Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, M.D., has demonstrably done much since taking his oath of office to advance a proper understanding of manufactured homes.
In fairness, his predecessor Julian Castro, made a video that praised manufactured housing too.
While the next video interview with then Secretary Castro unfavorably used “trailer” terminology, the former mayor of San Antonio and current 2020 Democratic presidential nomination hopeful, nevertheless stressed the need for manufactured homes as an affordable housing option. Castro also stressed the need for resident protections, years before Last Week Tonight with Joy Oliver’s viral video misnamed “Mobile Homes” did.
Thus, videos and interviews by Dr. Carson as a HUD Secretary highlighting manufactured homes are not totally unique. There have been years of bipartisan efforts involving manufactured homes in this decade and previous ones too.
That is as it should be as affordable housing has been and remains a crisis.
It is also arguably part of HUD’s mandate that such pro-manufactured home statements and efforts fulfill.
Manufactured housing is the private sector solution to this problem, as Secretary Carson has underscored in various ways since taking on his new role. The evidence suggests he has been doing more to promote manufactured homes and other private sector innovative housing options than any HUD Secretary in the 21st century.
One can say he has built upon the foundation laid by his predecessor. Indeed, the two echo the case made by a bipartisan group of Minnesota lawmakers who cited the facts that point to manufactured homes being an important part of the solution for the affordable housing crisis. The recent event on the National Mall, reflected in 2 of the videos above, was positive and could be potentially useful for the industry to clarify outdated misconceptions.
But all of that begs several questions for the inquiring mind. For example:
How is it that during an ongoing affordable housing crisis, given all the useful facts and evidence, that the market share of manufactured homes has declined in the overall percentage of new housing starts?
How is it that the use of the pejorative and inaccurate term “trailer” has grown in recent years, instead of diminished?
What most think of as “mobile homes” has not been built in the U.S. since June 15, 1976. It was on that date, now some 43 years ago, that the mobile home era ended and the federally regulated HUD Code “manufactured home” era dawned. These are construction, safety, and energy standard differences, not just marketing nomenclature.
Mobile homes served a useful and important purpose prior to the HUD Code. Millions of pre-HUD code mobile homes are still serving as some of the nation’s most affordable homes, often with updates added since they were first built.
Indeed, the HUD Code manufactured home industry has over two decades or positive, third-party research to back up the claim that it is the most proven form of permanent affordable housing used in the United States today.
Which again begs questions. With so much useful data and evidence, why has manufactured housing been the solution for the affordable housing crisis that is hiding in plain sight?
Earlier this year, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform’s (MHARR) Mark Weiss, JD, used an interesting phrase to capture what he and his colleagues believe is an “Illusion of Motion” at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). It was a new way to illustrate prior claims that MHI has been failing the industry’s post-production efforts.
The “Illusion of Motion” built upon a research study from MHARR President and CEO Weiss in November of 2017. That MHARR study demonstrated a need for a new body to represent communities, retailers, lenders, and others who are “post-production” operations. Producers, in this context, are those who build HUD Code manufactured homes, which MHARR itself is, as they state that they represents the interests of independent producers of HUD Code manufactured homes.
Post-production topics are those issues that arise after a home leaves the factory.
Those post-production issues would include, but are not be limited to, zoning, placement, and financing issues.
Is MHARR alone in such concerns? Hardly.
Some manufactured home community associations broke from MHI, saying something similar. Neal Haney, who in 2018 co-founded the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners (NAMHCO), said before their trade group was formalized why they broke from MHI in the first place.
Publicly traded UMH President and CEO and MHI member said the following.
Another MHI community sector member was more specific, pointing to financing related issues.
But to Landy’s and Lipshutz’s points, wasn’t it Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which includes MHI dominating forces such as Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corporation, and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance, that supported presidential candidates that in turn backed the legislation that was the source of complaints like those cited above?
