There is a widespread acknowledgement by experts and pundits of the expanding affordable housing crisis who oddly seem to routinely miss the root causes of problems are demonstrably worse today than at the turn of the century. Recent reporting below by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae have each revealed new data on longstanding problems with respect to affordable housing in general, manufactured homes, as well as the broader mainstream housing marketplace. Warren Buffett has aptly observed that hindsight – the proverbial rear-view mirror – is clearer than the windshield. To grasp why America’s housing crisis is what it is, one must look back as well as look around. Thus, recently re-surfaced statements by Warren Buffett–led Berkshire Hathaway (BRK), from Berkshire brand-leaders, and their allies who dominate the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) collectively offer clarity on vexing challenges that the MHI rival Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has hammered on for years. Paradoxically, at least on paper, several MHI and other nonprofit leaders are seemingly on the same page with MHARR to this extent. Each has said in their own words that FHFA and the regulated Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs or Enterprises) of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have failed to properly enforce or follow federal law. Even a key FHFA manager, cited herein, admitted that reality.
Specifically, a range of authorities have stated that despite the Duty to Serve (DTS) Manufactured Housing having been made law as part of the widely bipartisan Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA), there is little to no single-family manufactured home lending occurring, depending on the manufactured home sector explored. These essentially undisputed facts beg several questions.
- Who is benefiting from this status quo of more costly lending dominating affordable manufactured housing?
- How do these facts reflect on Buffett’s “moat” in the affordable manufactured housing field?
- Do these fresh insights shed a different light on Senior Federal Reserve economist James A. Schmitz Jr. and his colleagues work exposing “sabotaging monopolies” and the harm that oligopolies cause tens of millions of low and middle-class Americans?
MHARR’s President and CEO Mark Weiss, J.D., recently noted the following, citing Freddie Mac.
A sampling of pull-quotes herein quickly illustrate the facts which will be examined from the various linked sources and reports. Perhaps in addition to the three questions above, two others should be asked.
- Why should those who don’t own a manufactured home or who do not need affordable housing care about these issues?
- Why should most Americans, who arguably are largely turned off by the notion of manufactured housing, give a second thought to what researchers say is the obvious solution to a very misunderstood industry and its affordable housing products?
Attentive and thoughtful newcomers will likely get much of this quickly. Because this report and analysis is systematically structured based on known facts, documented and well-sourced evidence, and applied common sense.
That method should make it easy for focused new readers to grasp the meaning and impact of the concerns raised in this report and how these issues ultimately impact the majority of Americans.
Longtime readers of MHProNews will see several new items. But there will also be some points previously raised in what follows. Such veteran readers of this site may be wise to grab their favorite beverage and slow down enough to focus on each of these insights as if they were reading all of them for the very first time. Why?
Because, as noted at the top, these issues are worse today than at the turn of the 21st century. In the absence of looking back and looking around, the alternative is more of the same troubling direction.
Besides, as Buffett has often observed, he spends 5 to 6 hours daily reading for understanding. Much of what Buffett reads is historic in nature, a review of past events for current understanding. If that method of careful reading that looks back as well as looks around for clarity is good enough for one of the world’s wealthiest men, it should be good enough for industry veterans and others too.
So newcomers, outsiders peering in, affordable housing industry veterans, advocates, and others can reap potential benefits once these evidence-based insights are properly digested.
The evidence presented herein form the basis for a nonpartisan consensus that could benefit tens of millions of Americans, again, based upon years of credible third-party research.
Given that some housing experts are predicting serious disruption ahead for the broader housing market which includes “unsustainable” growth in housing costs that subsidized housing can’t resolve – unless the proper steps are taken – the need to understand the history, trends, and current events are pressing topics.
So, those who want solutions – instead of handwringing, posturing, and talking points – should all find deeper meaning and understanding in what follows.
Facts and understanding reveal how applying existing laws and years of thoughtful nonpartisan research point to proven solutions to longstanding problems. Years of economic stress could with greater clarity be dealt with properly, simply by starting with a fresh look at factual, evidence and document-based reporting and analysis.
- Third-party and non-partisan National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) experts have made the fact and evidence-based argument that not having affordable housing near where it is needed is costing the U.S. economy some $2 trillion dollars in lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP). That has implications for virtually all Americans.
- Obama-Biden Administration era university-level research commissioned by HUD documented how affordable manufactured housing in several cities that were studied proved that manufactured homes in neighborhoods that included conventional housing witnessed both housing types appreciating side-by-side. The FHFA, the Urban Institute, and HUD Secretary Ben Carson are among those who have pointed out more recent research during the Trump Administration that revealed that the trend of manufactured home appreciation is continuing. What that means is that millions of renters who could become owners of manufactured homes could be building household wealth without a negative impact on their neighbors who might own a conventionally-built house. In fact, the logic of NBER research indicates that it would benefit areas and the nation where such a mix exists.
