In an emailed statement, “MHI[Manufactured Housing Institute] has published enough razzle-dazzlephoto-op pictures [in] the past 3 years to wallpaper an entire house and have some leftover.” So said an association connected source in response to the Arlington, VA based trade group MHI, which touted for their readers their latest photo opportunity at a White House deregulatory event featuring President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
The photos sent by MHI to their readers did not actually include a photo with the 45th U.S President or the Vice President.
Rather, they provided a photo of President Trump, another of his Vice President Pence. MHI then included ones of Skyline Champion President and CEO Mark Yost plus another photo of MHI CEO Lesli Gooch, Ph.D. The two MHI representatives were standing near where the president and vice president were during the deregulation discussion on the White House lawn. See the photos further below.
What a close reading of the the MHI missive dated 7.22.2020 did not do is report any substantive progress on key issues.
Mary Gaiski, a prior leader in the Manufactured Housing Executives Committee (MHEC) and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association (PMHA), publicly said to mainstream media that the zoning and placement issues are getting worse instead of better. Given that statement by Gaiski and others who have been more or less visible, one might think that MHI would be focused on the actual implementation of good, existing laws for the benefit of the entire industry.
Instead of reporting on either a successful outcome and/or a clear request for the Trump Administration and HUD to fully and properly implement the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA), the Duty to Serve Manufactured Housing on all HUD Code homes, and other similar items that are already law, featured photos and ‘quotes’ for the industry, when what is needed is progress for the industry that is measurable.
An additional input from industry members, plus an analysis and commentary will follow the text of MHI’s email to their members and readers.
MHI and Skyline Champion Join President Trump to Address Eliminating Regulatory Barriers
Skyline Champion President and CEO and MHI Board Member Mark Yost and MHI CEO Lesli Gooch joined an exclusive group at the White House last week where President Trump spoke about the Administration’s efforts to promote economic growth and prosperity by eliminating regulatory barriers. As the only representatives from the manufactured housing industry in attendance, MHI and its members are working closely with the Administration to prioritize manufactured housing as a critical unsubsidized affordable housing option.
Skyline Champion, the largest publicly traded factory-built housing company in the country, was invited by the Administration last June to display two fully furnished, HUD Code manufactured homes on the National Mall. Skyline Champion leaders have also participated in roundtable discussions with HUD Secretary Carson to carry out President Trump’s Executive Order directing federal agencies to work together to facilitate the production of affordable housing and alleviate regulatory barriers at the federal, state, and local levels. Yost testified before the Senate Banking Committee last November and, as a result of his testimony, Congress passed legislation to support the inclusion of manufactured homes in state and local community development planning.
Through the advocacy of MHI and its members, this Administration has comprehensively reviewed HUD’s policies and regulations over manufactured housing and HUD has proposed the first extensive changes to the HUD Code in nearly a decade. The HUD Code has not been so broadly or substantially updated in years. Proposed changes include new standards for attached garages, carports, decks, and accessory buildings.
Further, at the direction of the Administration, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration have continued their efforts to improve access to financing for manufactured housing.
During the COVID pandemic, the Administration acted quickly to resolve supply chain challenges by issuing its first-ever, industry-wide Alternative Construction letter allowing manufacturers to provide homes throughout the crisis.
MHI commends President Trump for taking the necessary steps to create a better regulatory environment for American businesses. The reversal of burdensome overregulation to support our national infrastructure will help ensure affordable housing is available in rural communities and across the country where it is most needed. MHI is committed to continuing our work with the Administration to create a better regulatory environment for the industry.
What They’re Saying…
“Under the Trump Administration, HUD’s approach to the regulation of manufactured homes has changed, ensuring the industry can support the American Dream of homeownership for more people. I was honored to represent our industry at this event and look forward to continuing to work with the Administration to ensure manufactured home builders are able to offer consumers the latest innovations, technologies, and features without regulatory impediments that limit availability and drive up costs for our customers and the end consumers. We greatly appreciate the collaboration between the Administration and the manufactured housing industry, and we are grateful that the Administration acknowledges the critical role that the manufactured housing industry serves in meeting the nation’s need for affordable housing.”
