“Why not half-a-million [new manufactured home shipments]?
We can get there.” –
– Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison, President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI),
Assurance made while addressing attendees of prior Louisville Manufactured Housing Show. Recorded on video by MHProNews.
“The key question, then, for the industry, its representatives and its consumers, is why is the HUD Code industry — both over the longer-term and currently – not doing better? In a climate of significant economic growth, job creation (with unemployment at an 18-year low) and wage growth (with an average hourly wage of $22.95 per hour, an all-time high) on the one hand, and increasingly unaffordable prices and interest rates for other types of homes and other types of consumer home loans on the other – and with HUD Code manufacturers today producing their best homes ever at the most affordable prices ever (both inherently and relative to other types of housing) – why is the industry not producing and selling hundreds-of-thousands of homes each and every year?”
– Mark Weiss, JD, President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR),
in his latest MHARR Issues and Perspectives, entitled “The Illusion of Motion Versus Real-World Challenges.”
Imagine for a few moments a casual outside observer who is mildly aware of the U.S. affordable housing crisis. Picture that observer reading those two quoted comments. They might believe that the presidents of each national manufactured housing trade association both believe that half a million – or perhaps more – new HUD Code manufactured home shipments is achievable.
Indeed Jennison and Weiss both have said so publicly.
The question should then logically turn to the last phrase uttered by Weiss. Given a robust economy, and several other cited factors, why isn’t manufactured housing already doing 500,000 or more new home shipments annually? Why is the industry only hoping to hit a mere 100,000 in 2018’s final tally?
Weiss’ query is a variation of the valid question that the Urban Institute posed as their headline last year.
Here’s how the Urban Institute’s four experienced researchers phrased it, “Manufactured homes could ease the affordable housing crisis. So why are so few being made?”
Three different nonprofit organizations. ‘Leaders’ from all three have publicly said, there should be more sales.
So what’s going wrong?
Weiss seeks to answer that question in his thesis behind the “illusion of motion” theme.
“Motion – or, more accurately, activity – in and of itself, is not necessarily synonymous with, or equivalent to, real progress, or, in fact, any progress at all,” stated Weiss.
“Recent reports emerging from elsewhere within the universe of organizations representing the manufactured housing industry paint a uniformly rosy picture of almost non-stop engagement, dialogue, meetings, conferences, photo-opportunities (presumably to prove the reality of the supposed engagement, dialogue, meetings and conferences) and other related confabs, particularly at the national level,” wrote Weiss.
At almost the same time as Weiss’ analysis and commentary were being published by MHARR at this link here, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) was sending out their latest emailed ‘news and updates.’ The MHI item opened with a photo of MHI Executive Vice President (EVP), Lesli Gooch, another MHI Member, and the newly appointed head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection. It featured this picture, shown below.
MHARR also sent out a email yesterday with their comments, which appeared on MHProNews, at this link here.
Meanwhile, where on the MHI website does MHI’s photo opportunity and latest missive from 1.23.2019 appear?
At least according to a search of the MHI website, using the MHI search tool, nowhere. See the screen capture a day after their email was sent, shown below.
“Feel Good,” and the “Illusion of Motion”
Why doesn’t MHI’s own ‘feel good,’ ‘all is progressing well’ mantra appear on MHI’s own website? Given that MHARR wants their thoughts to appear as widely as possible, and gives the rights to reproduce it with their emails, why by contrast does MHI restrict that right to reproduce their messages to only those who parrot their Arlington, VA based trade group’s party line?
Why does MHI themselves fail to show their own narrative publicly on their own website? Do they not want their words to be later referenced, and thus create a measure of accountability for having said them?
These are the types of reasonable questions that award-winning investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson style suggests should be asked, as one debunks ‘real news’ from ‘fake news.’
Attkisson says, follow the evidence, and follow the money. That’s reminiscent of what MHI award-winner Marty Lavin, JD said, who has added, ‘pay more attention to what people do that what they say.’ Meaning, do the words spoken later line up with the deeds of those who said them?
Four years have elapsed since Richard the ‘Dick’ Jennison said 500,000 new home shipments could be achieved. Why then is the manufactured housing industry still mired at roughly 100,000 new HUD Code manufactured home (MH) shipments? Who is accountable for that self-evident post-production failure?
Which firms – does low new factory-built home production help? Who does low new MH production harm?
