Posts Tagged ‘esther sullivan’

Bill Advances New Rules Regulating Manufactured Home Communities, Esther Sullivan Strikes Again

April 24th, 2019 Comments off



The specific piece of legislation that will be the focus of this report is just part of a pattern that is arguably spreading from the coasts into the heartland states.


In the wake of the hue and cry from the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver viral “Mobile Homes” video, there is renewed zeal to reign in concerns over problematic business practices in the manufactured home land-lease community sector.

The Colorado Springs Gazette, which bills itself as ‘Pulitzer Prize winning journalism’ established in 1872 spotlighted the facts that will be referenced.

A bill designed to better protect residents of mobile home parks won state House approval Monday on a 41-23 vote. House Bill 1309 next heads to the state Senate,” per the Gazette’s writer Marianne Goodland.  She pointed out that Senate Republicans have previously killed such measures as too burdensome for smaller businesses, but now Democrats are in charge of the Colorado Senate.  The implication is that it will all change this time around.

The mobile home has offered a path to the American dream on a budget,” per Esther Sullivan, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado at Denver, a quoted by Goodland in Curbed magazine in 2017.  That quote was offered to buttress the comments of state Rep. Edie Hooton, D-Boulder, who is the author of HB 1309. The narrative provided no distinctions made in terminology between a pre-HUD Code mobile home or a post-HUD Code manufactured home.




Pointing to a dispute resolution program in Washington state, the bullets below are pull-quotes from Goodland’s Gazette report. The first bullet is deliberately taken out of sequence, to get to part of what the bill aims to do.

  • So Hooton and co-sponsor Rep. Julie McCluskie, D-Dillon, turned to the dispute-resolution model established a couple of years ago in Washington state, which set up a mediation process to resolve complaints by mobile-home owners. About 400 complaints were filed the first year, but the numbers steadily have dropped as “bad actors” have learned the consequences, Hooton said.
  • But mobile home parks have operated under a loose regulatory structure for decades, Hooton said. The only recourse for a mobile home owner with a complaint often is to take the park owner to court, and that’s out of reach financially for most, she said.
  • The state’s Mobile Home Parks Act was adopted in 1985 but lacks teeth, critics say.
  • Last year, after the failure of yet another bill to rein in park owners who violate the law, the Department of Regulatory Agencies took a look at whether park owners understood the 1985 act and whether licensing would force better compliance. DORA determined that owners understand the law but licensing was not the right step.
  • Under HB 1309, the Department of Local Affairs’ Division of Housing could accept complaints from mobile home owners and mediate between them and the park owner. A $24 fee per lot, split between park and mobile home owners, would pay for the process.
  • If the mediation fails, either side could take the issue to an administrative law judge, avoiding the greater cost of going to court.

Another part of the bill deals with the eviction process, which is part of the issue that has drawn Sullivan and her followers a measure of notoriety.

Under current Colorado law, a land-lease community can evict with 48 hours-notice.  That is obviously nearly impossible, given the costs and common lack of options for moving a mobile or manufactured home from one community to another.  If passed, HB 1309 would add 30 days to that eviction period, and with the payment of another month’s site fees, extend it yet another 30 days to a total of 60.

Per the Gazette:

  • The bill was supported before the House by mobile home owners; 9 to 5 Colorado, an advocacy group for working women; and the Colorado Senior Lobby.

Predatory Community Owners? Bill Goes too Far?

The Gazette cited written testimony in support of the legislation by Debra Beasley of Colorado Springs.  In her written testimony dated April 10, said she and her spouse have seen site fees at their community increase from $475 in 2016 to more than $750 last year.

That approaches the heart of a concern that Oliver’s video raised, made by Manufactured Housing Action (MHAction), which co-authored the white paper Oliver’s satirical report took aim at.

Norm Sorenson of Kingsley Management Corp. objects to the bill, in part due to the understandable concern of community owners trying to evict – in his example – a drug dealer from a community. That noted, the bill purportedly allows for expedited evictions in cases of imminent danger.

Colorado’s DORA review showed that “harm is occurring in manufactured housing communities … which largely stems from lack of enforcement of existing laws, bad actors exploiting a relatively loose regulatory structure and the inevitable tension that arises when the house belongs to one person and the land belongs to someone else,” Representative McCluskie said. “It’s impacting our rural, urban and mountain economies. Mobile homes are an essential solution to our housing crisis; sometimes the mobile home parks are the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in rural communities.”

By contrast, Rep. Terri Carver, R-Colorado Springs, said the bill will burden community owners who are acting in good faith. “I still don’t think it is helpful to create an oversight agency … that adds a lot of bureaucracy and delay in resolving disputes and investigating complaints, rather than keeping it local,” Carver said.

