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Frank Rolfe: Pressured into Silence? Manufactured Housing Industry, and Journalism

November 28th, 2017 Comments off

WhereManufacturedHousingJournalismMeetManufacturedHomeNotMobileHomeIndustryProNews_001There are some who due to habit, bias, ignorance, or other limiting factors simply don’t know or see the truth on a given issue.

That naturally applies to manufactured housing, and to journalism too.

Those who say that journalism is dead are exaggerating.

Far more accurate to say that journalism is made up of people. All people have areas of knowledge, ignorance, and biases.

There are also areas one may think they are informed about, but in fact, are misinformed on.

 That can include, but isn’t limited to:

  • modern manufactured homes,
  • journalism,
  • politics,
  • economics,
  • social, historic,
  • or other issues.

The corollaries are also true.

Some in manufactured housing distrust a given source, because something about them may not fit their world view. Some like CNN, others prefer Fox, etc. Each tends toward a bias.

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Not only should journalists seek understanding and the truth, but so should investors, doctors, attorneys, scientists, business professionals, etc., etc. The facts and the truth matter, and are worth the effort.

Understanding requires considering the objective Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How of good journalism, which includes using other perspectives.  Once something is properly understood, only then it can be properly communicated to others.

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Manufactured Housing and Journalism

Given the incredible affordable housing crisis, there are many causes for the industry’s relatively low numbers.

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Some of those causes are internal to the industry, other limiting factors are external.

What the precise mix of cause and effect are is a debatable point.

But what isn’t up for serious argument is that some factors are more harmful or limiting to the progress that can and should be made by the HUD Code manufactured home (MH) industry than other factors are.

Against that backdrop, there’s a rumor that Frank Rolfe has been ‘silenced’ on a variety of manufactured housing industry issues.

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If so, that’s interesting. Because he recently wrote in MHR that he was no longer going to engage the media.  

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Now, besides the self-evident contradiction (writing for media, while saying he will no longer address media), one might ask, if Rolfe is being silenced, why?  

If Rolfe is being silenced, then by whom?  What leverage would someone – or some group – have over the rising portfolio community owner, to get him to be silent? 

Frank Rolfe Blasts MHI for Poor Media Engagement, Industry Reactions

But if Rolfe has indeed decided to stop commenting to media on MH Issues – or has been stopped from commenting about the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), etc. – does the industry’s professionals really need to hear more than what Rolfe has already said, on the record, and/or on camera?


Rolfe has:

  • Blasted MHI and Nathan Smith for “hypocrisy,”

FrankRolfeMHIHypocrisyQuote-MHProNews

  • said MHI’s Preserving Access bill was a waste of time, and had no chance,

  • said MHI’s failure to engage the media was harmful to the industry,
  • stated that his statistics on community counts are correct, implying MHI’s are wrong.

Frank Rolfe, Dave Reynolds, George Allen, Manufactured Home Community Controversy Continues

  • …and so on, and so forth.
  • Rolfe has also said there are nice people at MHI. Of course. Who would dispute that? 
  • But if MHI is truly ‘the leader’ of the industry, who else shoulders the blame for the performance the graphic below highlights?
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If MHI is the national leader, as they claim, how do they respond to the “who is responsible” for the current state of the industry question that is quietly posed by this chart produced by Ross Kinzler, then with the WHA? Note the rhetorical question is posed by MHProNews, not Kinzler.

 

Berkshire Hathaway Owned Brands, and Frank Rolfe

A highly placed source at 21st Mortgage told MHProNews,Yeah, we work with those guys,” meaning, Frank Rolfe, Dave Reynolds and their colleagues.

Frank and Dave have also plugged 21st, and Clayton Homes, too.

The ‘when and substance’ of the 21st/Frank & Dave conversation was not revealed.

Is it a stretch to think that an ask was made?

The MH Industry and Frank Rolfe

As MHProNews and MHLivingNews have previously reported – and is common for anyone with a higher profile – Rolfe has supporters and detractors in the community sector, and the industry in general.

Sensationalistic ‘Cold Hard Lessons of Mobile Home U’ New York Times article  by Gary Rivlin draws Manufactured Home Industry Ire, Desire and Fire

The so-called resident groups and some non-profits have also made Rolfe a brand they like to wield against the industry in their own media engagement.

