Really? “Bad bargain? Manufactured homeowners feel the financial strain, PBS NewsHour” MHProNews Flash Report and Analysis

PBSNewshourBadBargainManufacturedHomeOwnersFeelFinancialStrain-imagecredits-NYTimes=PBSNewshour-postedwithtags-MHProNews-400x224PBS NewsHours website has a paragraph below their video report aired on January 2, 2016 that reads as follows:

Twenty million Americans live in mobile, or manufactured, homes that offer affordable housing, particularly in rural parts of the country. Typically older and poorer than traditional homeowners, manufactured homeowners often face serious, unique financial difficulties that make it a bad bargain for some low-income Americans. NewsHour’s Stephen Fee reports.

The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) President, Richard “Dick” Jennison said in a pre-broadcast memorandum to association members that:

We have fully cooperated with the reporter and have tried to do our best to educate him on the dynamics of the manufactured housing industry, including challenges regarding legislation and regulations that are harming manufactured homeowners and our industry.  It is possible – even likely – that, for the sake of balance, the reporter has interviewed activists and others who do not share our views on the benefits of manufactured housing and the importance of legislative/regulatory reform of manufactured housing lending.”

The last part of this assertion proved accurate, as Carla Burr, an activist associated with Ishbel Dickens – who has publicly called businesses “the enemy” – was featured as a home owner in the PBS video.

The Daily Business News has Burr’s Congressional testimony from 2011, as a download on the article, linked here.

Jennison’s memo also stated that: “Dick Ernst, Chairman of MHI’s Financial Services Division, served as our spokesperson and was interviewed on camera at PBS’ Washington, DC-area studio for the segment.  Lesli Gooch and our PR consultant were onsite for the taping and felt that Dick did an excellent job representing the industry and our members.”

The subject of depreciation was one of the touch-points in the PBS report. Stephen Fee and what was aired failed to point out the obvious, namely, that conventional housing can appreciate or depreciate, as was dramatically evidenced from the mortgage crisis/housing crash of 2008 that lead to the so-called Great Recession. The same factors that cause appreciation and depreciation in the conventional housing world can cause appreciation or depreciation in a manufactured home.

The Inside MH video interview with Kim Capen, first published on at the report linked here, demonstrates that the PBS report was flawed on this point, among others. Capen clearly is not the stereotype portrayed by the report, which quoted Julia Gordon, of the National Community Stabilization Trust, saying: What concerns me is that people who buy manufactured homes often are lower income, perhaps less financially sophisticated, maybe have fewer options available to them. These are the very vulnerable consumers who need those protections the most.”

In this video interview, Capen clearly debunks the myth of depreciation being a given in manufactured homes. HUD Secretary Julian Castro praised manufactured housing, in a recent video, linked here.

Gordon was correct in saying earlier in the PBS’ news piece that Manufactured homes are not trailers — they’re actually meant to stay in one place.”

Another topic raised in the PBS NewsHour piece was financing. MHProNews advised Stephen Fee months ago about facts on manufactured home lending – including the often misunderstood issue of personal property, ‘chattel” or home only lending, contained in the in-depth report, linked here. That report also interviewed Dick Ernst, as well as CFED’s point person on manufactured home lending issues, Doug Ryan, and came to very different findings and conclusion than PBS’ story did. Fee’s PBS segment aired none of those facts presented.  Why not?

Which leads to the question: was the PBS NewsHour story another thinly veiled advocacy journalism piece, attacking manufactured home lending? See the recent debunking of the Seattle Times/BuzzFeed takedown piece, linked here.

Did no one at PBS do the Math?

Did Stephen Fee ask Burr to do the math on the increase in her land lease community’s site fees? Might that same level of increase – or more – have taken place in a rental property? Does dividing 30% by a decade yield a more modest sounding average of 3% a year?

And why didn’t Stephen Fee inquire of Burr how much the association fees were at the condo she previously lived at, or how much those fees went up in that same decade? How much were the real estate taxes on her condo?  How much did that change in that same decade?  These are all factors and issues that once understood, routinely favor manufactured housing.

Again, the same factors that cause appreciation or depreciation in conventional housing – demand, financing and market/economic conditions – are what cause appreciation or depreciation in manufactured homes. That is an issue that industry association’s should join MHLivingNews and MHProNews in educating their members in how to respond to, and should educate the general public on, so that more will properly understand and invest in manufactured housing.

Ironically and sadly, actions by Dicken’s, Burr and others who spew negative and inaccurate perspectives on manufactured housing and MH lending are actually undermining the value of their homes in the process, because they promote their false impressions in much of the general public’s mind. 

MHLivingNews will plan a more in depth review of this PBS NewsHour story in the days ahead. UPDATE.  MHLivingNews report, linked here. ##

The published transcript for the PBS NewsHour piece is linked here.

A contrasting view on the same issues is found at: Renter’s Nation – The Dark Side of Dodd-Frank and Its Impact on Affordable Housing

(Image credits – New York Times, PBS NewsHour and MHProNews added the graphics.)

L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach is one of the most widely recognized experts on manufacturd housing today.


Report by L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.

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