It should be noted that about 4 years have gone by since MHI mysteriously removed their previous blanket permission to MHProNews to republish anything MHI emailed or otherwise produced. That practice of MHProNews republishing MHI content was initiated by former MHI President, Thayer Long.
For a time, during both Long’s and Jennison’s tenures, MHI paid MHProNews to promote their events, and share their information.
What happened since then? Where is the logic of hiding or restricting MHI content? What is there to hide in MHI ‘news and updates’ or ‘housing alerts’ when they are emailed out, given that others can forward the content anyway?
Perhaps related is this. Why does MHI hire an outside law firm – the same law firm with an office in former MHI Chairman Nathan Smith’s hometown that their general counsel Rick Robinson comes from before joining MHI – to threaten in writing MHProNews for reproducing for fact-checking purposes MHI’s logo and other materials? Doesn’t that outside attorney know about the broad right of news media to reproduce for fact-checks and analysis granted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the courts? Don’t Graydon attorneys watch CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News all showing each other’s news clips and logos?
Which begs this question. Why did MHI even bother with their arguably faux threat from lawyers? Which, by the way, is only one in a series of such threats over the course of several years from attorneys acting purportedly on behalf of MHI. Note that those threats from attorneys aimed at this trade media began while MHProNews’ parent company was still a member of that Arlington, VA based trade group.
While MHProNews was still a member of MHI, during an analysis of MHI claims, this publication juxtaposed MHI’s former VP Jason Boehlert’s own words, with that of the promises being made by Jennison. Or contrasted Boehlert’s written quote with then MHI Chairman Tim Williams, President and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (Omaha, NE) owned 21st Mortgage Corp (Knoxville, TN metro, near Berkshire owned Clayton Homes).
Isn’t it reasonable to see if MHI’s VP and chairman are being consistent?
Isn’t it equally reasonable to see if Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett and Tim Williams are consistent?
In fact, they were inconsistent on Preserving Access. But perhaps the most famous inconsistency – at least to this sustainable pro-growth publication’s better informed readers – is documented at this link here.
MHI’s president Jennison – during the same talk spotlighted in the opening quotation above promised the industry the passage of the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act. Jennison promised that passage, while he knew he was being video taped by MHProNews.
Oddly, Jason Boehlert said differently. To be polite for the moment, they were inconsistent.
While commentators will be picking over the remains of the 2012 elections for weeks to come and discussing what the political landscape will look like over the coming year and what impact the elections will have as Congress prepares to return for a lame-duck session, MHI wanted to provide members with some feedback and analysis of the immediate aftermath and outlook for the coming weeks.
The Daily Business News on MHProNews later publicized those inconsistencies.
2015 was the last year that MHProNews was ‘allowed’ to host the educational events at Louisville. Praised for years by Midwest Manufactured Housing Federation (MMHF) leaders, why was MHProNews suddenly cut off?
Is MHARR’s Mark Weiss thesis correct? Is there an illusion of motion being created by MHI and flatterers of theirs in an echo chamber of ‘feel good’ – but nevertheless fake – MHI news?
Weiss said, “As President Ronald Reagan famously said, though, “facts are stubborn things.” And the irrefutable facts that are emerging from behind the veil of “group-think” (defined as “a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome”), unfortunately, show that the happy-talk is just that – talk — a veneer designed to create an “illusion of motion” regarding the critical issues that helped tank industry progress and prosperity a decade ago and continue to needlessly restrain and undermine its recovery, growth and development years later, even as the need for affordable, non-subsidized homeownership reaches new heights every day.”
MHI sent out an email at almost the same time that confirmed the pattern that rival MHARR’s president had just published. How could Weiss have known that? Or is it rather because of years observing a pattern of that same “illusion of motion” activity?
Weiss cites the late President Reagan saying, “facts are stubborn things.”
MHProNews has for some time similarly said, “Facts are nettlesome things.”
Each point to a parallel reality that MHI award-winner Marty Lavin’s or Sharyl Attkisson’s reasoning point toward. Pay more attention to what people do than to what they say, plus ‘follow the evidence,’ ‘follow the facts,’ and ‘follow the money.’
Why are there other MH industry trade media – that metaphorically kisses MHI and the Berkshire Hathaway – Clayton Homes – 21st Mortgage asses – while only MHARR or MHProNews consistently follow facts, evidence, and money?
It was an MHI-only member producer last fall that tipped MHProNews about the coming drop-off in new home shipments. Other sources within MHI confirmed it for the Daily Business News on MHProNews. Then, the new manufactured home shipment data – collected by IBTS on behalf of HUD – weeks later confirmed it.