Or why hasn’t Berkshire Hathaway used their dozens of BH Media Group and other media resources to clear up the mysteries about manufactured homes?
Or ponder what MHI member Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds of controversial RV Horizons – said this as part of a longer statement issued on June 1, 2019.
Mysterious Disconnects and Apparent Ineffectiveness, Why?
This pro-industry trade publication, our sister operations such as consulting, and our the general public focused Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews) were MHI members for some 7 years. MHProNews and MHLivingNews were praised by several MHI elected and staff leaders, as what follows demonstrates.
By way of disclosure, ours is a for-profit organization, that has been supported at various times by MHARR, MHI, and companies which are members of each trade group. Our editorial stance is demonstrably based upon a simple premise. That the manufactured housing industry is much needed, misunderstood, and should be performing far better during an affordable housing crisis.
We’ve supported and led the way on educational initiatives, such as fact, evidence, and third-party commentary focused MHLivingNews. As pro-consumer, pro-free enterprise trade media, and as industry experts/consultants/service providers, we have long believed that manufactured homes are a nonpartisan or bipartisan solution for the need for affordable housing.
The homes our industry produces routinely serve the nation with no-taxpayer subsidies.
At various times, we’ve questioned the efforts of a variety of trade groups, based upon the evidence known at that time. So those MHI surrogates that allege differently are demonstrably mistaken. It’s our follow-the-evidence, facts, common sense, patterns, and the money-trail that has made and kept us the runaway most-read trade media in our industry’s history. The top people and management in MHI companies, MHARR member firms, or among non-association aligned companies of all sizes have told us that they are regular readers.
That’s not said to brag, but rather to clarify that we’re not crackpots on the sidelines spouting nonsensical conspiracy theories. We cite sources accurately, provide evidence, follow-the-money trail, and give those we question in our fact-checks the opportunity to respond. As recently as a few days ago, MHI’s and Berkshire’s manufactured home corporate leaders were given an opportunity to explain concerns like those noted herein.
Their response? No comment.
Given that MHI leaders themselves have praised us publicly, that begs more questions.
Why on various occasions have their general counsel, or outside attorneys for MHI, threatened us in writing over evidence-based reports? Note that after several years of that, they’ve never taken legal action; perhaps wisely so. Because how would they justify a suit against an operation that they’ve praised? Or how do they attack a trade media source whose goal is to see the industry grow to its potential? Wouldn’t a suit open them up to a counter-suit, that could lead via discovery to them being forced to disclose information that they’ve withheld when requested in recent years?
The evidence suggests that the powers that be in MHVille praised us up until our fact-checks and analysis apparently made them too uncomfortable. But instead of disproving or explaining away the concerns raised here, they stopped responding, and used other tactics instead. Besides legal and other threats, they apparently lined up surrogates. One of them is the one that follows.
Let’s note here that success in an industry – honestly earned – is not what we’re called out. Antitrust laws are not designed to punish success, as a former DOJ antitrust professional recently said. However, various kinds of bad behavior may be violations of antitrust or other laws. That’s what our concerns are aimed at. Evidence and allegations of violations of the law.
Does Monopolistic Machinations Explain Why MHI Is Ineffective? Or Why Manufactured Housing Has Retreated Since Berkshire Bought Clayton Homes?
Which begs perhaps the most salient points at this time in the wake of what is properly understood as a positive week by Secretary Carson’s Innovative Housing Showcase.
For all of the positive and apt points that Dr. Carson has raised, why has he never mentioned “enhanced preemption?”
– Is it possible that HUD staff – that certainly must be aware of that provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000) – has not told him about the enhanced preemption of manufactured housing passed by Congress in a bipartisan way, which was signed into law by President Bill Clinton?
– Is it possible that MHARR’s letter addressed to Secretary Carson on enhanced preemption was not provided to him?
– Is it possible that MHI has not raised and pressed this issue of , in their several meetings with HUD staff?