- But each of these and numerous other facts which will be cited herein beg thoughtful questions. How is it possible that when the appropriate information and already enacted legislation exists, that the legal solutions have not been properly implemented?
- To that, one must turn to the recent history of Warren Buffett’s moat, the notion of “sabotaging monopolies,” and the numerous well-documented 21st century examples of how regulators and public officials have often been part of the problem rather than part of the solution.
Every item mentioned herein enjoys these advantages.
- They are all based on known facts and clear evidence that is routinely produced by third-parties. Rephrased, these are not conjecture or whimsical opinions.
- The sourced information and quotes are from a range of people and organizations that accurately reflect their statements and how it fits into a puzzling question.
- That question? When legislation was passed more than 10 or 20 years ago in widely bipartisan Congressional bills signed into law by both a Democratic and a Republican president– and those laws were based on expert research – how is it possible that there is a lower rate of homeownership now than when those laws were enacted?
The 2014 non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on manufactured housing noted problems then which still exist today.
With that brief backdrop, facts, quotes, illustrations, and evidence shed light on why tens of billions spent annually on subsidized housing could slowly be phased out if proven solutions that are provided by the free market supported by existing laws were being implemented.
That sets the table for the new information from FHFA, Fannie, and Freddie shown and linked from this report and analysis. Additional insights from Warren Buffett, his surrogates, critics, and possible solutions to longstanding problems will also be presented. Thus, facts, evidence, and understanding ought to lead to solutions which would benefit the vast majority of the population, based upon extensive and well-documented third-party research.
With that background, the quotes that follow should prove illuminating.
Quotable Quotes, Facts, Evidence-Based Insights and Sources
“The government wants high quality, low cost housing and manufactured housing provides that product.” – Warren Buffett. Source: Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI).
“If home buyers throughout the country had behaved like our [manufactured] buyers, America would not have had the [2008 housing-financial] crisis that it did.” – Warren Buffett, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns Clayton Homes, 21st Mortgage Corp and Vanderbilt Mortgage and Finance (VMF), and other conventional and manufactured housing interests. Source: Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI).
Lisa Tyler, Ph.D. on Manufactured Housing
“Manufactured housing presents a solution,” said Lisa Tyler, Ph.D., associate academic dean at Bethel University told MHLivingNews. “It’s inexpensive, energy efficient, and a great value. There’s a lot of opportunity for growth in the industry, but a lot of obstacles, too.” The obstacles revolve around outdated myths, or unjustified stigma, said Tyler.
To Tyler’s and Buffett’s points are the following from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) university level Policy Development and Research (PD&R) study commissioned by HUD during the Obama-Biden Administration.
Surprising HUD PD&R Research Facts at a Glance:
- Manufactured homes appreciate at similar rates to nearby conventional housing.
- Manufactured homes don’t have a negative impact on nearby conventionally built housing’s value.
- Many of the stereotypical myths about manufactured homes – such as they are moved often, or that they can’t fit in with the look of a local neighborhood – are incorrect.
The following from the illustrates those points.
Quoting from the PD&R, Cited Above
“Evidence suggests that residents of manufactured homes view their homes to be of a quality that is comparable to site-built homes. Boehm…finds that residents of manufactured homes perceive their homes to be of higher quality than similar rental units and of lower cost than traditional owned units. This quality-cost advantage points to a potentially significant market demand for manufactured units if regulatory barriers are reduced.”
“With the increased use of multi-section units and recent innovations in
manufactured housing building technology, particularly integrated floor and chassis systems, many manufactured housing units are now virtually indistinguishable from conventional site-built units.”
It is worth noting that the FHFA, prior HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and the Urban Institute have all since confirmed that manufactured homes are appreciating based on very similar factors that drive conventional housing valuations. Even that brief snapshot reveals that manufactured housing is widely misunderstood. Why? After years of largely positive, third-party research that debunks the common myths about modern manufactured homes, why is this obvious solution to the affordable housing crisis that is hiding in plain sight statistically snoring instead of soaring?
With the above in mind, the next set of facts and quotes sheds more foundational light on what FHFA, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac have recently reported.
After acquiring Clayton Homes, Warren Buffett said, “We are in no hurry to record income, have enormous balance-sheet strength, and believe that over the long-term the economics of holding our consumer paper are superior to what we can now realize through securitization. So Clayton has begun to retain its loans.” That is cited in “Moats – The Competitive Advantages Of Buffett & Munger Businesses,” by Bud Labitan. Holding “consumer paper” means that instead of selling loans into the secondary market, something that is routine with the mainstream housing via the GSEs, Berkshire planned from early on to keep their loans in a portfolio. Berkshire brands would make and service manufactured home loans themselves.
Labitan and his colleagues examined how “the moat” works through various chapters that included Berkshire-owned Clayton Homes. Buffett himself explained the moat as follows. Here the castle and moat analogy means a good business (the castle, e.g.: Clayton Homes and their lending affiliates) and “the moat” is a variety of methods deployed by Berkshire brands to keep competitors at bay, or even to eroded competition. Note now that this ‘castle and moat’ method which Buffett has preached for years is also arguably used by other major firms in their respective industries. This is NOT limited to affordable housing or manufactured homes.
