The headline asks the estimated $64 billion a year question. Because the industry could easily be doing 8 to 10 times more new home sales volume than it currently is.
At a factor of 8, using 2018 averages, that would be $64 billion dollars.
As you read this, keep in mind that all manufactured home sales are local sales. If you are a one-location operation or larger, odds are good that what you care the most about is ‘can your sales grow several times larger than they current are?’ If so, can that be done in an ethical, sustainable manner where happy manufactured home owners follow in ever greater numbers?
That type of massive shift toward robust growth in localized markets won’t occur with some systemic change. It is axiomatic that doing the same things over-and-over will only accomplish the same results.
The time for change is self-evident. This will be a focused, systematic review of where the industry stands on the trade association level on key topics like lending, zoning, placement, public acceptance (image) and related.
Manufactured Home Financing
We’ve had for some time clear evidence that the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) won’t do personal property or ‘home-only’ ‘chattel loans’ without being forced to follow the law passed by Congress in 2008. That law would be the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA), which mandated the Duty to Serve manufactured housing, rural, and underserved markets. Clearly, with Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) getting paid by the GSEs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, they are logically not part of the solution.
After years of lip-service from GSEs and MHI, where is the beef? How many times do we have to believe those who have promised without delivering? Follow the money. Follow the performance, not the words.
Isn’t it obvious that the GSEs or more FHA Title I, Title II, VA, or USDA (Rural Housing) or other similar loans just a threat to the profits of Berkshire Hathaway owned brands?
The new MHI Executive Committee reflects again the ongoing domination of Berkshire-owned brands over MHI. One must keep in mind what MHI member company leaders have told MHProNews. MHI is ‘scared to death’ – per a well placed-sources – that if Clayton and their Berkshire affiliated lenders pulled out of MHI, that the association would rapidly become insolvent. What Clayton, 21st, and Vanderbilt want – say those sources to MHProNews – they get.
Rephrased, don’t expect their pretty words about more lending to become reality any time soon. There’s years of evidence that proves that point. Let MHI, the GSEs, and the Berkshire boys prove us wrong by doing what they’ve long promised to do.
Furthermore, keep in mind that several 2020 Democrats have called out Clayton and their affiliated lenders out in writing and by name to federal officials for allegations of bad behavior, what some call ‘black hat’ business practices.
Even their hometown Knoxville news television station has spotlighted allegations of ‘black hat’ behavior. Views of this video shot up 700 percent since we’ve been periodically posting it. Keep in mind that this sums up only some of the allegations against Clayton and their lenders.
Perhaps more important, is that John Oliver’s viral video that blasted Warren Buffett and Clayton Homes by name. Further, on that same misnamed John Oliver video every firm mentioned – including the one led by Nathan Smith – has been spotlighted not only by Oliver, but by others in mainstream media too.
Is it any wonder that the industry’s image sucks when the largest trade association has so many examples of ‘black hat’ behavior writ large?
What is the result of that bad behavior? Look at the data compiled by third parties. Good business and smart industries measure results ‘by their numbers’
Is it any wonder that with so much bad news flowing from MHI member companies in recent years, that Zillow has documented that acceptance of manufactured housing has dropped?
MHProNews stresses again, in fairness, that’s mentioning so called black hats at MHI should not be construed to mean that every company in MHI or every professional working in a black hat operation has similar ethical or other challenges. That said, it is to say that for some, they don’t see an option at present. Indeed, one problem heard is that some feel ‘forced’ to be MHI members. If so, that’s a possible RICO and/or antitrust violations. That’s another topic for another time.
Given MHI and Berkshire Brands Purported Problems,
Who Can Lead Real Change in Manufactured Housing?
It must in fairness by mentioned that voices such as Frank Rolfe, his partner Dave Reynolds, George Allen, or his buddy Spencer Roane have at times complained about MHI and their National Communities Council. MHProNews has brought those useful ‘wheat and chaff‘ quotes and reports to the attention of the wider industry.
But given the controversies revolving around Frank and Dave – is there anyone that thinks that Congress or public officials are going to listen to or trust them? After all, Senator Elizabeth Warren among other lawmakers has specifically pointed to Frank and Dave and other MHI connected operations by name, without perhaps realizing that MHI is a common thread.