But for now, let’s point to our recent report on that in the linked text-image box below, and then press on to what is shaping up as a serious issue in the approaching 2020 presidential and congressional campaigns.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Other 2020 Democratic Candidates, Affordable Housing, and Manufactured Homes
“There is an affordable housing crisis in this country,” says Senator Elizabeth Warren in the video below. “That’s why we are here. A safe, stable, affordable home is the foundation for almost everything else in our lives.”
That statement by Senator Warren is every bit as accurate as the ones by HUD Secretary Carson who has said similarly, in his own words.
Note that at the time that Senator Warren made this comment in the MHAction video below, MHProNews was not yet aware of the financial connections between Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corporation, Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF), and numerous other interests that are directly engaged in the manufactured housing industry. Buffett bucks fund the Tides nonprofit, which in turn funds MHAction. Restated, it isn’t just progressive billionaire icon George Soros who is supporting some of these groups. Warren Buffett has been too. Buffett and Berkshire have arguably been funding both sides of the fight over key issues in manufactured housing.
That noted, Senator Warren – sometimes in concert with congressional representatives – has fired off several letters to firms that routinely have ties to the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). Copies of those letters can be found as a download in the report linked below.
Warren and other 2020 Democratic hopefuls have raised the issue of Clayton Homes, and their fellow Berkshire Hathaway owned manufactured housing industry lenders, in a letter to the CFPB. See that in the report linked from the text-image graphic below.
Anti-monopolistic actions are taking a more important role on the national stage, as the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have reportedly launched antitrust probes. Clayton has been accused of racism by Democratic leaders too.
President Donald J. Trump, a variety of Democratic and Republican leaders, have raised several concerns over consolidation, tipping the scales of free speech online, antitrust, and monopolistic behavior in the last 2 years.
While there is known to be such probes regarding the FAANG stocks, and so-called Big Tech, our sources tell us that Berkshire Hathaway’s activities has also been brought to DoJ’s antitrust division’s attention.
The Seattle Times similarly reported in 2018 that several federal investigations are underway in Washington involving Clayton and their related lenders. Knoxville, TN metro based Clayton and their related lending units were spotlighted by their hometown media, in the May 22, 2018 video report below. So there is smoke, does it suggest a fire?
Several Mainstream Media Reports cited Concerns Over Monopolistic Practices, and Often Name Buffett, Berkshire, and Clayton Homes
· The on the historic trends, and named several industries being monopolized.
· without specifying how the monopolization was being accomplished, noted that the independent retailers in manufactured housing were being rapidly eliminated/consolidated, that report is linked here.
· called it “The Dirty Secret Behind Warren Buffett’s Billions…” and specifies Clayton Homes among those using the strategic moat in ‘dirty’ ways.
· summarized the connection between the John Oliver viral hit video dubbed “Mobile Homes,” MHI, Clayton Homes, and their related lenders. That op-ed was first fact-checked by an editor, before it was published not only in the one newspaper it was submitted, but at least in 5 Florida newspapers.
While these and other mainstream media sources that span the left-right spectrum have pointed to ethical and other concerns with respect to Warren Buffett’s ‘strategic Moat,’ it is Manufactured Home Living News and this platform have to date documented specific examples. Attorneys which have reviewed the report linked below say is compelling evidence of antitrust violations by MHI’s most prominent member, Clayton Homes and their affiliated lender, 21st Mortgage.
Finally, there have been long-standing concerns raised for years by this trade publisher – MHProNews – and by MHARR regarding the need to fully implement the Duty to Serve by the GSEs.
Since 2003, during an affordable housing crisis, the total number of manufactured homes being produced per year has declined. So too has the percentage of new manufactured housing units. The factors noted and linked from this report are among the contributing challenges that have arguably caused this to be so.