To illustrate that this comment by Buffett about moats are not a one-off cited by Labitan or others, Kevin Clayton in an in depth video interview with transcript linked here said time and again the phrase “the moat.” Kevin Clayton said Buffett preaches “the moat” to his managers, including but not limited to, Clayton Homes. That confirms Buffett’s quote shown above.
Recently surfaced data provided by a former MHI vice president has made it clear that the vast majority of retailers that used to sell manufactured homes have vanished since 2002.
Some of the quotes above from Buffett come from the MHI documentation and presentation are shown in the report linked below. Not only did some 15,000 plus independent retailers vanish in the 21st century, leaving perhaps 10 percent of the former total of retail sellers today, but thousands of land-lease communities and dozens of manufactured housing producers have also vanished. The evidence shows that most of those losses have occurred since 2002, when Buffett-led Berkshire began their slow-motion conquest of manufactured housing.
John H. Cochrane is “a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford. I was formerly a professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. I’m also an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute.” It is fair to say that Cochrane is no dummy, a quip which the self-proclaimed “Grumpy Economist” might value. Cochrane, in commenting on the scholarship of Federal Reserve Senior Economist James A. “Jim” Schmitz Jr and his colleagues said. Cochrane begins with this pull quotes from Schmitz, et al, below.
Let’s note for clarity that the case can be made that what is being described are monopolistic practices that are often deployed as part of an oligopoly. Oxford Languages defines an oligopoly like this: “a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers.”
That noted, says Cochrane about Schmitz: “To Jim the main characteristics of monopoly are:
- Monopolies sabotage and destroy markets. They typically destroy substitutes for their products, those that would be purchased by low-income Americans.
- Monopolies also use their weapons to manipulate and sabotage public institutions for their own gains…
Schmitz and his colleagues specifically mention manufactured housing repeatedly. They also point out that this pattern is impacting other parts of the economy too.
Paraphrasing them, federal regulators, builders, and nonprofits are working in collusion to undermine options that may prove to be better – or the only – practical option for millions of U.S. housing consumers. Now, replace the word “weapons,” “manipulate,” and “sabotage” with Buffett’s and Kevin Clayton’s description of “the moat,” and a picture begins to emerge. But first, back to Cochran and his description of Schmitz evidence-based and detailed research it “sabotaging monopolies.“
- “Monopolies are difficult to detect…they form power relationships of infinite complexity that are hard to untangle…”
The evidence suggests that those points those researchers and experts raised are quite so.
Part of the reason these methods are difficult to detect – in the case of Buffett, Berkshire and manufactured housing – is because there are statements made that seem to point in one direction but are often contradicted by actual behavior. Says who? Several financial analysts that have studied this phenomenon.
One of them is Robin Harding, who says he was an admirer of Buffett until he began to grasp that Buffett was destroying capitalism and free markets. These pull-quotes from Harding reveal that at a glance.
An multi-decade industry veteran and former MHI award winner, Marty Lavin, J.D. framed the phenomenon operating in manufactured housing with these words.
An ironic confirmation of Harding’s analysis is obvious from Kevin Clayton’s quote reported above and linked again here. But another source, a close ally of Warren Buffett, confirms that concern in a manner that should leave no doubts.
CNBC reported that billionaire Bill Gates said: “I didn’t even want to meet Warren because I thought, ‘Hey this guy buys and sells things, and so he found imperfections in terms of markets, that’s not value added to society, that’s a zero-sum game that is almost parasitic.’”
But Gates and Buffett became close allies. They served for years on each other’s Berkshire board and the Gates Foundation nonprofit board. The CDC defines the term “parasitic” like this: “A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.” Notice how each of these quotes illustrates the point that Cochran and Schmitz made about sabotaging monopolies?
That said, some examples of mainstream media that have covered certain aspects of “the moat” and other legal issues are found linked here.
None of this should be a surprise. After all, Buffett – speaking on behalf of this fellow billionaires and corporate giants, indicated that a de facto declared war was ongoing against the rest of America. He did so as follows.
The above is painting a picture that ought to beg the question.
Where are the regulators?
John Kenneth Galbraith – a Canadian-American economist, diplomat, and public official – in commenting on the stock market crash of 1929 shed light on these contemporary regulatory concerns that the past exemplified. Galbraith wrote “Regulatory bodies, like the people who comprise them…become, with some exceptions, either an arm of the industry they are regulating or senile.” Ouch.
Was that hyperbole from Galbraith? The Masthead recently detailed in an in-depth look at the widespread failure by regulators in the 21st century to stop often massive fraud and market manipulation that was often hiding in plain sight. That report examines how whistleblowers were often ignored by mainstream media too.