Under the Hood of the Battle Over Community, Resident Rights

Manufactured home independently owned community owners, along with those portfolio operators who aren’t participants in the types of ‘bad actor’ concerns this bill aims to cure are wise to step back and see the pattern that is emerging.

As MHLivingNews documented, MHAction has been funded in part by Warren Buffett, through so-called dark money routes. That tip came from a competing resident group, the Golden States Manufactured-Homeowners League (GSMOL). ICYMI, or need a refresher, the documentation for that can be accessed the linked text-image box below.



Since that report above, as MHProNews noted, the white paper co-authored by MHAction sparked a report in the Washington Post, among others in mainstream media. Each of these raise concerns about a few – but larger – players in the industry, and these are routinely members of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI).


“Billion Dollar Empire Made From Mobile Homes,” What Washington Post’s Peter Whoriskey Didn’t Report

Then, there was the viral hit video by John Oliver that connects the dots between:

  • Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway brands in manufactured housing,
  • Nonprofits Buffett and/or Berkshire brands have funded, included MHAction, Center for Public Integrity (CPI), and
  • MHI, to name only those most clearly tied to this recent trend.

Recast, Buffett and his allies in MHVille have set the stage for creating problems that MHI not only fails to address, but whose ‘big boy’ members are part of the purported problems.

It remains to be seen if independent community owners will obtain the level of serious defense from the newly formed National Association of Manufactured Housing Community Owners (NAMHCO). But NAMHCO is on record as rejecting MHI as failing community owners in their interests. Time will tell.

The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) has said they will be examining ways that they can support the post-production side of the industry in a targeted fashion, possibly by using legal action. More on that in a new column by MHARR’s Mark Weiss, JD, in the article linked below.

“Lead, Follow … Or Get Out of The Way”


That said, MHARR is frankly stretching beyond their core mandate, to represent the interests of independent producers of HUD Code manufactured homes. It should not be thought that they are going to be able to single-handedly deal with every case of these vexing issues, as Weiss himself suggested in the above.

MHI and several allied state associations are largely mute in public about the John Oliver/MHAction fueled issues, tied to their ‘big boy’ members.


MHProNews looks at the facts, considers the sources, and follows the evidence. MHI earlier last year, and for years before, MHI routinely replied promptly to all inquiries. But since we’ve spotlighted the problems and concerns, they’ve gone silent. Why? If the facts are on their side, why not make offer a cogent explanation?


An upcoming report will examine how a self-proclaimed voice for manufactured home community owners is making noise and chest thumping but has no track record to point to for successfully addressing these sorts of concerns. Talk, action, and results are entirely different things.


FollowThe MoneyPayMoreAttentionToWhatPeopleDothanwhatTheySaySpySea72MartyLavinYachtManufacturedHousingINdustryProMHProNews

Ask yourself. Do these Marty Lavin dictums apply in this case?


That leaves independents pondering what practical ways they can fight back against problems caused within the industry, apparently being fueled by forces tied to the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis.


Consumer and Small Business Protections

MHI’s former president, Chris Stinebert made it clear in his exit letter published here that the interests of consumers must be protected. Manufactured homeowners and community resident interests are a brick in the foundation for the industry’s future. That’s Business 101.

But apparently, the ‘new age’ at MHI HQ no longer is focused on that, rather, they seem to be focused on consolidation of the industry into the hands of fewer and fewer businesses, regardless of how many consumers or independent businesses are harmed in that process.


Bridging Gap$, Affordable Housing Solution Yields Higher Pay, More Wealth, But Corrupt, Rigged Billionaire’s Moat is Barrier


Know some MHI lovers? Ask them to ponder to juxtaposition of MHI’s prior president’s exit message and MHI’s current president, Richard ‘Dick’ Jennison tenure.

As anger simmers in Colorado, California, Iowa and other states over industry practices – that evidence reflects routinely traces back to MHI members – at what point will the ‘white hats’ at MHI get tired of being associated with the black hats?

In the face of this, the Omaha-Knoxville-Arlington axis remains silent, allows surrogates to attack those that dare question the axis, and tries a series of head fakes that arguably fail to address the core issues. That’s the latest chapter in the history of the industry’s underperformance in recent years. More on this in the days ahead. 

That’s this afternoon’s episode of “News through the lens of factory-built homes, and manufactured housing,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)



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“Trapped. Threatened. Scared.” “Mobile Home [SIC] Owner’s Fears Reflect National Crisis”

May 5th, 2018 Comments off


Trapped. Threatened. Scared. That is how thousands of people across the Front Range are feeling and they all have one thing in common: They live in manufactured homes,” says Denver 7 in their report on a manufactured home community in Thornton, Colorado.