Publicly traded MHI member, Skyline Champion (SKY), is but one of several sources that point to the industry’s underperformance. Do factors like those outlined and linked from this report help shed light as to why the industry is underperforming? As but one of several internal and external barometers, RVs have soared in the last 2o years, while manufactured housing is but a shadow of what it was 2 decades ago in total sales. Yet RVs are a luxury item, and housing is a necessity, the later point being made by voices across the political divide, such as Senator Warren and Secretary Carson, have pointed out.
But what federal officials may not have completely honed in upon is that during that contraction, Clayton has grown their market share, as the next two pie charts reflect.
Coincidence? Or is it because Buffett’s bucks have – via third-party documented ‘dark money’ channels, has funded both the opposition to the industry by MHAction and other activist groups, as well as purportedly dominating MHI.
This raises several issues that bear federal agencies, media and other investigations, and congressional oversight.
Because there is a pattern and evidence that reflects the very real possibility that market manipulations and ‘predatory behavior’ by a small number of MHI member companies has cost the industry billions of dollars a year in potential sales.
Rope-a-Dope – Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act, Mom, Dad, & You – Masthead L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach
There may be no one analogy that is entirely precise enough to make the point that the promoters of the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act purportedly hoped to accomplish with their bill. All analogies limp at some point, but those disclosures made, let’s begin with the ‘rope and dope metaphor’ from boxing.
Is that an accident, mere coincidence? Or is it indicative of something more sinister that often causes millennials and others to question capitalism, when it is specific and problematic corporate behavior that should be scrutinized, not the entire free enterprise system.
As tent cities grow in various parts of our nation, of course there will be an outcry by people against such troubling developments.
While Secretary Carson and his predecessor have both praised manufactured homes, the inexplicable failure to use “enhanced preemption” or the “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” legal principles to address these issues reflect some breakdown between the need and solutions that are already law.
It is mind boggling that MHI has no mention of enhanced preemption on their website, as of the date of the report linked below. By contrast, MHARR, MHLivingNews, MHProNews and others have numerous articles and years of reports that point to that the need to enforce the law on federal preemption.
Affordable housing, related lending, and a failure to properly promote manufactured housing are cited by people in and out of MHI as real problems. This publication has stressed that not all MHI members should be viewed as black hats. But that ‘black hat’ behavior has occurred from several prominent MHI member-firms is difficult if not impossible to intelligently dispute.
Small Businesses, Consumers Are Being Harmed
These purported ploys in turn have cost small businesses collectively billions of dollars in the value of their enterprises. In response to declining shipments during an affordable housing crisis, which clearly harm smaller, more marginal businesses more than larger ones. Bigger players with black hat behavior fuels bad news. The black hats may be using white hat companies in the same association to dress up their overall image.
MHI routinely has a reference to their antitrust statement – linked here – at the start of their individual business meeting sessions. But that doesn’t change the reality that the industry is being consolidated into ever fewer hands.
To see if this is mere happenstance or something sinister if not illegal, federal, state, other interests, and advocates must do more to investigate beyond what has been done in articles like this and the linked reports herein and further below.
Secretary Carson has been doing a lot for manufactured housing publicly. But a counternarrative is also at play, which videos like John Oliver’s dwarf the good news that Secretary Carson is attempting to foster. To date, the MHI ‘Homes on the Hill’ videos posted on this page have had about 2,000 total views between the 5 videos. That’s helpful. But John Oliver’s viral attack on manufactured housing has had over 6 million views. That’s the factual reality.
Both major parties are making affordable housing and antitrust issues.
– Will one party or both grab the bull by the horns, and investigate Berkshire Hathaway publicly?
– Will one or both political parties call Warren Buffett, Kevin Clayton, and Tim Williams in to testify under oath about the evidence and allegations linked here?
– Will federal and other investigators formally and publicly examine claims since the item linked above of further market manipulations, such as the ones reported at this link here?
– Will the Feds and others allow Berkshire’s money and reputation to back them off? Or will they listen to voices that include MHI members who have said for years there is something wrong at the Arlington, VA based ‘umbrella’ trade group?