Why didn’t MHI signal what they surely must have known was coming? Instead, the produced more feel good, cheerleading ‘news and updates,’ a pricey video that touted how great they are, and apparently promoted similarly weaponized MHI ‘educational events.’
Meanwhile, part-time MHI apologist and sycophant George F. (F?) Allen gives MHI cover by calling for a “boycott” of MHProNews? Did Allen – and the state association executive he claimed concurred with this call for a boycott – realize that such collusion to rig a market is an element of antitrust law?
Did the apparently pro-MHI senders of thinly-veiled threats sent by U.S. Mail to MHProNews which used the hashtag #NettlesomeThings realize that such a misuse of the U.S. Mail can be a predicate crime in a federal RICO case?
Follow the Facts, Money, Evidence, and Reason
There are only a few logical possibilities. Let’s examine them, starting in the light of new home production data, that both MHI’s president and MHARR’s president have publicly suggested could be 500,000 shipments – or more.
First, recall that in the early 1990s, HUD Code manufactured home shipments were rapidly able to ramp up. They doubled in a roughly 3 year period. So there is no technical reason why that it can’t be done again.
The story of Rollohome likewise reflects an ability to go from zero to 60,000 new homes shipped by a single production center in only a 2-year period, from startup.
In fact, given the hundreds of billions of dollars flowing into the U.S. from the repatriation provisions of the 2017 tax cuts, there is ample sources of capital to expand.
Legacy Housing’s recent successful IPO likewise reflects the reality that capital can be attracted into the manufactured housing production and retail sectors.
So there is capital available.
There is also strong demand for affordable housing. As MHProNews has often since referenced, but is oddly missing from the MHI website, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) – among numerous third party organizations in 2018 – said that manufactured housing quality is high, as MHARR’s Weiss has said. NAR also noted the need and logical “case” for using more manufactured homes.
Why are such details missing from MHI’s website? Why do they posture activities – the “illusion of motion” – which year-after-year yields little-to-no discernible improvement?
“This “good news” [from MHI and their toadies] all the time meme, in turn, is replicated, repeated and touted by those who, for whatever reason, have determined that it is to their advantage to do so. Indeed, an entire new publication has appeared with the apparent mission of wet-nursing this meme. Meanwhile, others touting and promoting the new meme, urge industry-wide “boycotts” – the intellectual equivalent of book-burning — of anyone who dares question the legitimacy of the meme, or the possible motives of some of its proponents,” said Weiss on 1.23.2019.
As MHI/NCC member Frank Rolfe observed – before he was apparently pressured or politely nudged into silence – if it is good news, MHI won’t react to. If it is bad news, MHI won’t react to that either. Here’s how Rolfe says it, misusing the lingo, but is nevertheless arguably correct.
Since then, MHVillage’s co-President Darren Krolewski, launched the publication that Weiss is apparently referencing. That publication features George F (F?) Allen, among other MHI cheerleaders. The ‘big boy’ and “MH Insider” companies – or perhaps those caught up in the “illusion of motion” – have their ads in it.
But what’s missing are readers in anything like the numbers found here on MHProNews. The proof was suggested at Louisville or Tunica last year, as the photo below attests.
There are independents who no doubt buy into the MHI “illusion of motion” BS.
But there are also those who know stink when they smell it. That’s why some MHI insiders are sources for MHProNews. It must be noted that several state associations are weaponized, but 2 others broke away rejecting MHI’s failed leadership. Other state executives are among our quiet sources, while others as Allen made clear, are all-in on the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis, for whatever reasons.
What is MHI’s response to such claims? Silence, or rather, a call for a boycott by their stooge F (F?) Allen. A boycott of whom and why? Obviously of those who like MHARR or this trade media dare state what years of evidence has made obvious to those who have the courage to speak truth to the powers that be.
There are only a few logical possibilities.
The new HUD Code manufactured home shipment numbers are what they are. The ‘Dick’ Jennison, who is paid bonuses per MHI’s form 990 (bonuses for achieving what?) can’t walk back what he said on stage 4 years ago in a video recorded statement made in front of dozens of industry professionals.
We are publicly holding the powers that be and their puppets accountable.
So, here’s what common sense should tell an objective thinker.
- What we at MHProNews have come to call the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies either — a) know how to grow the industry’s new home shipment levels, b) or they don’t know, or c) something in between a) and b).
