Let’s frame this report in simple terms.
MHProNews selected a sampling of several of the only 154 results at the time of this writing found on the Regulations.gov website for FR-6187-N-01 White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing; Request for Information.
The fact that there are only 154 comments is an opportunity in disguise to forward thinking industry professionals. Whatever YOU might say will stand out all the more with so few comments filed.
What follows this preface are unedited comments and their source, numbers of which are submitted as “Anonymous.” More on that in a moment. Those selected comments are to give readers a quicker sense of the kinds of things that people in and outside of our industry had to say.
Rephrased, they may spark your own imagination on what might be good comments that you could submit.
As a reminder of the technical aspects of this RFI – Request for Information – is the following from the Regulations.gov website.
Docket ID: HUD-2019-0092Agency: Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
FR-6187-N-01 Consistent with President Trump’s Executive Order 13878, ‘‘Establishing a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing; Request for Information raise the costs of affordable housing development and contribute to shortages in housing supply.
Frankly, while relatively small numbers of comments are revealing, one of the eye catching points is that several of the more ‘controversial’ statements were submitted as “Anonymous.”
MHProNews is going to encourage others who want to sound off, but may feel intimidated from doing so publicly under their own name for whatever reason, to consider using that “Anonymous” methodology. One submission spotted used only the sender’s first name. Presumably, a last name or middle name only submission would be accepted too. But the point is if you want to comment and have any fear about doing so under your name publicly, consider submitting your comments using the “Anonymous” method.
In our view, for those who don’t feel intimidated, it is good to sound off on this RFI under your own name. I will do so personally soon and will do so using my own name, which is how this writers has always done comments letter. But if it comes down to not commenting or doing so anonymously, do what you think is best for your circumstances.
For instructions on submission, which can be done online in minutes, go to this page linked below. Keep in mind that the deadline for comments was extended to 1.31.2020, apparently at the request of several larger trade groups like the National Association of Homebuilders and the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Several manufactured home state associations have submitted comments. The influence of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) is clearly in evidence on each of those reviewed thus far. How so? They routinely used these MHI penned words:
“HUD must exercise its preemption authority when local regulatory construction standards and zoning, planning, or development policies adversely affect the placement of quality, affordable manufactured housing.” Simply put, they – like MHI often does – fails to say the key phrase “enhanced preemption.” There is legally an important distiction, which the report linked after the next paragraph details.
That speaks volumes to those who are researching and pondering corruption, manipulation and intimidation tactics being deployed in manufactured housing. See our detailed report linked immediately below that walks new readers through the importance of “enhanced preemption” form the vantagepoint of Congress, lawmakers, and both the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) circa 2003 and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) consistently throughout.
We’ve previously highlighted the submission by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform – which are found at the link here as a download or can be found on their website at this link below. I’ve not seen any yet that are nearly as thorough as theirs. That said, while I will reference MHARR in my comments, it will include other links too, plus my own take on the issue. Hopefully that will be ready by Monday noonish.
There is useful data from the various manufactured housing state associations. But by failing to say “enhanced preemption” and explaining in their comments the importance of that verbiage, they’ve arguably watered down and missed their strongest point.
Our industry’s mantra could be fairly simple.
- Years of nonprofit, university, state and federal level research has demonstrated that the reality of manufactured homes confounds the claims that have for too long stigmatized the industry.
- There are good laws that are already part of the federal statutes that after careful research by Congress were passed into law.
- Those laws were passed by widely bi-partisan margins. One law was signed by a Democratic president the other by a Republican president.
- Those good laws established both consumer protections and one was specifically described by several lawmakers as an affordable housing law.
- So why aren’t those good laws being enforced? If public officials are failing to enforce good laws, why aren’t they being held accountable?
- Are public officials working at some level in tandem with special interests to benefit a few at the cost of the many?
- The law should be fully enforced. Those who have arguably thwarted the law should be investigated and when appropriate, charged with whatever crimes they have committed. Because homelessness and rising un-affordability in housing is harming the nation and its most vulnerable citizens.
- Where black hat behavior exists on the part of certain individuals and/or companies, they should be investigated and charged with whatever violations are appropriate. To protect the citizenry, those investigations should be announced, much like the probes into big tech have been announced.
Rephrased, those manufactured housing state executives have weakened their own case that they could have made had they stated the importance and laid out the history of “enhanced preemption.” In days gone by, at least some state executives were not so scared to speak up on that point. One example is shown below. It is followed by quote that provides an explanation on why federal enhanced preemption matters in this issue. Because we don’t need years of more studies or new laws. The solutions are known. The laws exist.