— Skyline Champion President and CEO and MHI Board Member Mark Yost
“This Administration recognized early on that because the HUD Code had not been updated in decades and because regulatory oversight had become an impediment to cost and innovation, it was increasingly difficult for manufactured home builders to offer consumers the latest innovations, technologies, and features. Not only is HUD making long-needed changes to our federal building code to support even greater innovations and efficiencies in our homes, but the Administration is also looking at ways to eliminate regulatory barriers at the state and local level that limit the placement of HUD Code homes in communities where affordable housing is needed most. In addition, the Administration continues to make progress in ensuring government-sponsored financing programs are available for Americans seeking to purchase manufactured homes, including CrossMod homes.
We are extremely encouraged by the steps the Administration is taking to change its approach to the regulation of manufactured home production. The efforts and dedication of this Administration to prioritize manufactured housing as a critical unsubsidized affordable housing option and its continued progress to make government-sponsored financing programs available for today’s manufactured homes will support more Americans becoming homeowners.”
— MHI CEO Lesli Gooch
— End of MHI email dated 7.22.2020 —
Additional Information, MHProNews Analysis, and Commentary
The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) has been providing several years of photo ops, as the quote at the top indicated. Those photo ops include meetings and even videos with HUD Secretary Carson and others in the Trump Administration.
MHI themselves issued a letter to Secretary Carson in July of 2019 that said that they wanted the proper implementation of MHIA 2000, noting the need for “enhanced preemption” to be made a reality. That portion of the letter from Gooch is shown below.
On July 15, 2020, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) issued a quite different statement. It opened with the following.
“Washington, D.C., July 15, 2020 – In a Petition for Rulemaking to Secretary Carson and other senior HUD officialscopy attached,the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) breaks wide open the lack of any meaningful progress to date toward regulatory reform – as mandated by President Trump – within the HUD manufactured housing program.”
That full message is found via the linked image and/or headline below.
That is hardly the first such effort by MHARR during the Trump Administration and Secretary Carson’s tenure at HUD. MHProNews has previously reported the effort linked below.
That letter to Dr. Carson is attached here. Note too by contrast to MHI, MHARR – whose website is about 3 years old vs. MHI’s which is some 20 plus years online – has numerous references to federal enhanced preemption. Why does MHI hide the ball on enhanced preemption from the general public if they are sincere in wanting it implemented at this time?
There are MHI affiliate members, who are in MHEC, who have made similar statements as MHARR or MHProNews.
For several years, MHI has not only touted their access to the Trump Administration but also to key members of Congress. They used to use the graphic below, until a series of fact-checks by MHProNews apparently caused them to back off their self-proclaimed “clout.”
MHI’s “Alliances” and “Coalitions”
MHI often speaks of their alliances and coalitions with other trade associations outside of manufactured housing. Those are routinely touted as ‘good’ for the industry. But are they?
First, where is something specific and measurable that has resulted from those “coalitions?”
Second, in the association world, that type of networking with other trade groups – along with the photo ops that Gooch and MHI President Bowersox or others there seem to enjoy – could be “resume padding.”
That’s according to two insider sources with long ties to MHI.
That Gooch and possibly others at MHI may be resume padding for their next gig is a claim that fits with the previously reported work being done by Gooch for a non-manufactured housing conventional building association.
Note that MHI and their leadership when asked to respond to those documented concerns of Gooch’s conflicts of interest declined to comment.
It is also something that is common with the “revolving door” that occurs in Washington, D.C., between government, associations, and lobbying operations.
What manufactured housing independents need is action, not more MHI show boating. Even non-manufactured housing industry association leader Tom Hardiman from the Modular Home Builders Association has criticized MHI.
But those facts beg questions. Who benefits from what amounts to over 3 years of stall tactics by MHI while new HUD Code manufactured home industry sales have been in decline during the 2019 and year-to-date 2020 calendar years?
Skyline Champion’s Yost firm is one of the three largest in the industry. They are currently reported as #2 by Statistical Surveys.