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The collage above is part of a fact check on Kevin Borden, who’s organization has targeted Rolfe and his comment. and related media coverage.  http://www.mhpronews.com/industry-news/industry-in-focus/paving-the-road-to-hell-mhactions-kevin-borden-a-nyccs-jonathan-westin

The quote attributed to Rolfe, that living in a manufactured home community is like a Waffle House where the customers are chained to their booths” is a club used by non-profits and resident groups against not only Rolfe’s organization, but the community sector in general.

That “infamous” quote – Rolfe’s words – used by the non-profits has also been cited by Time in their “Home of the Futurereport on manufactured homes earlier this year.  Time said, “It’s like owning a Waffle House where the customers are chained to the booths,” in the words of Frank Rolfe, who co-owns more than 250 parks across…” the U.S.

Tampa Bay in a 2014 report cited that same Rolfe quote, adding, “Even more enticing for investors: The supply of mobile home parks [sic] is largely static.”  The Tampa Bay article ran under the headline, “Mobile home park investors bet on older, poorer America,” which noted that “About 1.8 million Floridians today choose to live in a mobile home…”

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To keep the number of SIC’s in this article to a minimum, it is only being used at this one point. Since there have been no mobile homes built in the U.S. since June 15, 1976, it’s not factually accurate to call most land-lease communities a “mobile home park.” A commonly misused term doesn’t make it the correct name. Media should learn and use the correct nomenclature, just as they would for people, products, and professions other than manufactured homes.  The article linked below goes through the proper use of terminology on several common factory-built housing industry issues.

Your Words Matter: Proper Terminology for Factory Built Homes

Rolfe Reacts to the Mainstream Media on his Own Waffle House Quote

On his own MHU blog, Rolfe said “Several media outlets have recently used my old quote that the mobile home park “is like a Waffle House where the customers are chained to their booths”. However, they have taken the quote completely out of context, and the truth takes the air out of their sensationalism, unfortunately for them.”

Rolfe states in that post that the it – the infamous Waffle House quote – “…was used to describe the incredibly consistent revenues of the mobile home park asset class.”

His MHU post then bullets these points.

  • But it really does cost a ridiculous amount of money to move a mobile home
  • But it costs a whole lot more to move a stick-built house
  • But that does not mean that you can’t sell your home if you want to move – just like traditional stick-built homes
  • So why would you move a mobile home?
  • So the “Waffle House” quote meant consistent revenue, not lack of freedom of choice…”

In fairness to Rolfe, the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) engaged Dick Ernst to speak to PBS about their now infamous report on manufactured housing, and it was widely viewed that quotes from Ernst were not his strongest points made.

About Responding to PBS Newshours ‘Bad Bargain’ report by Stephen Fee

Whether it is Rolfe, MHI, or anyone else, certainly the case can be made that virtually all media picks what goes in, and what falls to the cutting room floor. That editorial selection process can slant a story from being accurate, to misleading, or worse.

Which is why MHProNews has for years provided link-backs to the entire statement made to our publication, so that thoughtful readers can dig deeper, if desired. An example is the Tim Williams quote above.

That MHProNews journalistic practice is

  • rather unique,
  • is being pioneered by us,
  • acts as a self-check/public check on our accuracy,
  • and thus encourages all involved in the process, knowing they will get what are often emailed comments accurately reported. No ‘gotcha’ journalism. Who else in MH trade media does as much?

The video Williams referred to about PBS is posted at the link below.

What PBS NewsHour Missed About Manufactured Home Living

If Rolfe has indeed ‘hung it up’ in speaking to other media than his own, hasn’t he as an MHI member already laid out the case against MHI’s shortcomings, in his own words?

Hasn’t Rolfe also – by word, deed, and experience – shown the rewards and pitfalls of engaging a media that often, as he said, seeks to sensationalize a story?  “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, fact checks, commentary.)

Related to the Rolfe comments on MHI.

Note: Another related report is planned, and that link will be added below as an update.

(All third party image credits are as shown and are provided under fair use guidelines.)

LATonyKovach-QuestioningNYSAAteam-NewYorkHousingAssociation-MHProNews-com-PhotoCreditMarkSimon-250x167

L. A. “Tony” Kovach, photo by Mark Simon, shows Kovach engaging with SAAs in NY. Kovach has a proven history of respect for residents, homeowners and is pro-MH Industry. He’s the publisher of the industry’s two largest and most popular trade media, MHLivingNews.com and MHProNews.com.

By L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.

Managing Member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC.
Publisher of MHLivingNews.comMHProNews.com and
host of the Inside MH storytelling video series.
Expert, consultant, and service provider to the MH industry.

