AEI Housing Center Research Director Tobias Peter laid out the facts this week when he said in Senate Testimony that wayward federal policies were causing the affordable housing crisis. Minneapolis Federal Reserve Researcher James A. Schmitz Jr and his colleagues have in repeated parallel claims pointed to their findings that HUD and builders were working in collusion to subvert manufactured housing. They assert that contributes to economic and were thereby fueling the housing crisis. By contrast, in the topsy-turvy worldview of self-proclaimed “100% behind” “Berkshire Hathaway” and “superb” “leadership” of “MHI” CEO “Lesli Gooch,” Ohio Manufactured Home Association (OMHA) Executive Director Tim Williams publicly proclaimed his fealty time and again to organizations overseeing the documented decline of manufactured housing.
Comparisons and evidence – especially in the face of competing claims – are often vital to understanding the reality of a disputed issue. Thus, this factual, evidence-based overview of the data that follows is necessary for many so that they may understand the troubling trends and related issues objectively.
In the first decade of the 21st century, MHI loyalist Ken Corbin proclaimed a “10,000 drop” in the number of U.S. manufactured home retail centers.
- How many of those vaporized manufactured home dealers – or more aptly, retailers – were once OMHA or other state association members?
- What were the causes and contributing factors to that stark drop in independent retailers?
- Who will be the next of the slim numbers of remaining independent retailers to fall into oblivion?
- How many have read about, were around and still recall that once vaunted Fleetwood had its own retail operation that vaporized since the dawn of the Berkshire era of manufactured housing?
- How may professionals recall that now defunct Patriot Homes once established a program that helped put new manufactured home retailers into their own business, only to be among those lost in the Berkshire era in the arguably understated “10,000 drop” acknowledged by Corbin?
Yet, in part of the defense of her OMHA colleague Williams, attorney Elizabeth Birch oddly said that he and other Berkshire-MHI leadership loyalists were working to protect the “viability” and “perception” of HUD Code manufactured housing.
Here is Birch’s pull quote: “…Tim and OMHA support others in the industry who are working hard to build the viability of and the perception of manufactured housing.” As attorneys well know, words have specific meaning(s).
- If the “viability” and “perception” of the “manufactured housing” industry are in question during a widely acknowledged affordable housing crisis, how can OMHA’s Williams and Birch defend MHI and Berkshire’s leadership?
- Doesn’t data and trends matter?
- What about their duty to independent, non-corporate members?
Birch flatly proclaimed it wrong to question Williams, Berkshire brands or MHI in written comments to MHProNews. She denied conflicts of interest by Williams. But has she or the OMHA board done any sort of serious internal investigation? If so, where is the evidence for such an investigation?
The Facts…and Chris Stinebert
When Chris Stinebert stepped down from being President and CEO of MHI, the total national manufactured home production level in 2006 was some 118,00 units, per FRED data shown further below. In 2020, it once more finished down compared to 2019. Both 2020 and 2019 industry production failed to reach 100,000. Meanwhile, CNN says that conventional housing is red hot and can not keep up with demand.
MHI said in a statement to their members that they are “studying” Biden Administration housing proposals.
- But MHI member Wally Comer of Adventure Homes says that current policies are making it difficult for his firm to get enough labor in his factory.
- MHI member Legacy Housing’s Curt Hodgson is saying that the industry has too many short term thinkers and that the steps needed to provide more affordable housing by manufactured home firms are not being taken. What the devil is going on?
All of those are troubling yet accurately quoted and reflected statements, as following the various links will reveal. There are therefore several obviously conflicting claims.
- As last night’s market report reflected, Skyline Champion (SKY) Mark Yost declined weighing in on Williams’ and Birch’s statements.
- Tom Hodges, Clayton Homes General Counsel and MHI chairman, also declined comment.
- Ditto Lesli Gooch, and MHI outside attorney John Greiner in the Ohio based office of the Graydon law firm. Apparently, loyalty is only going one way? Why do OMHA’s Birch and Williams give but do not get cover and support from the very people that OMHA leaders are trying to defend?
With even that brief snapshot, is it any wonder that Edelman research asserts that over half do not trust political or business leaders? As Edelman framed it, 57 percent believe that government leaders are misleading or are lying to Americans. That same source said some 56 percent believe business leaders are also suspected of “Lies and Misinformation.” Certainly, in the case of manufactured housing, these are concerns directly connected to real professionals, and potentially millions of people. After all, AEI’s Peter says 8 million new housing units are needed.
The outline above, linked information, and the three years of national level facts, and the current data for all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico that follow below should be of concern to every state association and MHI member firm. The data and these conflicting claims and quotes should also be of keen interest to the board members of those associations. Those boards in trade groups, along with the boards of publicly traded firms, have legal and fiduciary responsibility to understand the facts, and to then act accordingly in the favor of all members and/or shareholders.
Following the facts as provided by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), which in turn uses IBTS data officially collected on behalf of HUD, there will be additional information, more linked research and other Industry and third-party based evidence and resources.