Near the end of a Cold Fusion documentary video about the Theranos’ scandal, is this pull quote that sheds light on that still-evolving case: “It’s the illusionary effect where if you repeat a lie enough times people start to believe it especially if you have credible names surrounding the product.”
- Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes is shown with then Vice President Joe Biden (D) as well as then President Barack Obama (D).
- In the massive Enron scandal, Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling are shown with then President George W. Bush (R).
- Those examples of establishment politicos are sufficient to make the Cold Fusion point of the “illusionary effect” of “repeating a big lie enough times” when “credible names” are involved.
But in hindsight, those “credible names” often turned out to be high-class criminals. Numbers of once-admired men have been convicted of major crimes. Others have not yet been indicted or tried. But the fact that several got away with outrageous acts for years stands as a reminder that because it happened before, it can happen again.
More to the point of this specific report and analysis, those examples of convictions of once-credible personalities should cause thinkers pause. If some – that for whatever reason are still deemed ‘credible’ – are credibly accused of major crimes, the logic should be obvious that they should be properly be examined, charged as warranted, and prosecuted for their purported crimes too.
Consider for a few moments the stout allegation by Samuel “Sam” Strommen of Knudson Law as it relates to manufactured housing. In reading Strommen, bear in mind what Cochran, Schmitz, et al, concerns – cited above – about sabotaging monopolies. For instance. Notice how Strommen says that the manufactured home industry is being consolidated because it is an “industry rife with lack of oversight…” But there is – at least in theory – regulators that are tasked with precisely the kind of oversight that Strommen is sounding the alarm about in his well documented independent research of affordable manufactured housing.
Strommen’s research points to the Buffett moat too. As noted, he is pointing to problems that scream of a lack of proper regulatory oversight. Those problems he wrote about and carefully documented include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Those aspects of the recent revelations from FHFA and the GSEs will soon be brought into greater focus in this report.
That noted, Strommen and others are seemingly on the same page about issues relating to FHFA, Fannie, and Freddie. A few-pull quotes will serve to make that point.
Strommen, like others cited herein, has good things to say about manufactured homes as part of the obvious solution for the growing affordable housing crisis.
Now, a string of quotes from voices that may superficially seem united will illustrate what the Center Research Center (CRC) and Influence Watch have periodically revealed. Namely, that among the billionaire moat-builders there are stealthy tools the CRC has labeled as “Deception and Misdirection.” Deception and misdirection are deployed by the billionaires and the corporate interests, the CRC has said. Once more, keep in mind Cochrane’s, Schmitz, and his colleagues’ observations about how difficult to discern these sabotage-monopoly methods can be.
Indeed, part of this point is that only by careful research and analysis does the pattern emerge that proves their points. With that in mind, the following reveals what a range of voices have said about manufactured home lending.
Voices on Manufactured Housing Lending
To further illustrate what these various nonprofit and trade group leaders have to say, these quotes from statements by a publicly-traded member of MHI drive home the point that FHFA and the GSEs have not yet implemented a law that is over a dozen years old.
Lest there be even a shred of doubt about this failure by the GSEs and their erstwhile FHFA regulator is the announcement by Jim Gray. Gray was then the FHFA DTS manager. When he said he would soon be leaving, Gray said the following.
Once more, it bears mention that MHARR has hammered these topics for years.
Let us sum up to this point for clarity.
- Manufactured housing is misunderstood. Yet literally decades of third-party research has made it clear that modern manufactured homes are a key part of solving America’s affordable housing crisis.
- Congress enacted good laws by widely bipartisan margins that were based on facts and evidence that they considered prior to enacting laws that benefit consumers and manufactured home purchases. For instance, there are more consumer safeguards built into manufactured housing than exists for far more costly conventional housing, see the report linked here for details.
- Several third-party researchers have spoken about what they call in their own words a web of deception that is often difficult to discern. Cochrane and those Federal Reserve-connected researchers have spoken about “sabotaging monopolies.” Strommen said that getting good information about the industry is not easy. MHI member Gary Shiffman, Chairman and CEO of publicly traded Sun Communities (SUI) similarly said that there is no national repository of sound information on his part of the manufactured home industry.
- A lack of sound information and and limitations on the access to capital just happens to fit this amazingly potent insight from actor Danny Glover. Glover has sat on a Buffett-funded nonprofit board.
- These points also shed light on what public officials across the left-right divide have said for years. Namely, that the “system is rigged.” However, merely saying such things as Glover or those below have stated – while attention-getting – lacks the granular detail needed to actually do something positive about it.
- With some exceptions, there is a tapestry of media coverage that routinely misses the mark for years on emerging problems that later prove to be massive frauds. Those frauds seemingly involve regulators and public officials either looking the other way, or are actively giving cover to supposedly respectable personalities, their corporate, and nonprofit interests.
- Because of a lack of historic perspective on often major issues – such as affordable housing, and the role that plays in wealth creation – the case can be made that minorities and people of all backgrounds are being particularly harmed.
