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Posts Tagged ‘Free Enterprise’

Who’s in Charge Here?

June 3rd, 2014 No comments

Rick Rand’s excellent proposal for an all-industry conclave at a neutral location is gathering momentum. Such a venue should certainly not screen out the smaller operators who have always been a prime source of innovation, and it is vitally important that the “big guys” also be at the table. Make room for the various associations charged with the thankless task of placating the placating the industry’s many voices.

As a long-retired veteran of manufactured housing, I’m appalled at the conflicts, back-biting and lack of leadership that has always hamstrung our young industry. It was understandable in the early days when the largest manufacturers controlled less than ten percent of shipments and no other industry constituent was in a position make things happen beyond his own company (in those days, the leading players were all men).

Today, though manufactured housing is a shadow of its former self, the product itself is far better, the need for affordable housing is far greater, the leading manufacturers remain profitable, the market for manufactured housing communities is heating up and the stick competition is in disarray. So why are our sales volumes in the dumper?

It is true of course that we, as an industry, have made many mistakes. And we’ll make more.

In a free enterprise system, we learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward. That’s exactly what needs to happen at the kind of meeting Rick has proposed. Pull the tribe together with an agenda focused on the problems we’ve created, the opportunities ahead and agree upon a broad based strategy to deal with today’s challenges. Ideas and innovations are often sparked over a cup of coffee or glass of beer, and contacts have always been the lifeblood of the industry.

But far more is needed than griping about Dodd-Frank and what names we should use for our products. Consider some fundamentals.

Housing is one of America’s least efficient industries. That includes stick builders and us too. Why is that? Well, there’s no serious foreign or domestic competition, no real industry leadership, way too much regulation and negligible innovation. That’s been the case for a hundred years.

Academics and all sorts of advanced thinkers have, for at least that long, looked to industrializing the building process to break out of housing’s quagmire. It has finally happened. The industry we now call manufactured housing has demonstrated the ability to build good housing at roughly half the cost of traditional methods, and we have the black eyes to prove it.

As one result, America’s largest home builder is one of us, and one of the world’s richest men bankrolls MH financing. Something like 20 million Americans live in homes we’ve built and the vast majority of them appreciate the comfort and value those homes provide. There’s ever so much more that could and should be done, but we’ve made a better start than any other tilter at housing’s windmills. Many have tried.

One thing the MH industry agreed upon some 40 years ago was to unite under the HUD banner. That turned out to be a painful process with about as many negative as positive outcomes. We banded together again to reform that process with the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000), but guess what? Big Brother has its own ideas about “Improvement” which do not include a lot of use for industry committee input.

We’ve got a lot going for us, and yet the squabbles continue. If there’s an industry strategy, it did not emerge from my recent research. What is happening is a plethora of tactics, put forward under various banners, mostly going nowhere.

As an industry professional, you can put forward some ideas for how to deal with these challenges. So can I, and I’ve done so in my recent book, Dueling Curves. It’s not enough.

Maybe at Rick’s gathering of the tribes, some sort of consensus can be reached, on a whole bunch of nifty ideas.

But that’s not enough either.

The single most important objective of such a congress—or whatever it’s to be called—should be to the emergence of industry leadership. Not a task force, committee or agency, but a person of vision who commands the respect of the industry.

A tribal chief who can weave the disparate strengths of the manufacturers, suppliers, financiers, retailers, MH owners and community operators into a strategy we can all salute. Oh well, yes, there will always be a few curmudgeons. No one will be entirely happy with any strategic vision adequate to unite us; not even the leader who ultimately propounds it.

But let me suggest this. Should we fail to unite behind competent leadership, I can suggest who will become take charge of the industry. Well, maybe I shouldn’t name names, but the initials are H.U.D. ##

bob-vahsholtz-author-dueling-curves-battle-for-housing-posted-industry-voices-guest-blog-mhpronews-com-manufatured-housing-professional-news-75x75-Bob Vahsholtz is the author of DUELING CURVES The Battle for Housing Bob can be reached at kingmidgetswest@gmail.com. Web: www.kingmidgetswest.com

No God, Jerusalem or Manufactured Housing?