The third-party facts that follow will be broken down into these three categories.
- 1) MHARR’s national data snapshot for the past 3 years for this same month.
- 2) the IBTS and collected data for HUD, which is broken down by states. That state level data shows either production, shipments or both.
- 3) The St. Louis Federal Reserve (FRED) system’s chart and pulled references from it regarding annual manufactured home production.
That will be followed by additional information, MHProNews expert analysis that cites sources as warranted, plus commentary.
With that plan of action, MHProNews now turns to three sequential snapshots from MHARR.
1) MHARR’s snapshot and data as published in April of 2019, April 2020, and April 2021. Note that the arrows for the top ten states are added by MHProNews to indicate up or down trends for that specific state.
As you look at their reports and the trends, ask yourself this question. What part of the facts that follow look like “superb” performance, as OMHA’s Williams claims MHI’s leaders are doing and Birch defended? Bear in mind, that in fairness, this issue goes well beyond Williams and Birch at OMHA. Those two are spotlighted because they publicly raised their hands in defense of the firms whose leadership should be held to account for these trends. That in turn calls into question the issues raised from credible sources cited in this report. Instead of “superb” performance, isn’t what follows more routinely like sobering, sad, or even tragic — given that these data points reveal the loss of the American Dream for so many?
It is worth noting that MHI used to publish similar data as shown above for non-members of the general public too. But unlike the National Association of Realtors (NAR), or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), or MHARR, MHI no longer provides this to the general public. It is only provided to members who can access it via a login. By contrast, several years of MHARR’s data for this information can be accessed at this link here.
2) Data collected by IBTS which is the official source for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data.
|Institute for Building Technology & Safety (IBTS)|
|Shipments and Production Summary Report 02/01/2021 – 02/28/2021|
|Shipments||SW is single section||MW is multi-sectional|
|District of Columbia||0||0||0||0|
|*District of Columbia||0||0||0||0|
|(*) THESE STATES HAVE FEWER THAN THREE PLANTS.|
|FIGURES ARE AGGREGATED ON FIRST LINE ABOVE|
|TOTALS TO PROTECT PROPRIETARY INFORMATION. Per IBTS.|
3) The St Louis Federal Reserve (FRED) system snapshot, including information pulled for the years shown from the FRED system.
Additional Information, MHProNews Analysis, and Commentary
According to St Louis Federal Reserve FRED system chart above, rounded totals of manufactured home production for the given year in question, are as shown below.
- 2000: there were some 250,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes produced. That was the year that the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 was passed into law by a joint effort of MHARR, which had long sought such changes, which was joined by MHI, the Texas Manufactured Housing Association (TMHA) and others.
- 2002: there were some 168,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes produced. That was the year that Warren Buffett (BRK) led Berkshire Hathaway acquired manufactured home builder Oakwood and their associated lending.
- 2003: 131,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes produced. That was the year that Buffett led-Berkshire bought Clayton Homes, their lending, and continued the process of buying pieces of the manufactured housing industry and its lending.
- 2006: 118,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes were produced. That was the year, for whatever reason, that then MHI President and CEO Chris Stinebert left that Arlington, VA based national trade group and the manufactured housing industry behind. In his parting message, before his purported NDA kicked in, Stinebert politely but sharply criticized several things, some of which appear to have been clearly directed at his own now former MHI trade group and thus logically to some of their key members.
- 2008: 82,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes were produced. That was the year that the Duty to Serve (DTS) Manufactured Housing was enacted into law as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008. But despite the Congressional mandate, as MHI’s Gooch and other MHI members admit, there is nearly no chattel or personal property, home only lending occurring from the Government Sponsored Enterprises of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
- 2009: once more, per FRED’s rounded data, some 50,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes were produced. This was the year that the notorious Tim Williams at 21st Mortgage Corporation letter was issued, that some have described as a prima facie case of an antitrust violation. This is where much of that “10,000 drop” of retailers that the Atlantic, IBISWorld, and MHI loyalist Ken Corbin referred to occurred.
- 2018: after a slow crawl back up to about 1/4th of the last industry high water mark in 1998, only 96,000 new manufactured homes were produced. MHI declares “momentum” in a self-praising, association-promotional video occurred.
- 2019: 95,000 new manufactured homes were produced. The decline that started following the announcement of what became CrossModTM homes, which has yet to make any noteworthy contribution to industry totals. Is that superb leadership in reverse?
- 2020: 94,000 new HUD Code manufactured homes, per FRED’s rounded data, were produced. Another drop. But meanwhile consolidation of the industry continues. Ironically, it is MHI’s own information, albeit it has to be cobbled together from a variety of place to make the point, that demonstrates the loss of independents as consolidators surged.
Chris Stinebert left MHI at some 118,000 new manufactured homes produced that year. Stinebert could point with pride to his successful effort in joining MHARR, Texas, state associations, and others in enacting the MHIA. How does that not make Stinebert’s tenure better in terms of data and achievement than any who have followed him at MHI, including Lesli Gooch, Ph.D.?