Posturing efforts by Berkshire-backed MHI often turn out to be an illusion. That comes into focus from statements like this from Prosperity Now (formerly CFED), and 5-decade industry veteran Danny Ghorbani.
It is against this background of range credible voices and data – including from the FHFA – agree that more affordable lending is lacking because the DTS law is not being properly enforced.
The following from Buffett, FHFA, Fannie and Freddie come into sharper focus.
A Case Study of the Rigged System, Corrupt and Oversight Collusion in Manufactured Housing Finance
Stating the obvious can bring clarity to a topic. All housing is largely dependent on financing. Who says? Eric Belsky, who per Harvard University is “…Belsky is Director of the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs, The Federal Reserve Board. But when he made the comments quoted below, Belsky was with Harvard’s respected Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Belsky is one of several third-party researchers who, over a period of years had good things to say about modern manufactured homes. In fact, he predicted a surge in manufactured housing sales, despite the post-1998 decline that presaged the 2008 conventional housing-finance bubble.
Clearly, Belsky was mistaken in that prediction. What did he miss? Could it have been the Buffett-Berkshire effect that occurred once they purchased Clayton Homes and their affiliated lending? Could it be that he did not account for how “sabotaging monopolies” might harm the interests of tens of millions of Americans?
Posturing efforts by Berkshire-backed MHI that often turn out to be an illusion comes into focus from statements like these.
It is against the background above that the following from Buffett, FHFA, Fannie and Freddie are revealing.
A recent email to members on April 28, 2021 included a copy of a letter on FHFA on the topic of the “the impacts of climate change” by MHI CEO Lesli Gooch, Ph.D. Another section of that same email to members is a segment that addresses FHFA’s release of data by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
Per MHI’s reading of that FHFA/Fannie/Freddie information: “According to the [annual] report [to FHFA], Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased 16,962 and 6,634 loans, respectively, secured by manufactured homes titled as real property. However, neither Enterprise purchased nor demonstrated any activity with respect to personal property loans.” There was no mention by MHI in that section of their member update that addressed the point that some 80 percent of new HUD Code manufactured homes are financed through personal property, which are also known as “home only” or “chattel loans.”
Nor did MHI point out that those land/home or mortgage loans that “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac purchased 16,962 and 6,634 loans, respectively, secured by manufactured homes titled as real property” represents a mix of lending that apparently includes more refinance than new loan originations on new HUD Code manufactured homes.
The contrast between MHI’s statements that are, which superficially may seem to mirror those of MHARR, are significant. MHI’s letters to FHFA are often submitted under CEO Gooch’s byline. Those from MHARR are by their president and CEO Mark Weiss, J.D. Gooch politely points out the miss by the GSEs. Weiss calls out the GSEs failure as well as that of FHFA in pronouncing what is occurring a “shell game” which has produced no benefits for the majority of independent producers and consumers, while obliquely benefiting MHI’s larger members.
In another embarrassing point, former GSE vice president and MHI “coalition” partner National Housing Conference (NHC) President and CEO David M. Dworkin revealed not only the need for more manufactured home lending, but also that the GSEs could meet the goals if they wanted to do so. That once more begs the question, how can it be rationally explained that 13 years after DTS was enacted that it is still not properly implemented? If an ex-GSE VP says it could be done, and other lenders in manufactured housing are able to do such loans in a sustainable fashion, what possible excuses does the FHFA and GSEs have left?
Incongruously, CEO Gooch-led MHI added in their April 28, 2021 email to members this claim. “Through comment letters and participation in listening sessions, MHI continues to call on FHFA to hold the Enterprises accountable for fulfilling their DTS objectives and that more support by FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the manufactured housing market is needed to strengthen homeownership opportunities for millions of Americans who are hurting by unaffordable rents and the shortage of adequate housing options.” Superficially, that may seem fine.
But upon closer examination, it is worse than anemic. Indeed, the case can be made that the 4.28 MHI email goes to the heart of the concern raised by Prosperity Now’s Doug Ryan.
Ryan, prior to the name-change of their nonprofit from CFED to Prosperity Now, stressed that Clayton Homes is forging a monopoly in manufactured housing. Ryan specifically pointed out that MHI was not pressing the matter of chattel-lending support by the GSEs.
While denying the claim that Clayton Homes had a monopoly over manufactured homes and lending, then MHI Senior Vice President Gooch failed to go to root issues, such as those raised by Strommen’s Knudson Law research that is unchallenged by Berkshire or MHI.
Strommen was far more pointed and legalistic than Ryan. Strommen documented his claims with well over 100 footnotes and references that were an indictment of MHI and Berkshire Hathaway-owned Clayton Homes and their affiliated lending. While Ryan’s rip of the apparent collusion between MHI and the Berkshire brands is useful, it pales next to the case provided by Strommen’s academically reviewed research that alleges “felony” antitrust and RICO violations.