September 16th, 2012 14 comments

by Michael Barnabas

You don't have to be Jewish to feel deep concern about what took place at the Democratic National Convention (DNC). Responding to political pressure to put the word "God" back in their platform as well as to once again name Jerusalem as Israel's national capital, DNC delegates where asked to pass the motion by a 2/3 vote. The video I've asked to be posted below tells the tale. For those who question the commitment by Democrats to fair elections, please watch this CSPAN video and share it with others.

Once you've watched this objectively, everything else is spin and commentary.

Among the emails that come into me are from a White House 'group.' Some months back, there was an outreach by that White House group to the business community. The president, it was said, wants to help ease burdensome regulations, to make it easier on small businesses.

Excuse me?

How can we take such an election year outreach to small businesses seriously, by those who executed Dodd-Frank and ObamaCare?

Talk to an independent manufactured home builder. Ask them, with consumer complaints at new lows, why is HUD pushing more and more 'voluntary' – and other – regulations? Why don't we have the Duty to Serve implemented by the GSEs/FHFA?

The energy sector creates demand for factory-built housing, in places such as North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states. The current administration's policies, up until election year, were favoring gas prices of $8 to $9 a gallon for gas, as this video clip of testimony by Energy Secretary Steven Chu demonstrates.

While this next video clip has been pieced together, it reflects in President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's own words, a path designed to foil coal fired energy production in the United States.

Without belaboring the point, some believe that anti-domestic energy policies such as these were a path to promote green energy by making conventional domestic energy sources harder to come by. Such policies directly harm domestic energy firms. But they indirectly harm our industry, which often provides housing for those workers, especially when they are in areas with high demand for housing.

We scarcely hear about enhanced pre-emption for HUD Code Homes these days. Why not? Wasn't it part of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000?

Community operators created some 10 billion worth of paper to finance manufactured homes in their land lease locations. This was a free enterprise solution designed to fill the gaps created when lenders who vaporized – such as Conseco – went good-bye. But SAFE, Dodd-Frank and a plethora of other laws and regulations have so squeezed this 'captive finance' free enterprise solution in MHCs, that now community owner/operators are turning to rental homes in their properties instead.

Rentals?

Rentals in once all owner occupied communities?! The entire business model of community operators is being changed by the Regulators and their political allies who passed and fund those regulations. Shame on us if we let the party of Regulation be rewarded.

I'm appalled that some still want to believe in "hope and change," when we are heading "forward" towards a new fiscal cliff and a new recession in 2013. Some commentators already believe we are already back in recession.

How could we move "forward" by following the advice of those who gladly took Fannie and Freddie's PAC money? Politicians such as Congressman Barney Frank and then Senator Barack Obama? ACORN, community organizer Barack Obama and the Clinton Administration worked together to force lenders to issue loans to those who were not credit qualified. No doubt there were Republicans who colluded. Shame on all involved.

But it is gutless by Republicans to let the Democrats dish it out and not respond to such fables, blaming Bush II for the mortgage/housing meltdown when Democrats had a firm hand in the cookie jar that caused that whole fiasco.

They should call it the mortgage/financial services industry's version of Russian roulette.

When government interferes so massively in the free market, of course there will be unintended consequences.

But to falsely blame supply side economics for the mortgage/housing collapse is a creative lie or brutal ignorance. Neither the option of lie or ignorance are worthy of credence or support.

We don't hear much in Manufactured housing circles about how the run-up to the mortgage meltdown harmed our Industry. But it did! Easy qualifying, liar loans and the like created a false opportunity for hundreds of thousands of conventional housing buyers. A percentage of those buyers were or normally would have been manufactured home owners. As some manufactured home lenders about those owners who walked away from their HUD Code homes to get conventional houses during the run up to the mortgage/housing bust.

That put pressure on MH lenders and the MH market in general. As MHs where being left behind, of course values dropped, just as they have more recently in conventional housing neighborhoods plagued by foreclosures.

So federal policy harmed our industry in the early 00s, as thousands of our home owners left what become over-leveraged HUDs for what turned out to be over-leveraged conventional houses.

You can thank those politicians who made that happen to us then and more recently.