Note that after Stinebert left MHI that “Chris Stinebert, [became] president and chief executive officer of the American Financial Services Association… Given the documented conflict of interest by an apparent MHI whistleblower to MHProNews, which has so far gone publicly uncontested by Lesli Gooch, what will be her next gig after leaving MHI? See those documents at this link here.
What will be in OMHA’s Tim Williams future, if he sincerely believes and sticks to a seemingly indefensible support for conflicted Gooch and MHI’s poor post-production performance?
- Will he and OMHA’s attorney change their tune?
- Or will they continue to turn a blind eye to what the data tells them?
- Will they continue to look the other way to what numerous voices inside and outside of MHI along with others have said?
- Will they still cheerlead when they too should arguably be calling for an objective investigation that features total transparency?
Has the OMHA or its general counsel turned to its state AG and call for an antitrust, RICO, and deceptive trade practices probe? If they are the industry’s state watchdog, how have they exercised their claims and trust to work on behalf of all of their members?
What about other states? Two trade groups broke ranks with MHI. Doesn’t that say something about MHI performance?
Some state execs who are MHEC members tipped and confirmed the information that led to the report linked below.
Other MHEC members provided useful insights to MHProNews. But that still leaves several who have arguably looked the other way as they traveled to resort hotels in nice locales to enjoy meetings with MHI leaders. How does that represent the interests of independents?
State and federal lawmakers and public officials exist for a reason.
- Have they been asked to inquire into these concerns?
- If so, where is the evidence of that request?
- If authentically asked to inquire, what did those public officials do?
- If public officials have not been asked, why not?
- While an association, or a subgroup from an association may be preferable, even a single person in a state may be able to get the ball rolling. Who will be that ‘good Samaritan’ who refuses to look the other way as people in his or her same profession got mugged and rolled by the Buffett-Berkshire moat?
This is war. Buffett declared it so.
In a war, right or wrong, polite language may fall by the wayside. In war, it is often do or die. In this declared war within the affordable manufactured home industry, the facts speak loudly when they are objectively examined. But these issues impact the vast majority of all Americans, even if they do not realize that point. The more in depth report linked below goes step by step through years of expert research by third-parties to make that point.
As voices across the left-center-right are increasingly raising the alarms about troubling practices in our profession or others, isn’t it time that this seemingly well documented phenomenon be fought now?
Tobias Peter’s and his colleague Howard Husock’s testimony to the U.S. Senate this week was perhaps polite but it was nevertheless pointed and evidence-based.
The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has for years been sounding the alarms. MHARR under Danny Ghorbani and now Mark Weiss, J.D., and their respective leadership have often been rather polite while being pointed, factual, and evidence based in their calls for reforms at MHI, and then their calls for a new post-production trade group to supplant MHI, given its failures.
As the new Masthead report and analysis linked below reveals, Warren Buffett, Kevin Clayton, and MHI’s Gooch have all made admissions that if they were in specific types of court cases might well persuade a jury to unanimously convict on a range of manufactured housing issues that include “felony” and other possible claims. Who says? Samuel Strommen from Knudson Law. But he is not alone. Several inside or outside of MHI are accurately quoted in the same report. Yes, it takes time to read. Yes, it may be painful, and at times cover similar ground.
But the alternative is arguably more painful. Will those who lost their part of the American Dream go without justice?
In a deep dive, the interests of residents and others involved in the manufactured home community sector are explored through the lens of Sheelah Kolhatkar for the New Yorker’s irksome findings on the topic. One of those interviewed frankly called it a feudalistic system.
In the report linked below, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison’s prior congressional comments, made in conjunction with fellow lawmakers, rips Clayton Homes citing evidence supporting their view of racially biased practices.
This publication has called for total transparency and Manufactured Housing Industry Accountability. The facts and evidence cited support the need for it. But what lies ahead might make OMHA’s Williams long for the days when he praised our publishing for its fairness and accuracy.
Nothing is Changed Until it is Challenged…
There are clearly some in our profession who have turned a blind eye to what has happened to literally thousands of their colleagues. History suggests that pattern will not change until it is challenged.
The good news is this. The various laws, once they are understood, should favor those who have been ripped off. But that will not be handed to anyone without doing something for it. Freedom is never free.
To obtain positive change, to reach the industry’s true potential, people of good will should join other whistleblowers, tipsters, and others who have publicly questioned the decisions – and in several cases, the legality – of actions taken by those who OMHA’s Williams has praised. If factual, evidence based reports like this do not cause OMHA’s Williams, Birch and others like them to do an about face, what will?
Updated Link 4.23.2021
Stay tuned for more of what is ‘behind the curtains’ as well as what is obvious and in-your-face reports. It is all here, at the runaway largest and most-read source for authentic manufactured home “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © 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 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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