MHProNews has not yet submitted its comments letter, but between those bullets above and an outline that is linked here, readers can find resources and possible thoughts useful in making your own case to the White House Council on removing barriers to affordable housing. See Part IV of that report for some tips.
But again, while it is fine to link to this, that or even several articles, a key is to create comments that state your thinking in a compelling way that could cause federal officials to do what should be done. Namely, enforce the good laws that are already on the books, including, but not limited to, the enhanced preemption provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA).
Additional comments and analysis will follow these sample comments, along with our weekly Sunday morning weekly review of the headlines and featured images of the various recently published reports.
With that preface, lets dive into the unedited comments as submitted for the White House RFI to eliminate barriers to affordable housing.
Highlighting has been added to a few of the comments that follow by MHProNews that was not in the original. The lack of highlighting should not be construed as making a specific comment less interesting. That said, one of the comments is quite interesting for its succinctness; if it only used the phrase “enhanced preemption” it could have been even better.
Highlighting doesn’t imply that we concur with everything said. Quoting certain letters and not others doesn’t imply agreement either. What these examples do are provide examples of real world comments made by others. The highlighted part, when that occurs, reflect that a specific point so highlighted is worthy of more consideration, discussion and follow up.
In no specific order of importance, examples of the regulatory comments letters found as of 1.25.2020 at about 3:30 PM ET.
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dwg-yf7c
Some years ago, I watched a TV program. The mayor of Jackson, MS, a black cop at the time, walked through the projects, armed, accompanied by others. He asked every teenager in the complex, “where is yo daddy?” Not a one of them knew. He said, at the time, that this was the reason for the problems in the complex. I cannot personally imagine building or running family affordable housing, without a family reunification program. It doesn’t fix every problem, but it fixes many, and it is cheap. Having two parents, instead of one, makes for a healthier family. Having extended family makes it even easier.
Another kind of affordable housing not discussed in the USA at all- to which the regulatory barriers need to be eliminated- is the hotel “room” just large enough for a mattress, and a few possessions. Groups of these are available near some Japanese railway stations, for commuters who miss the last train. Students would find this sort of thing very useful, as one example among many. Whatever happened to the old Single Room Occupancy [SRO] housing? That was extremely useful in its day, and would be extremely useful now. We need to open up to many solutions. There is no one solution that solves every problem. Why couldn’t churches allow homeless encampments, on their grounds? As one example. Cemeteries are one of the few kinds of open land available in cities; what of allowing homeless encampments there? What of letting homeless people sleep in empty stadiums, when they are not in use? They have bathrooms readily available. In the city I work in, homeless young men sleep in a park, because that’s all they can find.
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dsi-3639
HUD should adopt a regulation preempting zoning that prohibits or restricts the location of manufactured housing.
Comment Submitted by Tom Sullivan
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dt0-w2nz
The problem, is very complicated, it transcends, design and development.
The way, to find an effective strategy, is to work backwards, from the goal.
Start, with the solution, then figure out how to get there.
The attempt to rearrange all of the regulations Federal, State and Local, is just not practical.
Better to draft and overriding regulation that supersedes those regulations.
The Qualified Opportunity Zone regulations get partway there. The QOZ regulations address partially the financial incentives.
However, that addresses, only part of the problems, associated with this issue.
No regulation, directly addresses, the incentives, of the core stakeholders.
Those people living in the housing.
What we have, is a quagmire of failed policy, defeating this goal.
The hard work, required to make real progress, requires, in addition to design and development, a hard look at the social issues, that complicate the solution.
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dsd-8jug
There is a major shortage of affordable housing. Interesting.
And there are several million illegal aliens in the country.
Aliens occupy housing.
Might there be a connection? I mean, just asking.
So, if immigration laws were enforced, how many affordable housing units would open up, overnight- and no new laws or regulations needed; just enforce existing laws.