Rolfe and George Allen, for whatever they bring to the table, they arguably have serious conflicts of interest and credibility issues of their own.
Allen and Roane refused to call out bad behavior among one of their own in SECO that made regional and Google news. They and SECO can’t logically be the source for a white hat solution for the industry’s remaining independents, can they? If they are part of the problem, how can they be the solution?
There may be hope for NAMHCO, the National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners. But to be clinical, however well intended their leadership might be, they arguably made a strategic error in bringing on board Tom Heinemann. Then they made another by aligning themselves with MHI and Prosperity Now on a bill that could – if passed – undermine the enhanced preemption provision of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA).
It should be noted that per our sources on Capitol Hill, this bill is now stalled, due in part to MHARR’s and MHProNews’ direct effort with top lawmakers. More on that another time, or see the linked report below, but hold that thought.
What about MHVillage (MHV) or MHInsider? MHV’s own data speaks volumes. Also, they are openly pro-MHI. How could they be a credible source for an ethical and robust industry recovery campaign?
Furthermore, stop and think. The Louisville Manufactured Housing Show in 2019 shrank in size. Who is promoting the show? MHVillage. Who is behind the scenes working various aspects of the event? We have evidence that suggests that MHI and thus their powers that be.
With 11 of the past 12 months of year over year new manufactured home shipment declines, and the Louisville Manufactured Home Show going in the wrong direction, how can they be trusted to do what they have failed to do?
There is an axiom that applies. “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Warren Buffett put it like this.
Or ponder this Buffett saying.
Using the principle of separating the wheat from the chaff with all people and things, doesn’t that principle make sense?
What About MHARR?
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has been elemental in several positive items over the years. MHARR helped pass – indeed, was a driving force – behind the MHIA 2000 as well as the Duty to Serve provisions of HERA 2008. It was MHARR, per the Washington Post, that got Pam Danner removed from HUD, not MHI. There’s more, see the article linked below
Thus, manufactured home consumers and independents of all kinds owe MHARR a debt of gratitude. They could, in theory, be a strong vehicle for advancement. They are already a proven part of the solution.
But MHARR has repeatedly voted against expanding beyond independent producers. They have also noted that they are happy to work with any new trade association that forms. Indeed they are eager to do so. ICYMI, or for those that never saw their seminal 2017 research report, see the below. It is as relevant today as it was then.
So, who is left to credibly lead an effort to organize a white hat trade group?
What’s left? The truth hiding in plain sight…
It may seem self-serving, but for years we at MHProNews and MHLivingNews tried to get MHI or others to carry the ball. They wouldn’t or couldn’t do it.
That leaves the most credible voice for starting a new post-production trade alliance to be L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach. The outline above and what will follow makes that point clear. The fact that you are reading here, makes that point clear too.
Indeed, that new post-production trade alliance is already forming. You can’t be first, but you could be next. But let’s step back first and look at this objectively too. What do the naysayers say?
Several sources tell us that George Allen – a part-time MHI surrogate – and/or MHI connected personalities have worked behind the scenes to derail prior efforts. Let’s ponder that for a few moments.
People can nitpick how we’ve at MHProNews have done what we’ve have if they want to do so. But let’s be blunt. We tried the polite and behind the scenes methods of getting MHI to ‘reform’ for and ‘do their job’ for some 5 years first. We did so on the inside, as members. That didn’t work. For about 2 more years, as MHI members we tried to get ethical and pro-growth changes by MHI accomplished. That resulted in MHProNews being ejected via an unsigned letter for a silly reason, namely, their claim that we are trade media and they said that they had not such membership category. Seriously? It took 7 years for them to realize we were media, when they had us promote their events as media too?
They arguably did more, but that’s not the point now. That was a fine time for the gloves to come off.
We concluded that someone had to get beyond the courteous, politically correct ‘happy talk’ infecting manufactured housing. No one else did so with anything like the track record that we’ve established.
- When the Louisville Show was cancelled, who did Dennis Hill and the MMHF turn to revive the show? Tony and MHProNews. They’ve praised that effort many times, as two examples below remind readers old or new alike.
