error took place.