While Gooch is busily posturing on politically correct notion of “the impacts of climate change,” ironically, “THE BIDEN PLAN TO GUARANTEE GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE” reveals how MHI has arguably provided a relevant case study in how the moat is working at part of the Buffett moat. Note that quoting the Biden document extensively should not be construed as an endorsement. Rather, what follows are a contrast between what VP Biden promised and how it should apply to the Buffett, FHFA, Fannie, Freddie, the Berkshire brands, and MHI.
Biden’s 2020 campaign pledges in his all-caps “GUARANTEE” that “GOVERNMENT WORKS FOR THE PEOPLE” includes these pull quotes.
· “REDUCE THE CORRUPTING INFLUENCE OF MONEY IN POLITICS” “Biden strongly believes that we could improve our politics overnight if we flushed big money from the system and had public financing of our elections.” That is in an all caps “CORRUPTING INFLUENCE” is something that members of both major parties would likely agree to on paper. That section of his “GUARANTEE” goes onto say: “But for too long, special interests and corporations have skewed the policy process in their favor with political contributions.”
That looks like one of several Biden-campaign confirmations that an “Iron Triangle” between government, elected officials and regulators exists. The role that this plays in “sabotaging monopolies” by regulators in collusion with special interests that lifelong Democrat Robert F. Kennedy Jr., J.D., has referred to as a “sock puppet” for private interests’ merits exploration.
Per Biden’s website:
· “Hold the lobbied and lobbyists to a higher standard of accountability.”
- Under Biden’s “leadership, our system will make sure that the principles of equality, transparency, and public — not private — interest drive all government decisions.” That will merit a closer look later, but for now, it stands as a part of his all-caps “GUARANTEE.”
- In another all-caps pledge, “RETURN INTEGRITY TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE AND OTHER EXECUTIVE BRANCH DECISIONMAKING…”
- “Empower agency watchdogs to combat unethical behavior.”
- “For the eight years of the Obama-Biden Administration, there was not a hint of scandal.” Ahem, but that bit of campaign happy talk is clearly hyperbole at best, as the report linked here demonstrates. The facts and evidence of just how the Obama-Biden, as well as the Bush-Cheney Administrations, were each embroiled in major scandals and massive regulatory failures. Scandals are part of every administration in the 21st century. That is a pattern that Galbraith and others make clear dates back through the prior century too. That historic point noted, Biden nevertheless is claiming that the Biden-Harris term will be different. It is worth noting too this claim, that “President Obama and Vice President Biden set clear expectations that the ethics code and existing law must be followed.” Clearly, during the Obama-Biden terms and in the Trump-Pence Administration years, existing laws with respect to FHFA and the Duty to Serve have demonstrably not been followed. The thrust of the quotes above all prove that point. So, after ‘guaranteeing’ that such standards of ethics and accountability would be “day one” enactments, Biden’s various pledges ought to now shed a bright light on how the powerful like Buffett, Berkshire, and their nonprofit advocates exercise clout in Washington, D.C.
- “In Washington, the ability to schedule a meeting with an elected official or his or her staff is a form of currency.” Quite so. MHI has said as much in their “Got Clout?” messaging.
How has MHI – and by extension, Buffett and Berkshire – used that clout? The answer is once more hiding in plain sight. If Buffett sincerely wanted the FHFA and the GSEs to do lending on mainstream HUD Code manufactured housing that would undercut his own brands ‘home only’ lending, would anyone seriously doubt his Obama-Biden White House access? Would anyone before, then, or since deny that Buffett could get the law enforced if that was his sincere goal?
That Buffett access speaks volumes. But if there is any lingering doubt, a bombshell was dropped by none other than 21st’s Tim Williams. When it was announced that the so-called pilot program for DTS lending on mainstream manufactured homes would not advance, Williams said to numbers of MHI members present that he was happy that the pilot plan for competitive lending on mainstream HUD Code manufactured homes failed.
MHARR’s founding president and CEO, Danny Ghorbani, who served for years as an MHI senior VP and is still an advisor to MHARR, said this.
While MHI loyalists may grimace at that pointed charge from Ghorbani, it is difficult to deny what MHI themselves have admitted. Namely, that the DTS law with respect to financing single-family manufactured home loans is still being ignored 13 years after being passed into law. Who benefits from that 13 years of foot-dragging?
Curiously, it is much as Ryan, Strommen, MHARR, and Lavin have said.
While issuing statements and talking points, where are the actual measurable results? MHI in documenting their various meetings with photos and videos are proving that they have access but have squandered that currency in a fashion that benefits Buffett led Berkshire’s brands.
Further, MHI themselves admitted that “However, neither Enterprise purchased nor demonstrated any activity with respect to personal property loans.”
Buffett said at the 2019 Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting that it would be a good thing for manufactured home buyers if the Duty to Serve lending would to be implemented. That is true enough. But despite the posturing, where is that implementation? Clearly, when the bulk of manufactured home sales are financed via personal property loans, and the GSEs are doing ‘none’ of that, the conclusion ought to be that the powers and be like it that way.
