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Peer Alleges State Execs Crossed Line, “Kissing Ass” Clayton Homes, Manufactured Housing Institute, Back-Stabbed MHI Member Reacts

April 15th, 2019 Comments off

 

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Off the record, but these [other] state associations [in this email thread] have crossed the line with their blind loyalty and kiss a — to Clayton [Homes] and MHI. This is not healthy for the industry well-being and [the] future of the industry,” said one of several news tips received by MHProNews last week.

 

That comment was tied to the embarrassing-for-the-Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and Clayton Homes viral video on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver entitled, “Mobile Homes.” MHLivingNews did a fact-check that posted said video and unpacked it’s points, hits and misses, in a report linked below.

 

HBO’s John Oliver on Last Week Tonight Mobile Homes Video, Manufactured Home Communities Fact Check

 

That fact-check on MHLivingNews landed on page 1 of Google early Sunday morning.  That’s relevant, but first the evidence of that factoid.

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More of that email-thread between various state association executives may or may not be reported in the days ahead.   But for this report, we’ll focus on a specific comment about a multi-year Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) member by an MHI affiliated state association executive.

That executive?

Amy Bliss, of the Wisconsin Housing Alliance (WHA).

It should be noted that, per sources, MHI monitors those electronic transmissions among the MHEC execs, which is open to most industry trade association staff leaders.  So that ‘monitoring’ by MHI – which sources say are periodically forwarded to Executive Committee members that include Berkshire Hathaway brands – may in various ways influence comments like the one that follows.

It would be somewhat akin to mom and dad monitoring their teenagers’ emails.  Or more to the point, a stern boss overseeing all the messages his staff sent via email.

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Wheat and chaff, fairness, with all people, organizations, and things. Bliss was instrumental in the work of starting and operating the Tomorrow’s Home Foundation, learn more at this link here. That said, what follows isn’t the only questionable behavior by Bliss. See the link here for a recent example.

Here’s what Bliss said, following the screen capture of the email, with her photo added to the top left of her words as an illustration that was not in her original message.  As is the custom here on MHProNews, we’ve turned her direct quote into bold and brown text so it pops.

 

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From: Amy Bliss
Date: Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Subject: RE: [mhexecs] FW: How Private Investors Are Threatening the Fate of Manufactured Housing

I am very disappointed in two entities that are supposed to be in favor of manufactured housing.  ROC USA and North Country Cooperative both added this John Oliver junk to their facebook page and ROC USA also tweeted it out as if they were sharing good news. This is such an insult to the people that have chosen manufactured housing to live in.  If there were not investor owned communities, they would have no communities to “convert” to resident owned.  Such a shame.

 

Amy Bliss, CAE
Executive Director,
WI Housing Alliance and WI Recreational Vehicle Dealers Alliance

If indeed comments like Bliss’ are monitored by MHI, then why didn’t the Arlington, VA based trade group come to the defense of a member being tagged by Bliss in such a manner?  Normally, an association member would never know – and thus would never have had a chance to respond to on behalf of the themselves and/or the organization being disparaged.  What does this incident say about not just Bliss, but MHI, or some others in MHEC?

Agree or disagree with ROC USA on this or that, but they have first amendment rights – even if Bliss doesn’t care for that protected speech.  MHProNews, once that and other messages were provided by multiple parties, asked for comments from both Bliss and Paul Bradley, ROC USA President.

Bradley replied as follows, his photo is likewise added for illustration purposes, and as with Bliss, we turned his statement to MHProNews and Bliss bold and brown for clarity and emphasis, but his words are unedited.

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Award winning, Paul Bradley, President, ROC USA.

Hello Tony and Amy,

I am happy to talk directly anytime, Amy, but will respond at this late hour to the two of you here.    

First, it probably goes without saying that I have no control over the independent press or a satirist like John Oliver.  However, as Tony knows, I am always quick to point out that there are many good operators in the business. 

John Oliver focused on the onslaught of aggressive new money in the sector.  The examples of rent hikes cited were alarming and atypical but also real.  I know one of the examples well.  (In fact, I referred that one to Rick Robinson at MHI to handle when Time Magazine called recently.) 

Oliver was making a point about the fate of residents in communities that experience significant rent increases and, as any good debater would, chose stories that best illustrated that point.

He pointed to resident ownership as a way to mitigate such increases by removing MHCs from the speculative real estate market, and we agree that it is.  This was hardly an attack on the homeowners who suffered these hardships — that’s something we would never condone. 

In terms of our sharing it, I am not going to miss an opportunity share the ROC USA story with our followers when we appear on national TV.  I certainly understand the piece is embarrassing to some operators who subscribe to a certain school of thought when it comes to homeowners and MHC ownership. 

I know the three of us actually care about the homeowner experience for both business and basic humanity reasons, and many others do, too.  I believe we all wish it was universal. 