Comment Submitted by Anonymous
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dwf-mvre
This is a useful request. It just doesn’t go far enough. Affordable housing is largely not much better than laboratory rat cages for people. There is no consideration about designing it to enhance the operation of the community, that is, of people helping each other. 150 years ago, people could be in dire circumstances- yet they would be helped, by local people, even if only in small ways, because of the many community connections. Jane Jacobs has written on modern design, largely killing community activity. Cornel West, in his book The War on the Family, describes the devastating effects of the decline of community. The current model of affordable housing is either packing in as many units as possible into a bad area, or a single building somewhere else. There is no consideration of the PEOPLE who will be living in that building. The major reason that communities do all they can to keep out affordable housing, is the gut level fear of the drug dealers, murderers, and thugs who will live in it. I didn’t say that was rational- that is just the fear. This fear probably goes unvoiced, as such. The fear is born from front page newspaper articles, on crime in the inner city. Inner city residents I talk to hate the newspapers, and TV news. If something good is happening- a graduation, say, an opening of a community center, they can’t get a reporter out there. But let there be a shooting, and the newscrews are out there faster than the cops. The news media sells to four emotions: fear, hate, hope, and curiosity, and that’s how the articles are arranged, even. Affordable housing is useful and necessary, yes. And the usual way to “sell” it is to tell residents they have no choice but to put up with it, for the larger good. So rich bureaucrats in city hall, who don’t have affordable housing within 3 miles of where they live, get to dump the garbage on people with fewer resources. Now that’s a recipe for success. Some years ago, a newspaper article came out, about 3 houses that were going to be used by the housing authority in the city. That evening, all three were arsoned, torched. That is fear talking. The core of any realistic community healing would have to be family reunification. Freakonomics had an article- why do so many drug dealers live with their mothers. Good question. It is because they are the product of single parent families. I have been a single parent, it is really, really difficult. Family reunification programs are cheap, and extremely cost-effective. There are federal and state programs, for this, which are starved for funds. These programs are far cheaper than prison costs, though, and turn out a far better product. There is a large Chicago church which is a major developer of affordable housing. Building Communities from the Inside Out, by Dr. John Kretzmer and Mcknight, was developed from experience of that church. We need a new paradigm of affordable housing, one of mixed incomes- just as Section 236 housing was, at one time, until Congress, in its infinite wisdom, kicked out everybody with a job, and turned it into slums, with the admirable goal of providing more affordable housing, which they did but at a major price in community health. The Opportunity Zone concept is good. We need city and state OZs, where businesses have major tax exemptions, for a decade or more, so they can afford to hire marginal employees, and give them the experience they need to move up in life. That is not separate from affordable housing, except in the minds of idiots setting policy who live in exclusive neighborhoods and don’t have to care about the effects of their bad decisions. A new kind of Public Housing was built in Baltimore- where 10 hrs/week of community service was mandatory. After 10-15 years, it was still in excellent shape, while comparable regular Public Housing needed 7-8 figures of CIAP repairs. Just building affordable housing is, again, no better than building laboratory rat cages for people- if there is no place for community activity and action.
Comment Submitted by Carter Worthy
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dnz-inx3
- Relax single family zoning. This is the single most impactful change that could make a transformational difference in naturally occurring affordable housing. If every single family property was able to make a small rental unit (say 25% of their home size) within their existing home or as an accessory dwelling unit, the market would immediately provide an enormous amount of inventory for 1-3 person residences. And the proliferation of these units should keep the monthly rents in check. And you wouldn’t have high concentrations of lower income folks because they would be scattered throughout neighborhoods of all income levels. And the units would not require government subsidies. Just free homeowners up to fill the need of more units. 2. Too much mandatory parking. It eats up the land and a lot of folks — especially low income and seniors — don’t even have cars.
Comment Submitted by Paul Bradley
Tracking Number: 1k4-9ejs-hqrx
Thank you for your consideration of three ideas:
1. The development of new Manufactured Home Communities (MHCs) is a largely untapped source for new affordable and moderately-sized owned housing development. We need to unleash the development of these dense, detached single-family neighborhoods to meet the first and last home needs of working and retired households.
I realize that Secretary Carson expressed concern in April, 2018 when he told a trade show audience that the Manufactured Housing industry should focus on development where homeowners also own the land because then “they can build value.”
I understand the Secretary’s concern, and I urge him to consider a middle way and to set a new course for MHCs.
Specifically, if homeowners in MHCs had greater control over the land under their homes through long-term leases that included some affordability commitments, homeowners in MHC would be more secure and they could build value.
The key to motivating developers to undertake new MHC development with meaningful leases is to open home-only mortgage options in land lease communities at the FHA, VA, and GSEs.
Developers are not building new MHCs today in part because of the expensive chattel financing that is used almost exclusively in MHCs. Residential mortgage financing is the key to unlocking this market and its many advantages.