Ponder the following 4 items from current-former MHI members. On the issue of DTS, ponder the photo of MHI’s sponsors, and then MHARR’s comment about DTS.
Let’s dot the i on the above by saying anew that in pointing the finger at the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis, that is not to be misconstrued as saying that all of those in said organizations are all tainted. Among our sources are those in Clayton Homes, 21st, and MHI, to name but a few. There are good people working in these organizations who are as troubled by what is occurring to the industry as we and others are.
Millions of Americans are trapped in rentals, largely unaware of the good news that Secretary Carson has said during his tenure at HUD, or what scores of others in manufactured housing have been saying for years. Will MHI take these helpful videos that Secretary Carson made possible, and robustly promote them? Or will they be a mere fig leaf? The latest head-fake to members, another illusion of motion, while the industry continues to consolidate? Meanwhile, millions search for affordable housing, when the solution is hiding in plain sight?
But there is a rationale case to be made that forces within the industry have intentionally limited the industry, with the purported aim of consolidating businesses at a discount in a fashion that might slip by antitrust regulatory scrutiny.
Enforce Existing Law
But as or more important is that the solution requires no new legislation. The solution is already federal law. It need but be enforced. But there is evidence that the powers that be in the industry don’t want to solve the problem now. They want to consolidate more of the industry. Meanwhile, the suffering of millions of people and thousands of independent business professionals continues.
Thus a public federal investigation, led by Congress, but with parallel efforts in the federal agencies, needs to be handled as publicly as possible. Why? Because the harm being done to the manufactured home industry is harming the public, plus independents who are arguably a victim too.
Renters, manufactured home owners, and voters need to understand that this is consolidating Machiavellian ploy is harming their interests. The industry’s honest professionals should not be punished, it is the alleged bad actors who need to be held to account.
If we as a nation do so, then Secretary Carson’s solution for America may come to pass. The fabled doctor’s prescription, if put to work, could prove useful to millions and would save taxpayers billions too. It would also create countless new jobs, and spark new investment opportunities.
The reports linked herein plus those below the byline and notices include articles that document how a natural economic boom could take place, raising the net worth of individuals who could leave the world of renting and become owners of affordable housing’s most obvious and proven solution. Modern manufactured homes are a proven solution. There is much work to be done to make that prescription and potential a reality.
To learn more, see the reports linked above and below. More on this simple yet-profound topic tomorrow and in the days ahead. No politics, just 311 words that boil down to two words. Enhanced preemption. “We Provide, You Decide” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary)
(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)
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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“We as a Nation Can Solve the Affordable Housing Crisis,” Says Secretary Ben Carson, Spotlighting Manufactured Homes, Other Emerging Housing Technologies – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
” Let’s make sure people understand what’s available,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson about affordable housing, as he spotlighted manufactured homes as a key part of the Innovations in Housing display on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. ” You can get one of these manufactured houses, for instance, for 30 percent less, and they are very, very resilient.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson Speech on Manufactured Homes, “Manufactured Housing…Active Ingredient…Medication…for a Stronger America.” – manufacturedhomelivingnews.com
The text that follows has one edit, Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) Joe Stegmayer’s name was misspelled, and we’ve edited in links to other reports that we’ve published that HUD Secretary Carson’s comments confirmed. Those links have an * at the end of that hotlink. Otherwise, the text is as shown.
Conquest Capitalism – Thoughts of Chairman Warren Buffett – Billionaires Campaign to Control Trillion Dollar Affordable Housing Market – Masthead L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach
The year was 1998. It happened to be the year that manufactured housing hit its last peak, but it was also the year that Simon Reynolds compiled and published ” Thoughts of Chairman Buffett – Thirty Years of Unconventional Wisdom from the Sage of Omaha.”
The last decade-plus has not been especially kind to the manufactured housing industry and consumers of affordable housing. The 21 stCentury began with a great deal of promise for the industry and consumers alike.