 

 

Zell: “I Try to be Right 60 or 70 Percent of the Time”

May 24th, 2017 Comments off

Sam Zell, doing business. Credit: Bisnow.

Never one to pull punches, Equity LifeStyle Properties Chairman Sam Zell, out promoting his new book “Am I Being Too Subtle,” shared some handy words of wisdom.

According to Business Insider, when it comes to getting to know people, Zell is all about movement.

Today I could probably get just about anybody to come to my office for a meeting, but that wouldn’t tell me much,” writes Zell in his new book.

Instead, I spend over a thousand hours a year on my plane traveling around the world to meet with people. I want to see what they are like on their home court; how they treat their people and the examples they set. “

Speaking at an Entrepreneur 360 event, Zell talked about how being a contrarian is the way to go.

 

So from my perspective, I’ve never allowed conventional wisdom or other people’s to intimidate me or change my views,” said Zell.

There are guys down at Wrigley Field that get paid $35 million a year to get a hit one out of three times. So, I only try to be right 60 or 70 percent of the time. The real challenge is when you’re wrong, you’ve calibrated the risk so you can survive to play the next day.”

 

Zell on the Economy

Last week, Zell spoke frankly about the economy, both before and after President Donald Trump was elected.

Obama’s $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 was a ‘half-ass-d stimulus bill,’” said Zell on CNBC.

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Credit: CNBC.

Zell also disagreed with comments from Warren Buffett, who claimed that the Republican bill to replace Obamacare would “cut the hell out of taxes” for the rich if the measure were to make it through the Senate without any changes.

The GOP approach to health care on taxes is not for the rich or the poor,” said Zell.

It balances out the system.”

Zell, who wasn’t a fan of the Obama Administration stimulus plan of 2009, he sees a different opportunity for the Trump Administration.

I think President Trump has a similar stimulus opportunity but without the debt because he can achieve that goal by deregulation,” said Zell.

 

Zell and OthersDouble Downon Manufactured Housing

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John Bostick, president, Sunshine Homes, Red Bay, AL.

As Daily Business News readers are aware, leaders in business, including Zell, clearly understand the significant business opportunity in manufactured housing.

Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway, which owns Clayton Homes, and independents such as John Bostick with Sunshine Homes are “doubling down” on the industry, with Bostick famously saying “We have an almost unlimited capacity to expand production.”

ELS and Berkshire Hathaway are also two of the manufactured home industry connected stocks tracked every business day by the Daily Business News, with the most recent report, linked here. ##

 

(Image credits are as shown above, and when provided by third parties, are shared under fair use guidelines.)

 

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RC Williams, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

 

(Copyright Notice: This and all content on MHProNews and MHLivingNews always have been and are Copyrighted, © 2017 by MHProNews.com a dba of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC – All Rights Reserved. No duplication is permitted without specific written permission. Headlines with link-backs are of course ok. A short-quoted clip, with proper attribution and link back to the specific article are also ok – but you must send a notice to iReportMHNewsTips@mhmsm.com of the exact page you’ve placed/posted such a use, once posted.)

A 3D Home in Record Time? What the Future Holds

March 16th, 2017 Comments off
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The Apis For home. Credit: Metro.

The innovations in 3D printed homes continue at a break-neck pace. Beijing-based HuaShang Tengda, which printed a two-story villa that can reportedly withstand a magnitude eight earthquake, and PassivDom, a Ukrainian startup, has now come up with a stand-alone, energy-efficient 3D printed house, ideal for off-the-grid living.

And now, a San Francisco, California-based Apis Cor claims to have taken the process to a whole new level.

According to the Daily Mail, they unveiled a 400-square-foot house in a town outside of Moscow, Russia that was constructed using a mobile 3D printer.

In just 24 hours.

The Apis Cor technology printed walls, partitions, and other items, and appears to be the first company to develop a portable 3D printer able to print whole buildings entirely on location.

Construction took place in December 2016, and the company reports the materials used should last at least 175 years.

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The home in progress. Credit: Daily Mail.

This project was selected specifically, as one of the main purposes of this construction is to demonstrate the flexibility of equipment and diversity of available forms,the company said in a statement.

A distinctive feature of the printer is its design, which is reminiscent of the tower crane, allowing the printer to execute the printing process of constructing the building both inside and outside.

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The crane in action. Credit: Daily Mail.

Apis Cor says that this was the first time in the Russian construction that a house was printed as a whole, rather than assembled from pre-printed panels.

Impacts this Technology has upon the Manufactured Housing Industry?  