Zoning is also a challenge, however, as a former Planning Board member, I know that local officials will be more open to MHC development if their neighbors are being set up for success – something that the MHC industry to date has done at times there is no doubt – but it’s not baked into the business. There are great operators, and there are not-so-great operators. We need everyone committed to long-term, affordable communities that are a win/win/win solution.
This is one of the few market-based solutions to which HUD holds the keys.
2. I am the president of ROC USA. We help homeowners buy their communities as co-ops so homeowners control the land under their homes and can build value. A 2006 Carsey Institute (UNH) study documented that homeowners in co-ops were able to sell their homes for 16% more per sq. foot than comparable homes in comparable privately operated MHCs. The impact of co-op ownership also shows up in monthly site fees – where co-ops are raising their fees under 1% per year compared to industry average of 3.9% (2018 DataComp USA).
501c3 bonds for very large transactions would lower costs for these low-income communities when competing to buy the MHC. The IRS has deemed our work charitable in serving these communities with this limited equity co-op model, however, the co-ops are not eligible for c3 bonds. To level the playing field, co-ops need access to c3 bonds. HFAs have expressed interest in using their bonding authority to make the loans.
Also, tax credits for sellers who sell to the homeowners would help level the playing field when communities are for sale. Some states have them but a federal credit would be most useful. There are investors who are able to arrange tax free trades – why not let low-income homeowners who want to control the land under their homes enjoy those benefits?
Thank you for your consideration.
Comment Submitted by Tim Williams, The Ohio Manufactured Homes Association
Tracking Number: 1k3-9djq-jgq1
OHIO MANUFACTURED HOMES ASSOCIATION
244 BRADENTON AVENUE
DUBLIN, OHIO 43017-3540
November 27, 2019
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Office of the General Counsel, Rules Docket Clerk
451 7th Street SW
Washington, DC 20410-0001
Re:Docket No. FR-6187-N-01
White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing
Dear Secretary Carson,
The Ohio Manufactured Homes Association is pleased to provide comments in response to the White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing Request for Information.
The Ohio Manufactured Homes Association represents manufacturers, retailers, transporters of manufactured homes and community owners, of which there are 1,800 in the State of Ohio. The essential mission of the OMHA is to provide quality affordable housing to persons who otherwise have their homeownership options limited.
In June, President Trump issued an Executive Order entitled “Establishing a White House Council on Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing.” Two of the stated goals of the Council are to “work across agencies, States, local governments, tribal governments, and private-sector stakeholders to identify policies that artificially increase the cost of developing affordable housing” and “take action within existing Federal programs accordingly.
Further, HUD’s recent housing finance reform proposal includes a focus on manufactured housing, with a separate section entitled “Eliminating Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Housing Including Manufactured Housing.” That section stated that “policies that exclude or dis-incentivize the utilization of manufactured homes can exacerbate housing affordability challenges because manufactured housing potentially offers a more affordable alternative to traditional site-built housing without compromising building safety and quality.”
For years, the OMHA and our national associations the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), have been advocating that HUD’s existing preemption authority allows broader authority over zoning and land use planning that negatively impacts the availability of affordable housing.
Zoning and land planning ordinances have a profound impact on housing patterns. In particular, restrictive local ordinances – which can include significant limitations or prohibitions against manufactured housing – can act as barriers to affordable housing. Moreover, zoning ordinances that are exclusionary or restrictive with respect to manufactured housing can clearly violate the Fair Housing Act, as HUD and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have publicly recognized. According to a November 10, 2016, Joint Statement of HUD and DOJ on State and Local Land Use Laws and Practices and the Application of the Fair Housing Act:
Examples of land use practices that violate the Fair Housing Act under a discriminatory effects standard include minimum floor space or lot size requirements that increase the size and cost of housing if such an increase has the effect of excluding persons from a locality or neighborhood because of their membership in a protected class, without a legally sufficient justification.”
Regarding the November 2016 joint HUD/DOJ statement, we request that both agencies amend this joint statement to include the other types of discriminatory actions that restrict manufactured housing.
While zoning and land use planning decisions historically have been the purview of local governments, disparate impact has been one of the primary legal tools available to challenge restrictive ordinances that have the effect of impermissibly discriminating against individuals of a protected class. More specifically, disparate impact has been used to challenge local zoning and land use planning policies that exclude manufactured housing or create unreasonable barriers designed to prevent such use.
