“A lot of people say I’m crazy, that they’ll evict us, but better to leave walking than on your knees.” – Margarita Sanchez, resident of Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds RV Horizons, rebranded as Impact Communities.
“Where else will we go?” – signs being held by children protesting the Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds business model.
The Texas Observer said that partners Rolfe and Reynolds business bought North Lamar Mobile Home Park in the Austin, TX metro in December of 2014. By 2015, the duo’s management was sparking negative news reports.
Google’s news search function reveals that there have been 752 reports about the 69 site land lease community.
Common vernacular in those reports are the words “mobile home,” “trailer,” “trailer park,” and the like. While photos suggest that some of the homes in the community could be pre-HUD Code mobile homes, HUD Code manufactured homes are common.
The video below is from May 2015 and sets the stage for what follows.
Vice reported on May 30, 2020 that “A Notorious Trailer Park Mogul Once Roasted by John Oliver Just Got Owned By His Tenants.” Even the ‘good news’ reports focus on the purportedly predator practices of “Frank and Dave,” mentioning their Mobile Home University. As the Texas Observer phrased it, “Rolfe and Reynolds are perhaps best known for co-founding the online Mobile Home University, where wannabe trailer-preneurs are offered a seemingly airtight formula for successfully buying and operating mobile home parks.”
ROC USA was in the mix of organizations and advocates involved in converting the community from ownership by partners Rolfe and Reynolds led Impact Communities. As MHProNews has previously reported, ROC USA has ties to the nonprofit Prosperity Now, which was previously known as CFED.
What none of the mainstream media cited herein have noted were the bullet points and linked concerns that follow.
- All of the firms in the John Oliver video problematically named “Mobile Homes” have ties to the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). Oliver’s satirical roast names Warren Buffett and Clayton Homes in that same video that lampoons Rolfe. See the fact check on that report at this link here.
- Rolfe and Reynolds business interests have numerous connections to Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway brands that operate in manufactured housing.
- Despite the MHI National Community Council (NCC) Code of Ethical Conduct, a longtime board member told MHProNews that they are not aware of any enforcement action against Rolfe/Reynolds, or any other similarly controversial members, such as Havenpark Capital. Nothing since that May 16, 2020 report has mitigated against that MHI board member’s statement, which suggests that MHI’s “Code of Ethical Conduct” is window dressing for those who don’t look beyond the surface.
- They also fail to connect the dots on the “trailer park ploy” that apparently counts on their aggressive business plan to spark negative news media that does at least two things. It sparks more clients and investors for the “Mobile Home U” – i.e. it is free, albeit negative advertising. It also sparks outrage that arguably harms more ethical competitors while often sparking pressure for rent control or other regulations that larger manufactured home community companies have admitted they can navigate.
- Rephrased, these are forms of the Buffettesque Castle and Moat. See the report linked here for direct quotes and more details.
“For years, the residents of a low-income, majority-Latino trailer park in Austin, Texas, say they’ve struggled under the thumb of two prominent investers known for snapping up cheap communities like theirs nationwide and raising the rents,” said left-of-center Vice recently, with the typo in the original.
“But that all ended Friday when the North Lamar Mobile Home Park tenants closed a $6.26 million deal to claw their property back,” said Vice adding: “Their deal ends a saga that included a lawsuit, protests, petitions, and pleas to financiers, which first began in 2015 when trailer-park moguls Frank Rolfe and Dave Reynolds purchased the 68-lot community.”
The Private Equity Stakeholders Project stated that TPG Capital Partners with RV Horizons on March 16, 2020, in an article entitled “A “Hostage” Strategy for Housing Investment?” RV Horizons, as was noted previously, is now rebranded as Impact Communities. The protest video below is from 2015. One of the comments on that video states “MHU teaches you how to be a thief legally, these people should be put in jail for life,” said Leonardo Aponte.
In a Fannie Mae report in 2019, they noted that TPG Capital – read Rolfe, Reynolds and Impact Communities – are the top buyers of communities in the United States, according to their research.
MHProNews Analysis and Commentary
MHProNews and MHLivingNews have documented the connections between Buffett, Berkshire and several of the nonprofits that operate in or influence manufactured housing.
Perhaps the incomplete picture is due in part because mainstream media have suffered the loss of thousands of jobs in journalism. As the Guardian reported in June 6, 2016 “Almost 60% of US newspaper jobs vanish in 26 years.” Pew Research said on April 20, 2020 that “From 2008 to 2019, overall newsroom employment in the U.S. dropped by 23%, according to the new analysis.” The result is that fewer reporters are having to produce mainstream news stories. Nuance and certain complex details can be lost as a result.
That noted, the Texas Observer’s Leah Caldwell’s July 28, 2015 report entitled “Trailer Park Ploys,” while using problematic terminology, nevertheless hit several facts that have since proven to be quite accurate.
What remains for mainstream media to do is pull back the veil further still, until the dark money connections between those rigging the marketplace is linked with those who posture as being the defenders of community residents.
What is missed by mainstream reports and those public officials that are probing these issues is that new communities and other placement options are needed. That is how the pressure on residents is mitigated. The financing for that is available, and at least on paper, so too are the other laws that would make developing more communities.
The views of a resident leader who has begun to unravel the issues is found at this link below.
The laws to correct the problems already exist. Robust enforcement is what is lacking.
It is no doubt heartening for those residents who after some 5 years of struggles have finally purchased their community. But they are paying much more than they did just a few years ago. Rolfe, Reynolds and their partners have pocked millions from this one property, while it gives the broader industry a black eye.
Vexing questions must be probed. Where they used and abused by more than just Rolfe and Reynolds? See the related reports linked above and beyond the bylines and notices to learn more.
Failure to see the larger picture along with the necessary nuance is arguably protecting the status quo. For those who take the time to seek the full detail of what is occurring in hundreds of manufactured home communities, the words “the system is rigged” sadly spring to life.
Programming note. MHProNews is in the process of revamping our industry-leading x2 weekly emailed headline news updates. The revisions should be completed by late June or early July. Watch for it.
That’s a wrap on this installment of manufactured housing “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, 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
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