- But that was years ago, some might say. More recently, consider these examples:
- Legacy Housing has publicly praised our work at promoting their events. Sources there said that only MHProNews produced a measurable result. That makes sense, because we have the largest and most engaged audience in manufactured housing trade media. Let’s note that they were already a growing and successful firm. But teaming up with us on promotion made their events even better. Note too we don’t ask them, or anyone else, to ‘endorse’ our articles. We stand on reports and analysis that rely only on their own evidence-based, logical merit.
- How about in terms of successful advocacy?
- MHProNews’ publisher Tony Kovach personally contacted and thwarted efforts by local towns to limit or ban manufactured homes. Why didn’t MHI do that when asked? By contrast, when MHARR was asked to chime in with those same two towns, they did so.
What about examples of educational items that boost sales?
- There are numerous clients that have said in writing and or on camera that our efforts proved valuable. See this link here and here to hear or see it yourself.
Other than MHARR on the national level, who else has made this type of documentable positive outcomes? What has Rolfe or Allen done to improve the image of the industry? By contrast, MHProNews’ publisher has spent years working to advance the appeal and understanding of the industry. One of many examples is linked below. ICYMI, or need a reminder, see the report below.
Plus and Minuses
Objectively, what are the hits on Tony kicking off such an effort?
Briefly, some are not comfortable with the new style here. There has been some mud-slinging aimed at Tony, those arguably trace back to George Allen and/or MHI. But he invited those involved in naysaying or mudsling to do so on stage, live audience, compare records on camera and discuss it with a moderator, so anyone could see and hear the matters from all parties. Those naysayers declined every time. If they had anything of substance, why are they afraid to take Tony up on his offer? If they are confidence in their performance and their own behavior, why are they afraid to discuss it publicly and on video?
Put differently, they have hot air.
For some, the industry is just fine as is. Why? Because the industry underperforming now allows the big boys in the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis to consolidate the industry at a discounted value. That just happens to fit the Buffett mantra model.
There are already industry professionals who have said they will support such a new trade alliance.
There are already those who realize that part of what this trade alliance must do is set local businesses apart from their black hat competition.
The next steps will follow in the days ahead.
But let’s note that having done the initial math, membership in such a group would be more costly for some retailers and communities than it would be for membership in MHI. There is no other way the group can sustain itself. That said, there are marketing benefits that such a group will offer that should more than compensate for that membership investment.
Rephrased, the new alliance will work to be a practical solution with prompt measurable results at the local market level. No more years of waiting for unfulfilled promises by MHI or others.
The working plan, subject to revision by participating organizations, will be that MHProNews’ leadership will help forge the group. Once the trade alliance is sufficiently established, it will be spun off as an independent non-profit. That nonprofit will have strict guidelines that will keep the organization as true to a white hat causes that are pro-growth and solution oriented as possible.
We must learn the lessons of the past. There have been plenty of problematic items to point to, not the least of which has been Warren Buffett’s ‘dark money’ donations that helped fuel attacks by MHAction on manufactured housing. The MHI rope-a-dope ploy is another controversial issue, not to mention that MHI is arguably ‘feeding’ companies to big boys to gobble up at a discount.
Manufactured home professionals – perhaps in concert with equally concerned home owners who are living in ‘black hat’ operated communities, or have loans from ‘black hat’ style firms – could team up for mutual benefit. That will be discussed as appropriate in the near term.
It should also be mentioned that legal issues may in the foreseeable future hit the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis. More on that in the days ahead too. The time to organize and prepare for a brighter future is now.
Step by step, we’ve set the foundation for not only understanding, but positive action has been set in the past few years. Whatever the opposition has thrown at us, we’ve kept coming.
We plan to work with MHARR and NAMHCO where possible, and MHARR has indicated that they are willing and eager to work with a pro-growth, pro-‘enforce good existing laws’ trade alliance.
There have been too many years of broken promises by the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington based industry leaders. The shipment data tells the tale. It’s a disgrace what has happened in the past year especially.
The rest of what the powers that be say or do is arguably happy talk, half-truths, deception, and outright lies. If they disagree, let them debate our publisher on stage and with a video recording so all of manufactured housing can see it.
More reasons to act sooner than later are linked below. That’s your third installment today at manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
Submitted by Soheyla Kovach for MHProNews.com.
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