Thank you.  Happy to talk anytime.  Paul

Given several days to respond to Bradley or MHProNews, Bliss said nada in the way of a follow up to this publication. If she did so privately to Bradley, he has not so indicated. From an editorial perspective, Bradley’s reply above – especially give the circumstances – could fairly be described as ‘classy.’

 

Part of a Pattern?

By contrast, Bliss – per sources in the George F. (F?) Allen camp – has supposedly called for a “boycott” of this site last year that Bliss concurred with.  When asked about that claim by MHProNews, Bliss neither confirmed nor denied that allegation lodged by members of Allen’s following.  The reason that is relevant will be made clear.

It is this.  One is left with an impression of Bliss as someone that – at least among her state association peers – wants only the MHI party line.  That’s what seemingly sparked the tips – outrage – like the one comment noted at the top. That comment was not the only one…

That apparent desire for only the MHI party line by Bliss is seemingly true even with respect to another MHI member – i.e. Bradley/ROC USA.  A source with knowledge indicated that ROC USA is a member of the WHA – led by Bliss – not just MHI.

If so, Bliss arguably ‘back stabbed’ a dues paying member of her WHA trade group and a dues payer to MHI.  How does that impact that member’s business interests?  Why did none of the MHEC Execs openly chide her for that in that email thread?  Why did some feel the need to send that and other messages to MHProNews to expose what some other execs are doing to one or more dues paying members?

Because there was another dues paying member of MHI that was likewise mentioned between the state execs.

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Apology or…?

Given the influence that state association executives have with numbers of people in this industry, will Bliss step up and at a minimum, publicly apologize?  If not, what remedial steps should be taken?

Or what about the group messages – which are supposed to be used by the MHExecs to discuss issues faced by members, such as zoning, legal, or legislative issues.  That list’s use presumably ought not include slamming members of the industry’s trade groups by those they pay dues too.

 

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It must not be thought that just because Warren Buffett happens to be a staunch Democrat, that all other Democrats are like him. Or because Clayton Homes and their Berkshire Hathaway lending affiliates has purportedly done dark deeds, that everyone that works there are the same. There is good, bad, and meh in all people, organizations, associations, etc. One must fairly discern ‘wheat and chaff’ – what’s good and not – in individuals, people, and organizations. Each of us has been tempted to do good, evil, or nothing while evil occurred. There is a path for successful, profitable, honorable resistance.   Watch for an upcoming special report – Facts, Foul Play, Fear, and Freedom.

 

Even More Important?

Perhaps as or more important, what has Bliss, other execs, MHI, or others done to respond in a constructive way to the John Oliver video on “Mobile Homes?”  That HBO/Oliver video, when properly understood, disparages specific larger MHI members.  Has Bliss taken any of them to task, given it was logically their purported behavior that fueled Oliver’s sharp satirical commentary?  ROC USA might benefit from Oliver’s video, but they are not the focus of HBO’s sharp satirical attack.

If any state execs took MHI to task in a public way, that has not yet been provided to MHProNews.  That said, several are disgusted enough to share with MHProNews what was shared.

  • Time will tell if Bliss has the chutzpah to stand up to the powers-that-be in a manner even modestly analogous to what she did with ROC USA and North Country.
  • The industry will also see if Bliss – or any state exec – asks the powers-that-be to behave in ways that might avoid such harmful and embarrassing mainstream media commentary, satirical or otherwise.

Finally, as the articles linked below the byline make clear, Warren Buffett’s ‘follow the money-trail’ leads one to a reasonable conclusion that he has helped fund MHAction through ‘dark money’ channels. Will Bliss and her state association colleagues hold Buffett, the Berkshire brands, and others accountable for business practices that harm the image of an already struggling industry?

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It isn’t just the MMHF states. 7 of the top 10 states in manufactured housing shipments are reporting declines. At what point will MHI – the self proclaimed representative of “all segments of factory-built housing” actually do something useful to reverse this troubling trend? Or will they reveal by inaction that they are allowing it, perhaps with the goal of causing more independents to sell out to big boys, or close shop?

 

Other reports that correct the record, debunk, and/or jujitsu key concerns on that issue are linked from the report below the byline and notices. That’s manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use.” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)

 

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Michigan Association’s Video Campaign, What They’ve Said About Manufactured Home Living

April 11th, 2019 Comments off

 

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Cannot believe they used our promotional material from the nineties to mock our industry! Not cool!!” said William G. ‘Bill’ Sheffer, CAE, Executive Director, Michigan Manufactured Housing Association (MMHA).

 

Sheffer and the MMHA are not the only Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) members and affilates who have ranted about HBO’s John Oliver Last Week Tonight viral hit called “Mobile Homes.”