But let's not thank them by rewarding them with our support or our votes. That is like rewarding the thief by putting him in charge of law enforcement.

When politicians plunder the public treasury to fund with borrowed and tax payer money programs contrary to the Constitution and the public interest, it is time to end such madness.

Research I've seen indicates that some 44-47% of voters will vote for President Obama no matter what he says or does. That means the rest of us who are capable of a critical analysis and independent thought better show up at the polls and cast ballots wisely.

While applauding columns like the one on Voter Fraud, I was frankly disappointed when MHProNews published an interview with Congressman Joe Donnelly. Donnelly may be a co-sponsor of HR 3849, but he also voted for HERA 2008, which gave us the SAFE Act. Donnelly voted for Dodd-Frank. So while I understand the desire for 'balance,' I question the timing or "political correctness" of publishing the Donnelly interview during campaign season.

What we need when the industry is already in the lifeboats and are looking at possible new waves looming on the horizon is enhanced clarity, not confusion.

When even Time Magazine, Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine are publishing stories and OpEds that call into question or openly attack the Obama Presidency, MH trade publications need to be coming out loud, clear and strongly in favor of less government, lower taxes/regulations, a sane pro-domestic energy program and more free enterprise leadership.

The first pair of drafts of this article I was asked to edit and tone down. So this is the toned down version. I was also told that the editor would add a disclaimer and an invitation for responses. So be it.

Back to the top. Sham votes matter. They speak volumes.

Election year political posturing, via asking independent business owners and executives how to reduce the burdens or regulations matters too. It is the age old trick of seduction at work. We are being divided and conquered.

We are watching borrowed money and our tax dollars being turned against us to destroy the greatest economic system and the most free society in world history.

9/11 and U.S. Embassies ablaze reminds us why Jerusalem and God matters to America, and why that Democratic sham of a platform vote matters.

Manufactured housing matters too. President Obama stood in Elkhart, IN – an area where so many manufactured housing plants and suppliers are – talking jobs. Are there connections between all that is being covered in this column? Yes. They are just different corners of the same bolt of American political cloth.

If we sweep the current left wing crop of Democrats and RINO Republicans aside in favor of more free market oriented leaders, manufactured housing can blossom and grow again. All we need is a level playing field.

Some speculate that Ben Bernanke may have decided on QE3 – de facto printing money – to boost stock prices short term to help Team Obama win re-election. Whatever his motivation, the credit down grade cited below reminds us that the Bernanke/FED/QE3 policy is misguided. It will harm the middle class and seniors. Economic history reminds us that you earn, not print, your way to success.

“Ratings firm Egan-Jones cut its credit rating on the U.S. government to "AA-"

from "AA," citing its opinion that quantitative easing from the

Federal Reserve would hurt the

U.S. economy and the country's credit quality.” – CNBC

If we have supply-side Republicans in charge of the House and Senate, but fail to sweep out Architect Obama – the leader of our changed and hopeless society – we have not done enough.

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official, save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country. In either event, it is unpatriotic not to tell the truth, whether about the president or anyone else.”

― Theodore Roosevelt

26th President of the United States

For anyone who votes to re-elect the man who wants to move us 'forward' off the looming fiscal cliff, such a person could qualify as unpatriotic by Roosevelt's definition.

Don't let that happen. Half measures won't be enough. ##

(Editor's Note: All Industry Voices and other opinion columns, including the Masthead blog, et al, represent the views of those who write them. They do not necessarily represent the views of MHProNews.com or our sponsors. It has been our long standing policy to invite guest columns from people with opposing perspectives. You can send your own letter to the editor or OpEd column on a subject connected to factory built housing to the email address linked here, with Industry Voices in the subject line. Thank you.)

Post submitted by
Michael Barnabas

Dick Moore’s Industry and Finance Perspective

November 16th, 2011 2 comments

 

Dick Moore's Industry and Finance Perspective
 
Well, it seems that I struck a nerve with our friend up East. He mostly disappeared for a couple of years, quit writing his newsletter, and went dormant. I figured maybe his conscience was bothering him, after the spin he put on our industry.
 