The lengths to which communities go to exclude manufactured housing go beyond just the zoning code and, more often than not, have a discriminatory disparate impact on persons protected under the Fair Housing Act. It is without question they have a negative impact on the availability of affordable housing.
The Ohio Manufactured Homes Association appreciates for the efforts of this Administration and HUD to prioritize the importance of manufactured housing as a critical affordable housing option and to work to reduce barriers to its use.
The Ohio Manufactured Homes Association
Comment Submitted by Craig Shute
Tracking Number: 1k3-9dof-n3a8
There are many hindrances to affordable manufactured housing put in place by the national and state government, but the major ones are as follows:
1) Dodd-Frank and the state-level counterpart regulations mandated by the national government:
Inability of a retailer or community to offer financing without a special license, without breaking the law
Inability of a community owner to offer a rent-to-own program requiring the tenant buy an option at the beginning of the contract, without breaking the law
Massive amount of unnecessary paperwork required to close a manufactured home loan with a lender. When my father was doing this in the 1980s, the contract was 4 pages. It now runs north of 32 pages, with no benefit to anyone.
The higher cost of lending due to both costly mandates on lenders and the fact that many lenders have been driven out of the industry, reducing competition
2) Unnecessary state level intrusion into installation standards, most of which are absolutely ridiculous and costly, basically requiring that a manufactured home be set on a full foundation in cold climates. HUD has mandated these programs as well
3) Fair Housing/Americans with Disabilities Act
The constant threat that a statement or action by a landlord could be interpreted after the fact as having been discriminatory, without the requirement that intent be proved
The inability of community owners to make their own rules, specifically in prohibiting dogs, without breaking the law
4) The massive amount of subsidized housing and Section 8 vouchers that directly compete with manufactured housing, the only unsubsidized, brand-new affordable housing option
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
There are several noteworthy points that a careful look at the regulatory comments currently posted reflect. In no particular order of importance:
· Compared to years gone by, the MHI form letter submissions are at this point in time dramatically reduced. That may suggest that MHI is losing its sway over their own ‘followers.’ It may also support the evidence that we’ve provided that the industry is increasingly tuned into what we publish. MHProNews and MHLivingNews having pointed out that the MHI way has led to no-where for over a decade, the paucity of MHI form comments is revealing.
· The fact that no state association has yet used the words “enhanced preemption” speaks volumes about how much MHI and the powers that be behind MHI are arguably influencing them on this topic. There is palpable fear in the industry among some. They don’t want to be the next victim of the powers that be that are steadily consolidating the industry at a discounted valuation.
· MHProNews is NOT encouraging form letters, because the Regulations.gov website’s own tips say that form letters aren’t like a vote. What the White House and HUD are asking for are YOUR thoughts. They may be brief, they may be lengthy like MHARR’s are. A well-reasoned statement is going to be the most impactful, per their own guidance. Give the relatively few letters and comments so far, whatever you say will get more attention that it would have had their been thousands of such comments submitted.
· In our view, the more people that say that manufactured housing is the most proven form of affordable housing, that existing laws must be enforced, that to the extent that some have behaved badly those who have done so should be punished, not the entire industry. During those comments, it is wise to include the specific words that MHI seemingly wants to hide – which are the “enhanced preemption” provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, the better. Other statements that reflect your experiences would be icing on the cake.
On a different but related note, the latest on the allegations from a whistleblower on insider activities at MHI are found below. Neither MHI senior staff, nor their “executive committee” chairman, board of directors, or outside attorney have responded. But others in the industry have, as will be revealed in those reports below. Manufactured housing is underperforming. There is an affordable housing crisis. Are we to seriously believe that MHI is doing their best, when shipments are down year over year?
With that shared, and with no further adieu, let’s pivot now to the headlines from the week that was on the dates from 1.19 to 1.26.2020
What’s New from Washington, D.C. from MHARR
Here’s the Latest on MHLivingNews, with More Coming…
What’s New on the Masthead
What’s New on the Cutting Edge
What’s New on the Daily Business News on MHProNews
History reminds us that are numerous opportunities to turn lemons into lemonade by doing what’s right. White hats in MHVille can do so by making a bright line distinction between themselves and the black hats. We encourage more comments via this link. For insights on how we plan to do it, see Part IV of this link here. But please, consider using the words “enforce the law” including “enhanced preemption” mandated by the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000.
There is always more ahead. But that’s it for now on this Sunday morning installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, week in review, 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 MHLivingNews.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.