MHI is said to have tried to head this off, if so, they missed.  Now that it is out, the consensus of the emailed statements among MHI affiliated executives – under the watchful eye of Arlington, VA – is that it is wise not to respond to this latest hit against the industry.

Really?

What happened to the notion from former MHI Chairman, Tim Williams?  See his prior on the record quote on just such hits below.

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For clarity, using the wheat and chaff principle, MHProNews agrees with the first two sentences of this on the record prior statement by Tim Williams, then MHI chairman. So after years of not doing this, and the industry still struggling, when is MHI going to do what their chair said makes for a common sense argument?

 

The MHI connected leaders can’t have it both ways.  They’ve tried not responding to PBS, to OZY Media, other such perceived slurs on our industry for years. How is that working out?

Let’s let Michigan’s own stated facts answer that question.

At the request of their marketing contractor, the Michigan association wanted readers to know about the following.

Hi Tony,

Here’s some initial information for you.

The two TV spots are on MMHA’s YouTube page:

“50% Less per Square Foot”

 

 

Communities in Great Locations

 

Michigan Manufactured Home NEW Sales

2017: 4864 (significantly up from 2016’s sales of 2759)

2018: 4096

 

Michigan Manufactured Home USED Sales

2017: 1881

2018: 2900

 

…Thanks,

Cheryl Russell

 

So, let’s recap the above from Ms. Russell.

During an affordable housing crisis, Michigan’s new home sales went up from 2016, and then went down from 2017.  What is not stated in the above are the large numbers of those new units going into land-lease communities as rental housing.  New HUD Code home sales remain at historically low levels.  Industry factories – including numbers of MHI-only producer members – have told the Daily Business News on MHProNews that they see a wall coming, as communities get closer to capacity.

Something must change, because the industry isn’t advancing.  Instead, both MHI and MHARR’s data reveal that the industry is going backwards now for the past 6 months.  What do the leaders of MHI have to say?  They point to inventory restructuring, a decline in FEMA order, an other arguable head fakes. MHI’s own members investor relations data points to historically low production as reason to believe there is more upside.

 

Let’s be clear.  MHProNews believes it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.  So to that extent, we commend the MMHA.

That said,  what the MMHA effort has done is once more prove that pretty pictures, nice website, or a fine commercial video aren’t the only answer.  Frankly – and to their credit – the MMHA has done more than many states, and has for years.  Yet Michigan’s shipments have been in decline. Russell and the MMHA admit it is so.

It isn’t a slam to say the following, it is a sobering reality check.

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As of the time this report is being created, here are the video view statistics on the MMHA videos, compared to the views on John Oliver’s “Mobile Homes” viral hit video.

MHProNews respects the MMHA’s contracted media firm – via Ms. Russell – doing what was asked, giving factual replies. Here was some of the pull quotes from the press release Russell initially asked us to run.

 

  • Consumer interest in manufactured housing continues to be strong. In 2018, new manufactured home sales in Michigan totaled 4,096. MMHA wants to continue the industry’s momentum and educate potential homebuyers on manufactured housing quality, style, lifestyle and affordability.

 

Momentum?  The statistics betray that claim.  It was one of the reasons we, as responsible trade media, asked the follow up questions, which Russell thoughtfully did.

 

  • We are targeting those who are looking for affordable alternatives to traditional built homes,” said Bill Sheffer, executive director of MMHA. “Homebuyers are looking for high-quality homes with great features in friendly neighborhoods.”

 

MMHA has, once more as noted, done more than many manufactured home state trade groups. But what they have arguably not done are the same thing that MHI and the ‘big boys’ have not done.  That is to fight back, debunk the false or misleading claims made against the manufactured home industry.  It is our contention – backed by years of evidence – that it is a critical part of advancing sales once more.

Why hasn’t MMHA, done so?  Sources say it is difficult for many associations, not just MHI.  Why? Because what Marty Lavin, JD, who won one of MHI’s most prestigious awards, said is arguably true.

 

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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?

 

While the industry’s Arlington based trade group and their surrogates posture action, every savvy business measures action by results.  Those results are certainly going to include shipment and production reports. It isn’t just Michigan, even number 1 and 2 Texas and Louisiana have declined year-to-date.

 

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But big boy firms can measure results differently.  They can measure results by consolidation of more independently owned sites, of more independent retail centers that vanished.

 

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MHI’s general counsel and others there have been asked to respond to these concerns. We know they got the messages. Silence.  That’s their right in the U.S. constitutional system.

But that silence can be construed to imply that our concerns are valid.

Meanwhile, the industry gets buffeted – pun intended – by the new John Oliver video that has gone viral, and is being reported by numerous media outlets.

It is time to shake up the system, because what has been occurring has benefited only a few.

That’s this afternoon’s manufactured home “Industry News, Tips, and Views That Pros Can Use.” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)

 

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