- If that axis knows how to grow results, why are the results demonstrably lacking? Isn’t the ultimate measurement found in new HUD Code manufactured home shipment and production reports?
- If that Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies don’t know how to grow results, why do they keep posturing their expertise?
- Or are Clayton and the Berkshire brands in MHVille with select allies waiting to unveil and consistently proclaim and defend the truth of modern manufactured homes, at a point in time of their own choosing? Perhaps when the axis doesn’t think they can’t consolidate more of the industry into their strategic/economic Moat?
As the years tick by, the “illusion of motion” when compared to the data reflects the concerns MHARR and MHProNews have uniquely spotlighted. All others are logically duped by the deception, or are perhaps afraid to challenge the deceivers, or have not yet awakened to the reality.
What we know with certainty is this. From organizations large to small, friends and foes of the axis, plus those in the middle, are all readers here on MHProNews.
The most common words shared are what MHI/NCC member Bryan Gallagher said in an on-the-record recent statement, linked here, “Thanks for your [MHProNews] efforts on behalf of the [manufactured home] industry.”
A Man Has to Know
Clint Eastwood’s character Dirty Harry famously said in a movie, “A man has to know his own limitations.” So true.
This writer acknowledged on several occasions having been partially oblivious to what Weiss aptly calls, “the Illusion of Motion.” Magic tricks seem to work, but only until the trick – the method behind the illusion – is revealed. The same is true for confidence or “con man” schemes, which if they seek to defraud another, are a possible crime.
Paraphrasing the brilliant author, G.K. Chesterton, what’s worth doing, is worth doing badly, until it is done well. Gilbert Keith (G.K. Chesterton) also said that the perfect is sometimes the enemy of the good.
We frankly acknowledge that we are far from perfect in our editing here, but are grateful for the MHI only members’ observation in the quote at the left. Especially so in the light of Chesterton’s points. FMHA’s Jim Ayotte observed that one can only act based upon information that is known at the time.
We juggle many balls for ethical, sustainable growth-focused clients, plus publish more daily news than anyone in our industry’s history. We strive to accurately convey reality. In response to that, MHI removed this publication’s parent operation from their membership. More recently, MHI allied MHVillage launched MHInsider. Interesting?
MHI and the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies have built an echo chamber that parrot their latest talking points. It apparently doesn’t matter if it is consistent, contradictory or not. Which explains why MHI hides the own records of their own emailed statements. Otherwise some motivated truth seeker could do more easily what has been done herein by saving and researching their actions, inactions, and patterns of behavior. Where did their leadership take MHVille? M
To 100,000 (+/-) new home shipments vs. the 500,000 that the Dick Jennison pledged on stage at Louisville 4 years ago.
From a lay person’s view of the law, one might think that MHI is potentially guilty of a ‘deceptive trade practices.’ MHI promoted and promised one thing, while apparently either failing or actively doing another.
Low levels of production debatably foster the consolidation of the industry’s independents into ever fewer hands, and at discounted prices. Because if sales levels were higher, business values would be worth more.
Keep in mind, there are several federal investigators on various aspects of these matters. MHProNews knows this independent of the Seattle Times, or the local Knoxville news video posted below.
Metaphorically Taking the 5th
There are reasons why the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis and their allies won’t directly explain or publicly debate these concerns raised by MHARR or MHProNews. Instead, their surrogates try to kill or silence the messengers, as the call for a boycott and related market rigging reflects.
Clayton et al have been slowly consolidating the industry into their own hands and into those of allied companies. That includes buying out MHARR members, and also apparently pressuring MHProNews advertisers into no longer advertising, though our sponsors routinely said they were happy with the results.
But Legacy Housing demonstrated that it’s safe and pays to support this pro-growth trade media.
The truth becomes evident, once the patterns of action and the evidence is carefully examined. The need for a new post-production association is but one step in the path towards resolving the arguably artificial causes of our industry’s malaise.
At Louisville, get ready to be an industry citizen journalist. More on that just before the Louisville Show opens.
Watch for it, get ready to question the MHI staff, or others in the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis. Sign up for the industry’s most read publication’s headline news emails, to the bottom right, below. Understanding is where the cure for what ails MHVille begins, and next steps are already quietly underway. Watch for significant developments, already on our radar, to be reported in the days ahead. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, commentary, and analysis.)
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.com.
Tony is the multiple award-winning managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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