Now I see a new post from our buddy in “Industry Voices,” the guest platform on Tony Kovach’s e-zine MHMSM NewsLine (MHMSM.com = MHProNews.com), wherein he goes on and on about me in a general mis-representation of my writings. I certainly never opinioned that he had powers akin to Superman. He did, however, invent some mystical losses derived by using losses from Brigadier, Conseco, and other lenders who did not know or understand how to buy MH paper. He then reported those loss figures to Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac, keeping them out of the (Manufactured Housing) markets.
 
This lack of competition had a negative impact on the other lenders that were still major players in our industry.
 
He admitted to me in Louisville one year that he was an “attorney” and was being “paid” by Fannie to advise them. He later denied all that, but everyone knows the credibility of lawyers and politicians. After all, who else gets “paid to have an opinion”?
 
My ex-neighbor was a college professor who taught business
administration at Memphis State University. After listening to his
many goofy ideas and theories, I realized the source of the old adage “If you can’t do it, teach it.” If you were a failure in the finance business, then go out and advise others how to do it!
 
The Mortgage Industry produced paper much worse than the MH
industry ever dreamed of, and that was the paper that our friend
advised Fannie to buy (instead of MH paper). Fannie’s losses are the worst losses the United States has ever endured, and it continues still. (How good was that advice?)
 
It is easy to measure or analyze a situation the way you
want it to look – just choose the measuring criteria needed
to give you the end result you want and ignore any thing
that doesn’t.
 
The MH Industry (its survivors) remains the only low-cost housing that is un-subsidized. Just because less qualified people enter the business and lose money from their poor business decisions does not equate to a ‘subsidy.’ Maybe our friend does not know or understand what a subsidy is. He sounds like Obama explaining the debt ceiling and how someone else created it.
 
I’m sure there will be another argumentative letter, but I have work to do and do not have the time to continue with fruitless exercises in writing.
 
********
 
This industry and its recourse lenders fared well and made good money from the 50’s to the 90’s, with no taxpayer subsidies.
 
This industry faces a number of problems, with the main one being lack of financing. The lenders and the learned professors of the industry like to blame the dealer for all the woes. True, we have had some bad apples in our business, just like every other industry. But the level of damage from that kind of dealer falls way short of the debacle we as an industry are paying for now.
 
One major issue our industry faces concerns resale values of our houses, which directly affects the lender’s recovery on defaulted loans. We as dealers have very little influence in that arena.
 
Many MH Communities will not accept houses over 10 years old; lenders will not finance homes over 10 years old. Somehow, when the house hits its 10th birthday, it suddenly is worth ZERO!?!?! And this is the dealer’s fault?!?!
 
When free enterprise existed in this country and banks lent money to their dealers with recourse, our industry performed well! Lenders were selective about who they would take on (based on the dealer’s financial condition and track record in the community), the dealers would take care of their funding pipeline by not sending them dead-beats (since the
dealer would have to repurchase if the loan fell out), and the dealers were paid endorsement fees for this guaranty. The dealers worked to re-sell the bank’s repos with good unpaid balances, and the paper overall performed quite well. It was that performance that led to the influx of the non-recourse lenders that we saw in the 90’s.
 
Long-gone lenders such as Bombardier, Conseco, Greenpoint Credit, BAHS, et al, saw the performance of recourse lenders’ portfolios, due to good resale values on houses sold under recourse agreements, and made the mental jump to they can do that too! Soon tactics such as withholding of proceeds and diverting rate spread and the odd-days’ interest into non-interest bearing reserve accounts became the norm from the lenders, at the expense of their MH dealer network.
 
In their headlong rush for gold, they also opened the funding gates to credit buyers who (like in today’s meltdown) had NO reason in their track records to get approved for loans at low rates and low down payments.
 
So, they kept the endorsement fees, put that rate spread into a reserve account for repossessions, and bought non-recourse.
 
Their inability to manage the repos, refurb and re-sell them (as the recourse lender/dealer relationships had done) created massive losses for them. Again, I fail to understand how this is the dealer’s fault.
 
********
 
President Obama is railing against corporate jets, while flying around on the most expensive jet in the world. The tax deductions on all the corporate jets in the US would not pay for Air Force One. Is this leading by example or “Do as I say, not as I do?”
 