At a time when about half of all manufactured homes are being shipped into land-lease manufactured home communities – what Denver 7 and others incorrectly call a “mobile home park *” – the solution that manufactured housing offers is being obscured by a steady wave of negative news.




With housing costs out of reach for many people in Colorado, the only path to home ownership is often through a mobile home park.*” said Denver 7.

The problem is that while they own the home, they do not own the land it sits on and that puts them at the mercy of their landlord.”


Several residents reached out to Contact7’s Theresa Marchetta about problems they face in their mobile home community.

After weeks of digging for answers and accountability, Marchetta uncovered the problems at one local mobile home park reflect a growing national crisis and a system failing to protect those who live there,” said their report.

Management, says Contact7, wouldn’t speak to them on camera.

That’s reminiscent of a comment from Frank Rolfe, who has often spoken with the mainstream media.  Rolfe says that he’s also scared about talking to the media. But he says that failure to engage only cements the stereotypes. He argues that engagement is necessary, noting that’s especially true, because the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and others won’t do it.


Friendly Village

At Friendly Village of the Rockies, homeowners say management does not live up to the name,” said Denver7.

You can either do it or just get out,” said one homeowner who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation by park management.

“Put a note on your door, do this within a certain amount of time or you’ll be fined,” said another resident in the community, Anthony Velasquez,” per Contact7.


The Pattern and the Trend

MHProNews asked then MHI Chairman, Tim Williams about the failure of MHI to engage on negative or problematic media accounts.  His reply to that inquiry is linked here.

Part of what Williams said is that there is a good case to be made that the engagement should take place routinely.

Hasn’t years of reports like Denver7 made it obvious that routine engagement with media and others is necessary?

Another Tim Williams, from the Ohio Manufactured Home Association, responded when bad news hit his state.  One of several examples of his pushback are linked below.

Tim Williams, OMHA, Responds to Issues Raised by NPR Report on Manufactured Home Communities

Rolfe has argued on stage in front of dozens of industry professionals that every time something harmful to the industry takes place, there should be push-back by the industry that clarifies any false or misleading issues.

Another state association executive told MHProNews that they have a policy of ‘not defending bad actors.’  Those two principles apply balance and context.

Because sometimes, there are simple, and yet unstated to the media, explanations for concerns that arise.  For example, enforcing guidelines for living are similar to a deed restricted residential subdivision enforcing their standards on residents.

In the case in Thorton, CO in the video above, the following is unclear based upon local media reports: did the home owners with the fencing concern agree to no fencing in writing, before they moved in?

That’s the sort of detail that Brad Lovin told MHProNews last year is often left out of such reports.

At the same time, should community operators reconsider certain standards?  In Paradise Cove in Malibu, home owners are allowed privacy fencing. Some other manufactured home communities (MHCs) allow for it, within specific guidelines. While fencing isn’t the only reason that the rich and famous move to a place like Paradise Cove, operators ought to consider the more upscale type of residents that allowing fencing or other appropriate additions may attract.

Baywatch Bombshell Actress Pam Anderson’s Famous Malibu “Mobile Mansion” Up for Sale, Photo Spread, Videos

Should that $3,000 fence be reconsidered by that management company?

If the Thorton community owner is indeed unable or unwilling to defend their fencing policy on camera or in writing to local media, how does that one-side local news report reflect on them?  Or how does that video report impact other MHCs in the same market, who are also in the land-lease community business?  How are retailers impacted?  Factories, lenders, and on down the list of industry connected professionals?

Part of the troubling answer is found in the Channel7 video.  The quotes below from the video are statements made by a sociologist that’s studied this issue, and they are telling a tale that isn’t entirely comfortable for the industry to hear.

University of Colorado Sociologist, Esther Sullivan, says 80 percent of the residents in places like Friendly Village own their homes,” said Denver7.

When I share with you the predatory practices I’ve seen in this mobile home park,* you’re not surprised by that?” Channel7’s Theresa Marchetta asked the professor.

No, this is indicative of cases occurring across the country,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan says she has become an expert on the topic, spending nearly a decade documenting “housing insecurity in mobile home parks.*

These issues that you see at Friendly Village may seem unique to this one park, but they are indicative of the capricious and arbitrary actions landlords take in mobile home parks across the nation. You hear these same stories over and over again,” said Sullivan.

The professor and author said she lived in “two mobile home parks* in Texas and Florida and documented the impact as they were sold off and closed down.”

They’re subject to rent hikes, often without notice, upon fees that are tacked-on, a lack of maintenance or an expectation they maintain the land that they don’t own,” Sullivan said.