When the history of manufactured housing, and the lending in the industry, is examined in the Buffett-era of the industry, a strong case for paltering, “deception and misdirection” can be made. It is one more example of a sabotaging monopoly, using the moat, that is not easily discerned absent in-depth study.
Not to be overlooked or forgotten, are the heart of antitrust and RICO claims made by Strommen.
Strommen cites this letter shown below. That letter is on Berkshire-owned Clayton sister-brand, 21st Mortgage Corporation letterhead. The letter is signed by one-time MHI chairman Tim Williams. Williams still serves on the MHI board. The Williams/21st letter – reportedly sent to thousands of retailers, loan brokers and others via the U.S. Mail, internet and fax is per Strommen and several other legal sources that have examined it an apparently clear violation of antitrust law. Because it used “the wires” and the U.S. Mail, it may also represent a RICO, postal, and other violations of federal law too.
As the report linked below demonstrates, the case can be made that the letter is a classic example of paltering. It includes truthful, false, misleading and deceptive statements. Buffett himself contradicted some of the claims made in that letter, as direct quotes by Buffett and Kevin Clayton reveal the apparent deceptions by Williams. When Buffett and Kevin directly contradict key portions of Williams’ letter, how is it possible that federal officials have not acted on such a gross violation of federal law?
As the report linked below and others linked herein reflect, following that letter, the backbone and muscle of the bulk of manufactured housing independents were snapped and sapped. The vast majority of manufactured home retailers fell into oblivion. Some retailers were reportedly bought out by Berkshire-owned Clayton, at discounted valuations.
Ex-Manufactured Housing Institute Vice President Who Left the Manufactured Home Industry Revealed Stunning Buffett-Berkshire Era Drop in Manufactured Housing Independent Communities, Retailers, Factory-Builders
Democrats are in charge of all of the levers of the federal government at this time. If they are sincere about rooting out political crony corruption, they have a perfect opportunity.
Additionally, there are state attorneys general – Democrats and Republicans – who could tackle these concerns. Who will act to enforce existing laws that harm millions?
Summing Up – Additional and Emphasized Insights, Analysis and Commentary
While the argument can be made that several of the third-party researchers and industry members cited herein might have said more, what they stated as shown is sufficient to demonstrate the following evidence-based case.
As quoted above, Buffett entered manufactured housing stating that Berkshire would have Clayton and their lenders hold that loan paper in portfolio. That would only be a rational possibility as part of the “durable competitive advantage” of the Berkshire “moat” if they had a high degree of certainty that the GSEs would not do any serious level of manufactured home lending, particularly chattel or home only lending. How so?
- A) Because if the GSEs had done what the widely bipartisan Duty to Serve (DTS) provision of the federal HERA Act of 2008 required – and what the FHFA is legally tasked by the same DTS law with overseeing Fannie and Freddie to do – then lower cost lending would be available to manufactured home buyers. But no serious voice claims that such home-only lending is taking place. Those loans, virtually all agree, represent about 80 percent of all the loans made on manufactured homes. Not to support home only lending is thus not following the law.
- B) If lower cost lending options were available to consumers, then why would so many borrowers turn to a Berkshire brand for more expensive lending? Clayton, 21st and VMF would then be at a disadvantage with competitors, not an advantage. Thus, the financial moat would have potentially have never formed. A loyal MHI member essentially made that point. So too has Kevin Clayton.
- C) Buffett himself has said that lower cost lending would benefit manufactured home borrowers, as the Yahoo Finance video posted above makes clear.
- D) Buffett himself said that if such lower cost lending would exist, then it would cost Berkshire money. Hmmm…
- E) Berkshire-owned 21st effectively knee-capped and crippled the bulk of manufactured housing independent retailers by curtailing or cutting off vital lending. Those retailers were the distribution chain for many independent HUD Code manufactured home producers. By crippling lending access to independents beyond their own channels, Berkshire created the environment that has led to the loss of independent firms that in many cases had existed for decades. The collage of MHI documents below, with MHProNews analysis explaining the details, sheds the needed light.
- F) That process fits the description of Buffett ally Gates, who described what Buffett does as “parasitic.” Gates fancies himself as a science and health buff, and has spent billions in those fields through the Gates Foundation. So, the choice of the term “parasitic” should be construed through that lens. As was noted, the CDC defines that as follows: “A parasite is an organism that lives on or in a host organism and gets its food from or at the expense of its host.” Isn’t that precisely what Berkshire has done to manufactured housing?
- G) More to the point raised by self-professed Berkshire admirer Harding, he said that Buffett has broken American capitalism by building a monopoly using this destructive “moat” methodology.
- H) The truth and the evidence are largely hiding in plain sight. A once thriving industry was crippled by a “parasitic” “moat” method that fits what Cochrane, Schmitz, et al called “sabotaging monopolies.” (See the quotes and linked references above.)