Good leaders lead by example. They don’t accept favors from lobbyists and major contributors to their re-election campaigns, and they don’t spend the taxpayers’ money recklessly.
 
The crash of the housing/mortgage industry was caused by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which is govt. money invested into private enterprise, wherein all the profits go to the cronies of powerful govt. people, but the risks and losses go to the taxpayers. # #
 
post submitted by
R. C. “Dick” Moore

Open Letter to CFED regarding Dodd-Frank and its impact on affordable Manufactured Housing

May 24th, 2011 No comments

To: Kathryn Gwatkin Goulding
Cc: CFED Federal Policy

Kathryn,

I am receipt of CFED’s newsletter earlier today in which praises were heaped upon the Dodd-Frank Bill and its related Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Analysis of the bill by numerous manufactured housing industry financial services consultants have concluded that without modifications, this bill could destroy our industry which is currently only hanging on by a thread anyway.

The Dodd-Frank Bill is far too typical of Congress’ meddling with our system with devastating effects on lower income families. While boasting about protection for consumers, the results of the bill without alteration will be to eliminate the availability to finance home loans lower than $78,000. Since our loans average about $60,000, more than half of our market will be eliminated. Those unable to get loans will be the ones at the lower portion of our client base. I don’t think these wanted Congress to legislate them out of the ability to purchase a home. Rather than promoting the infallibility of the Dodd-Frank Bill, CFED should be rallying to support the changes needed to protect the lowest income home purchasers in our nation. Just because they are low income, they should not be forced out of the ability to purchase a home. As I assume you are aware, our industry is already at the lowest level of shipments since record keeping began in 1961. Unmodified, the Dodd-Frank Bill will most likely destroy any hope for a recovery. The sad thing is that the death of the industry will not result from the Free Enterprise rejection by the market; it will be the result of an ignorant Congress legislating low income consumers out of the ability to borrow the funds necessary to finance their home. Of course, Congress did the same thing to the US light bulb manufacturers so maybe we should have seen it coming.

Please note the comments below in a column written by industry expert and Industry Person of the Year, George Allen. Please join our industry to encourage Congress to make the modifications necessary to preserve the ability of our lowest income homeowners to achieve their goal of homeownership. I appreciate the efforts CFED has taken over the years to protect low income families. Removing their ability to purchase a home will not be to their benefit.

George Allen–
Dodd-Frank Fallout. Geesh! This bill isn’t even law yet, and finance-related businesses are closing, simply to avoid having to put up with the more onerous of its proposed/planned regulations. Already, ‘former employees,’ perhaps even potential borrowers, are paying the price for what, to many of us, appears to be excessive regulatory reach into the financial sector. Here’s the plaint of one blog flogger (i.e., reader) writing to us this past week…
‘Dodd-Frank forced us to close our mortgage company in ___________ , and lay off several employees. Reason? Our capitalization with _______________ (a major bank) as our JV partner, was slightly in excess of $1,000,000. We were not a broker, but a direct lender, using the bank’s money. Under Dodd-Frank, unless you have a ten million dollar capitalization, you get classified as a broker. And as a broker, you have additional disclosures, the required language of which pretty much scares your customers away to a direct lender. So, we are out of business. Multiply that many times, in every community in America. An apt example of ‘the law of unintended consequences,’ as well as job and prosperity killing legislation!’ (lightly edited. GFA)

…the Dodd-Frank bill is maybe the ‘final nail in the coffin of chattel finance,’ where manufactured housing is concerned? Whereas the necessity of added fees will necessitate a minimum manufactured housing loan of $78,000.00, to simply ensure the return of basic and added fees to a chattel lender. And outside certain high-priced local housing markets, how many times do we see manufactured home loans, especially on resale homes, in excess of $78,000.00? # #

Thanks,

Doug Gorman
Home-Mart, Inc.
9516 East Admiral Place
Tulsa, OK 74116
800-364-4663 Toll free
918-835-0500 Office
918-835-8146 Fax
918-250-6867 Home
918-640-1357 Cell
doug@homemart.us
www.homemart.us

Editor’s Note: Please click here to read the CFED document.