Sullivan is not anti-manufactured housing. “Absolutely. We can’t build our way out of our current affordable housing crisis which we all can see in Denver,” Sullivan said. The industry’s members would be wise to properly engage with voices like hers, along with business that operate in a way that gets them A+ BBB or similar ratings.


The Broader Issues for MHVille, Current and Prospective Home Owners

The issues point to an image problem for commercially operated MHC properties owned by individuals, or portfolio operators. Failure to address the issue has arguably plagued the industry’s good operations.

The issues has been a boost to the image of resident owned communities (ROCs), which are often mentioned as the solution to this problem.  But that’s an oversimplification, as it ignores good community operations.

Who says?

ROC USA President Paul Bradley has stated repeatedly to MHProNews that there are a number of good operations in the country.  Bradley says they should not be lumped in with those who may fail to provide the same level of “economic security” for their residents.

Rephrasing, there are different kinds of privately owned companies.  But if the individual property owners don’t make that clear to prospective and current residents in their own markets, then they too can be harmed when bad news hits other nearby land-lease properties.


Resolution to the MHC Image Issues?

Common sense – sound reason – suggests there are two, and only two ways that this issue will find positive resolution.

  • 1) A community operator, or any other manufactured home industry business, must do is own marketing, and make their case to the public in their market area(s).  UMH Prosperities CEO Sam Landy has stated as much to MHProNews.
  • 2) Independent operations with shared values that provide residents an appealing lifestyle must band together, and work to resolve these issues through an association or alliance.

While some state associations strive to do just that, it is obvious from the steady drum beat of negative news that it is not yet enough.

What is self-evident is that years after MHProNews publisher L. A. “Tony” Kovach presented to MHI attendees a positively received message on engaging the media, MHI has failed to directly engage the news in an effect way.


Observing a problem without offering reasonable solutions is called whining. Consultant and publisher Tony Kovach pointed to actual cases of properly engaging with residents and media, in a highly praised presentation. Years later, what has MHI done with those examples shared?

Instead, MHI has focused on social media and controversial advertorials. If those were effective, would their own website traffic, and the industry’s ongoing image issues persist?

Note that Denver7 gave more than one favorable mention to manufactured homes as an affordable housing solution.  Professor Sullivan did too.

It’s the related image-harming issues that are causing ongoing problems for many in the industry.

The data doesn’t lie, see that report, linked below.

What are the FACTS about Manufactured Housing Industry Traffic vs. Real Estate? MHVillage, MHProNews, Manufactured Housing Institute Data

Head in the sands won’t change what’s self-evident.  There’s proof that the proper local efforts can work.  The logic of collective efforts is clear.  The reality of failure to act is demonstrably harmful.  Rather than deal with the issues, MHI stands accused of trying to silence those voices that raise the concerns or who provide meaningful solutions.

We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)

(Third party images, and cites are provided under fair use guidelines.)

* This is a terminological problem, mobile home and manufactured home are not interchangeable terms.  To learn more click the second linked related report, below.


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Manufactured Home Community Reduced for WalMart

October 5th, 2015 Comments off

timbercrest_village_houston_metro_texas_mhvillage_c_reditAs houstonchronicle tells MHProNews, roughly 85 manufactured home communities (MHCs) have closed in the greater Houston, Texas metropolitan area in the last ten years as property values in the large urban area have risen. Timbercrest Village, a 390 home site MHC set on 150 acres, all but hidden from view from the more affluent The Woodlands neighborhood, will soon have a shopping center anchored by a WalMart and 246 luxury apartments as its neighbor, providing owner MC Equities has its way.

Ninety of the homes have been moved to other parts of the community—which had a vacancy rate of 40 percent– or to other MHCs owned by MC. University of Colorado Denver sociologist Esther Sullivan says Harris County has almost 50,000 manufactured homes, and while records are not kept of MHCs that closed, her study suggests more closed during the housing boom than after the housing collapse.

Mark Coleman, chief executive of MC Equities, which is the managing member of Timbercrest Partners, said, “We felt that we could consolidate those homes within the existing framework of the mobile home park and not displace residents, while still being able to accommodate increased demand for multi-family rental units as well as future retail.” He added there are no plans for added development at Timbercrest, noting their primary business is the ownership of residential properties.

Most complaints are not coming from within the MHC but from neighbors who do not want the traffic and congestion of a WalMart next to their homes and across the street from an elementary school. ##

(Photo credit: MHVillage-Timbercrest Village)

matthew-silver-daily-business-news-mhpronews-comArticle submitted by Matthew J. Silver to Daily Business News-MHProNews.