- I) Those “sabotaging monopolies” – said Cochrane, Schmitz, and their colleagues – depend on regulators that are working in collusion with builders and nonprofits.
- J) When this writer was making several of these points in a condensed format shown in the document linked here during the March 25, 2021 FHFA “listen session” the evidence reflects that one or more members of the FHFA staff were involved in cutting of the speaker during his presentation. Wasn’t that the start of an apparent coverup involving federal officials? Will the Biden “GUARANTEE” to Americans quoted above be honored?
- K) When pressed, FHFA relented to a degree, and included the full statement by Kovach on their FHFA website. However, they do not deny that they have also altered the transcript and video. While offering a partial fix, they have stubbornly refused to disclose that a cover-up in plain sight is arguably on the FHFA website. If they have refused mere transparency, which Biden-Harris have pledged in all caps, is it any surprise if they have at some level colluded with MHI and the Berkshire to continue to hobble the affordable home ownership opportunities of millions in a manner that profits Buffett’s brands?
- L) There are professionals who are fearful of speaking out about these obvious travesties in a highly specific way, if at all. That may be a Hobbs Act problem for Berkshire and their surrogates like MHI. That noted, there are thankfully sufficient numbers of public and published statements as shown herein to make the case that manufactured home lending has been thwarted from within in a fashion that benefits conventional housing and the dominating brands in manufactured housing.
- M) On a necessarily lengthy exposition, it is useful to review some of the key statements that in the light of the above demonstrate how Buffett’s moat has undermined manufactured housing. But before doing so, a look at the market share below paints the sobering picture. This “parasitic” “moat” of “sabotage monopoly” practices have in the course of the years shown witnessed the dramatic rise of Clayton Homes from the number #3 producer in the industry in 2002 to #1 under Buffett’s methods. Berkshire bought Clayton in 2003, effectively combined the two firms (even though there are still old Oakwood retail centers that were acquired by Berkshire in 2002). Note that manufactured housing shipments, per federal data cited by the now defunct Merchandiser magazine, reveals that fewer manufactured homes are being sold today than when Buffett bought Oakwood or Clayton. That too is arguably evidence of the “sabotaging” “moat” at work.
- N) Market share in 2003 by Clayton Homes circa 2003 stood as follows.
- O) To the point of Cochrane and Schmitz of oligopolies involve multiple brands, Cavco Industries and Skyline-Champion have arguably become part of the push to dominate the industry, per Strommen and others.
- P) When Gooch proudly proclaims that her members represent 85 percent of the industry production, what she fails to say is that some 80 percent of that is just 3 brands. Clayton Homes, owned and publicly traded firm Berkshire Hathaway (BRK). Cavco Industries (CVCO), which is hanging under the cloud of an SEC probe, and Skyline Champion (SKY). Even with most of the industry already consolidated, those arguably allied brands with Clayton are still talking about consolidating more.
- Q) Oddly, Skyline Champion published a statement for current and potential investors that misleading indicated the market share of Clayton Homes. That is shown above. When called out, they declined to address that concern. But when asked, Statistical Surveys documented the point that MHProNews and our MHLivingNews sister-site has raised.
- R) The FHFA is allowing the GSEs to make loans, supposedly under DTS, on manufactured home communities. Those loans are in turn being used by MHI member brands to consolidate once independently-owned communities. Resident-advocacy groups have understandably wailed that the FHFA has allowed the GSEs to buy once-affordable manufactured home communities and turn them into less affordable living.
- S) MHI award-winner Lavin wryly noted that MHI is working for what he called the “big boys” of manufactured housing. Lavin has also ripped several aspects of what is occurring in the community sector as a “witches brew” of “predatory practices.”
- T) One of Weiss’ more popular columns described what MHI is doing as the “Illusion of Motion vs. Real World Challenges.”
- U) More recently Weiss mocked FHFA and the GSEs by saying that when they protest about rising unaffordable housing and the growing housing crisis, they need look no further than their own arguably corrupt behavior.
- V) Indeed, despite the powerful evidence for manufactured housing produced by CRE Cororaton, the affordable housing crisis is growing despite laws that were supposed to remedy the matter in a way that would have benefited manufactured housing.
- W) There will be some that wonder how a felonious scam so big could be occurring during an affordable housing crisis? Once more for emphasis, Galbraith and the evidence from numbers of 21st century scandals are sobering reminders that it has happened before, so it obviously can be – or is – happening again.
- X) When someone is learning something new, be it the ABCs or 123s, for most people, it takes repetition for understanding to seep in. The first time reading this will bring awareness. The second time will bring greater understanding. Checking the facts and evidence will reveal that this is a reality hiding in plain sight.
- Y) The bulk of the above is publicly-available information. While there are some documents and tips that MHProNews received, those two are now public. Nor has their authenticity been publicly challenged. What emerges from a careful review of the facts is an example of apparent “sabotaging monopolies” that begs public officials, mainstream media, and others to get involved so that the economic harm done to millions are remedied.
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By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHProNews.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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