The company says that the cost for the model described above is $10,134. However,  buildings can be printed in various shapes and at a larger size, with the only restrictions on designs being the laws of physics.

When one of several mainstream news articles, reporting on that 10k figure, were shared with industry professionals with production connections, one source told MHProNews that “It could be a game changer and has the potential to eliminate thousands of manufactured housing factory jobs…. but that would be way down the road.”

The ramifications were shocking enough, that the source would only speak off the record.

There is a big ‘however,’ here.

Before investors, developers and others go bailing on manufactured housing, and stocks take a dump, there are likely several caveats to this report by Futurism and from others in the mainstream media that need to be properly understood,” said industry consultant and publisher, L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.

We contacted the 3D producer directly, and they have yet to answer numerous questions that relate to interior finishes, what building codes this may or may not meet, total cost with all finish work, etc.  Because some in the mainstream media may not get it about all that goes into the total costs of a home, details like:

  • cabinetry,
  • flooring,
  • tape and texture,
  • electrical,
  • windows,
  • doors,
  • plumbing, etc.

they can easily be wowed by a claim – that when scrutized – doesn’t quite hold up. Think Jim Walters housing – shell homes sold at a lower price, but with signficant finish costs.”

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Joe Dyton, for the Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Another example of a story that drew media hype – but was missing key details – was a report out of Europe covered for the Daily Business News by Joe Dyton.

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Original photo credit, Inhabitat and provided under fair use guidelines. Text credit, MHProNews.

Click the image above for facts the original story in the mainstream media missed.  “These are examples of why the industry needs an independent trade media, one that does some digging,” Kovach said.

MHI was contacted about the topic above – and the broader issue of potentially disruptive technologies negatively impacting manufactured housing – and they had no comment.

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Is MHI unprepared for issues that could disrupt the industry? Are they properly prepared to engage the mainstream media on topics that could at first blush seem to be harmful to manufactured housing interests? What lessons does the recent – and largely negative – NPR reporting hold for the industry at large, and what does it say about MHI’s engagement strategies? To learn more about such media and related questions – and what Frank Rolfe and other industry professionals have to say about them – click here.  MHARR has taken the position that the industry has a historic opportunity and can sell hundreds of thousands of homes a year, but must capitalize rapidly on opportunities that the Trump administration has made possible – to learn more about MHARR’s views, click here.  Pam Danner at HUD…is she one of those MH Industry roadblocks? For MHI award-winner Doug Gorman’s view on the Danner/HUD issue, click here. 

Possible Disruptions Are No Joke…

An association veteran told MHProNews that failing to adapt could result over time in manufactured housing’s associations becoming “the associations of mobile home remodelers.” It was a tongue-in-cheek way of saying – there would be widespread industry business failures, and that only remodeling work would be left – if the correct steps aren’t taken by members of the industry.

We are several years into our industry’s recovery. That’s good news.  But 3D, prefab, containers and tiny houses are all reminders that

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L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach.

manufactured housing producers and others can’t rest on their laurels,” Kovach said. “Manufactured housing is an amazing option, that’s highly sustainable, so long as we grow more rapidly towards our potential.  There is a high cost – and risk – to low volume sales, which is why we’ve repeatedly said that aiming for hundreds of thousands of new home sales a year in a sustainable way is a must.”

“Some companies are taking steps to grow in a responsible way.  That’s good news. But absent such growth,” Kovach cautions, “our source is sadly but likely correct – in the next 5 to 10 years perhaps, technologies are emerging that could disrupt the manufactured housing industry.  Communities, production, lending, retailing – it could all change unless more of the industry’s members and leaders take the proper steps, now.”

The Daily Business News has covered the rise of 3D printed homes extensively, including other Chinese, Russian and Dutch 3D home projects, and asking the tough question: “Is America losing the 3D Technology race in housing?

In several off-the-record comments by professionals with community, production, association, retailing and other industry interests, say that the industry needs to pay attention.

For more on 3D printed homes, including the story of The BigDelta, the world’s largest 3D printer and its year-long mission to print a mud house, click here. ##

(Image credits are as shown above.)

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

Residents Hope for More Time to Vacate MHC

February 7th, 2017 Comments off
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The East End Mobile Home Park. Credit: NBC 4.

For residents of the East End Mobile Home Park in Manassas, Virginia, hopes for an extension on an order to vacate are hanging in the balance.

In a story that the Daily Business News has followed from the beginning, and through resident requests for a lifeline, Manassas city officials have now stepped in and asked the current property owner to allow families that have children to stay in the community until the end of the school year.