MHI statement above might be construed as accurate in some technical sense in saying that Skyline Champion (SKY) is the largest publicly traded firm, but SKY are in fact a distant second to Clayton Homes. Clayton’s parent company Berkshire Hathaway is also publicly traded. Perhaps some internal decision has been made between the three leading MHI members to push Yost’s profile? Or to take some of the glare of attention off of Clayton and Berkshire Hathaway?
Whatever the case may be, Skyline Champion, Cavco Industries, and Clayton Homes have all in word and deed made it clear that their goal is consolidation of the industry. That comes from public statements which are supposed to be true and accurate according to various federal regulations.
In a video interview with MHProNews shortly after the start of the Trump Administration, Danny Ghorbani, a former MHI VP, the founding president and CEO of what is now known as MHARR and now a senior advisor to MHARR made strong statements about President Trump and their hopes for the Trump Administration.
The deregulation that President Trump promised has in large measure been delivered. However, as MHARR and other sources has consistently reported, foot dragging from within the industry has kept HUD from fully and properly implementing those regulations.
MHProNews and MHARR both have supported the return of Dana Wade to HUD. Wade, due in some measure to MHARR’s request, had Pam Danner, J.D., removed from her role as the Administrator of the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP).
By contrast, MHI is on record with the Washington Post saying that they made no effort to remove Danner. See the report linked above.
Put differently, MHI is routinely using a “razzle dazzle” tactic, which has been defined by federal law enforcement as mark of certain types of confidence or ‘con game.’
MHProNews is on record for asking for the removal of Brian Montgomery at HUD, whose purported conflicts of interest and key position make him arguably a detriment to full and proper HUD Code manufactured housing implementation.
For clarity, MHProNews is not accusing Secretary Carson of wrongdoing. It is entirely possible that he is in the dark, as the Secretary’s role is often more in the way of public relations, while the work is being done – or not – behind the scenes by people like Montgomery.
These are concerns that none of our would-be rivals in trade publishing or who blog raise. They routinely mouth the same pabulum that MHI puts forth and/or amplify it as the photo op with MHInsider below reflects.
The manufactured housing industry has been undermined from within, logically either by inept and/or corrupt behavior.
MHI award-winner Marty Lavin and MHI member Kenny Lipschutz have both made statements that reflect that concern in different words.
MHI’s former president and CEO, Chris Stinebert’s parting message was more of a thinly veiled shot at his own now former trade group purportedly before his non-disclosure agreement (NDA) kicked in.
One of those coalition members that Gooch and MHI tout has actually done a better job than Gooch herself does by arguing for full implementation on all manufactured homes, not just the Clayton-Skyline Champion–Cavco Industries (CVCO) backed “new class of manufactured homes” that MHI rebranded as “CrossModTM” homes.
Facts are indeed stubborn things. While it takes time and effort to document the years of repeated failings of MHI, what else will demonstrate their inept and/or corrupt behavior? What else will make it plain that their stated mission doesn’t align with their actual performance?
Razzle-dazzle isn’t the same as results. Indeed, it is a dodge for no results. When the industry is losing new home sales due to placement and zoning problems, MHI leadership may try to hide behind video or photo opportunities. But they can’t hide the fact that the industry’s shipments are in decline.
Those declining shipments and the lack of new manufactured home community development harms independents, consumers, taxpayers, investors, and others.
Last But Not Least?
While MHI has ‘praised’ President Trump and HUD Secretary Ben Carson, the power behind the throne at MHI has long been seen as Berkshire Hathaway which dominates the association via board positions and dues.
Berkshire is led by anti-Trump Chairman Warren Buffett.
To learn more on any of these topics, see the related reports linked above, and also those below the notices and byline.
The problems of the industry seem complex but can be summed up like this. The system has been rigged. Some insiders benefit from the restriction of the industry’s growth, which steadily caused consolidation. The answers to these problems could be summed up with these bullets.
Enforce existing laws. That includes, but is not limited to, antitrust, the MHIA of 2000, the Duty to Serve all manufactured homes, not just some Clayton-backed ‘new class’ of homes.
Establish a post-production association that can compliment the efforts of MHARR.
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.