In late December, residents went to the city council to ask for help in a saga that has, according to them, been going on for a decade.

Residents claim that the property owner has neglected the community’s sewage system to the point that unless residents take action themselves, sewage comes up into their yards.

In a move that city officials considered the “best of bad options,” the city council voted to buy the property for $1.86 million.

While the option looked like a lifeline, it had a twist: the city said it could not act as a landlord, and therefore the deal could not close until all the residents were out.

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Mayor Harry Parish II. Official Photo.

We have a contract and we’ve got to abide by that contract,” said Mayor Harry Parrish II at the time. “There are opportunities for the owner to work with the citizens. And I think that’s where the action should be taken place today.”

At the time, city officials said that the situation was unhealthy for residents and it could not continue.

They did not want to shut off water and sewer service, which would have led everyone to be evicted right away, so the city opted to buy the property and make repairs, as the current owner did not have enough money to cover the expense.

The city said that it now plans to repair the faulty sewer system after residents move out.

While city officials did step in and ask the current owner for an extension, they said that the owner will select a move-out deadline, not the city.

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East End Residents attend a Manassas city meeting. Credit: Potomac Local.

We’re going to be moving them when they’re prepping for these tests, and that’s going to be detrimental to their education,” said resident Melissa Watson.

According to NBC4, the Save Our Homes Alliance, a nonprofit organization, has stepped forward to help residents stay. The Daily Business News will continue to follow this story and provide updates. ##

(Image credits are as shown above.)

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RC Williams, for Daily Business News, MHProNews.

Submitted by RC Williams to the Daily Business News for MHProNews.

Will Texans Take to Tiny Homes?

October 22nd, 2013 Comments off

Time magazine reports a former Austin, Texas developer of high end houses now blogs about his small homes built from salvaged materials. Brad Kittel, owner of Tiny Texas Houses, who has built around 75 tiny homes of 400 square feet, ranging from $20,000 to $40,000, now plans on building a community of tiny homes around a central lodge. Offering custom homes, plans and lessons on using salvaged materials, most of his customers are baby boomers who have turned to downsizing in a big (small?) way. He says, “My generation, we were accumulators–big houses, big cars. But now we have no big resources.” MHProNews has learned D. R. Horton, also based in Texas, and one of the largest homebuilders in the country, last year built 29 micro-homes in Portland, Oregon sized from 364 to 687 square feet for an average price of $120,000 to $180,000.

(Photo credit: seattletimes–Coast Cabins mini homes of Marysville, Washington)

MBA Wants the 20 Percent QRM Proposal Dropped

January 24th, 2012 Comments off

Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) chief executive David Stevens, noting the current 20 percent downpayment requirement is “a direct attack on first-time homebuyers, African-American borrowers and Latinos”, says it will make it more difficult to attract teachers, firefighters, and healthcare workers to new jobs in communities. NationalMortgageNews tells MHProNews.com Stevens says banking regulators want the QRMs (qualified residential mortgage) requirement, that it is not part of Dodd-Frank legislation. According to the MBA, 80 percent of first-time home buyers have downpayments of less than ten percent. Given the uncertainty of the future of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it is vitally important that a private mortgage securitization process be developed. Dropping the down payment and debt-in-income requirement would insure that only owner-owner occupied, fully documented, and fully amortizing mortgages would be exempt from the five percent risk retention restriction.

(Photo credit: Mortgage Bankers Association)

Employees of MH Component Manufacturer Help the Needy

December 27th, 2011 Comments off

GoshenNews reports from Goshen, Indiana, that employees of Lippert Components, Inc., donated gifts valued at more than $5,000 to members of the Boys and Girls Club of Goshen who otherwise would not have a Christmas. Food was provided to many families during the holidays, and 175 gift bags were distributed to elementary school-aged children. Jason Lippert, chairman and CEO of Lippert is a long-time board member of the Boys and Girls club of Goshen, and currently serves as board chairman. He says, “At Lippert we feel a deep responsibility to help our community’s families and moreover, our community’s children. The health of our families and our children are our future.” Andy Purviance, director of the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen, says, “It has been truly heartwarming to see the generosity toward our families in need. These gifts to our club families will help make a brighter Christmas for so very many.” Lippert, a subsidiary of Drew Industries, Inc., provides the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle (RV) industries with a variety of products including chassis, axles, entry doors, leveling and stabilization equipment, suspension products, and fabricated steel parts.

(Photo credit: GoshenNews)