Archive

Posts Tagged ‘industry voice’

Dueling Factions

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

In this time of industry crisis, many thoughts arise regarding strategy and direction, but there has been seemingly little effective action. A couple of old friends from my days in the industry, plus one new friend, Dr. David Funk, asked me to see if I could help things along by putting matters into historical perspective.

In my early days when the MH industry was breaking sales records every year (I’ve been retired for more than two decades), we were leaderless—in discord. No manufacturer originated more than ten percent of shipments. Those heady times ended with a crash—a major housing crisis.

Faced with ruin in the seventies, manufacturers, suppliers, retailers, community owners and the like pulled together behind a focused plan of action. It was a widely debated strategic decision to enhance industry credibility by accepting HUD supervision of a national building code for our product. There was plenty of dissent, but the plan had broad support. It was nominally led and presented by MHMA (the Mobile Home Manufacturer’s Association, the predecessor of MHI).

Wrong course? Maybe—we cannot know—but it attained consensus; we worked together and made it happen. A bit of a miracle, considering a long history of bickering and lack of leadership.

These days, we face a bigger challenge and yet … where’s today’s consensus? What’s the strategy? Where’s the leadership? You have a strategy, I have a strategy and yonder fellow behind the tree has a strategy, but what emerges is discord.

In my naïveté as I stepped back into this largely consolidated industry, I thought a leader would step forward, rally the troops behind a plan of action, and get on with developing our great potential. Strangely, that has not yet happened. As Rahm Emanuel said, and Tony quotes:

Never let a good crisis go to waste …

We’re wasting this crisis by fussing over “who’s right” instead of debating “what’s right.”

you-never-want-a-serious-crisis-to-go-to-waste-rahm-emanuel-president-obama's-chief-of-staff-image=wikicommons-(c)2014-lifestyle-factory-homes-mhpronews-com (1).png

Editor's Note: this is the MHProNews poster Bob Vasholtz is referencing,

the article and context it was used in is linked here.

“What’s right” is hard to say, but easier than finding broad agreement. No clear consensus seems to emerge from our diminished industry represented by multiple associations. None of them seems to have a handle on “what’s right,” though there seems a general agreement that the others are wrong and one organization (guess which) should lead the charge. It looks like we’ll not be singing Kumbaya real soon, so how about we start by tuning up Jim Krueger’s 1977 lyrics:

There ain’t no good guy, there ain’t no bad guy
There’s only you and me and we just disagree

Nothing wrong with disagreement. There are many viable ways to tackle a problem and finding the best can be a stiff challenge, requiring many inputs—thoughtful discussion among all guys who are betting their companies on this industry’s future.

Underneath the rhetoric there is probably an industry consensus that no one has managed to dig out, articulate, and work into a viable strategy. There seems to be no vehicle for doing so. We’re all on the same side, and yet can’t seem to band together and work toward a mutually acceptable way forward. Wow.

It sorta reminds me of national politics. The Republican party caters to the radical right, Democrats the loosely left and the sensible consensus is leaderless.

Rick Rand has a great idea to pull the factions together, shake ’em in a sack, and see what emerges (my words, not his!). I’m on record in support of Rick’s idea, but suggest the challenge is … difficult. It has been my observation that industry progress tends to be incremental with breakthroughs few and far between. How and where, for example, might our scattered and somewhat contentious flock even gather so discussions can begin? How can we, this industry, get past internal politics and start the ball rolling? We’re a young and feisty bunch competing in a turgid housing market. Where, exactly, do we begin to get a handle on a viable and agreeable strategy?

Tony suggests in these pages, “Perhaps we need a few dozen retired guys—or those so financially comfortable—that they don’t fear speaking out publicly on touchy issues that matter to our industry.”

Well gee, I’m such a veteran, happily retired, having no skin in the game and representing no one. I’d be pleased to join with similar voices and see what we can conjure. Thomas Jefferson said:

Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.

I’m an ol’ Kansas farm boy, have my grandpa’s anvil in the barn and can still swing a hammer. Let’s get on with it!

While Tony’s idea is terrific, I wonder if a gaggle of geezers of good intent can do much beyond early steps in the direction of uniting our industry voice toward a viable strategy? Without unity, the problems of a leaderless industry drag on and strategy does not emerge. Agreeing upon one viable association seems a good place to start such useful discussions while reducing internal conflict. Maybe that should be at the top of the agenda for such a senior-citizen forum?

In support of Tony’s and Rick’s ideas, and with incremental progress in mind, here’s another suggestion. Conduct a survey of all segments of the industry, trolling for consensus. Put forth a professionally-written survey, geared toward one question: Which single association or group should speak for our industry in dealing with the important questions we face today—and why (or why not)?

To still protests, the survey must be inclusive, fair and objective. Who can do that? Foremost has long been respected as a provider of solid industry data and could probably do it well. The results, if clear, would be hard to deny, leading toward consolidation. They might sponsor such research in lieu of their next MH survey. The results could be of historic importance.

As with Rick’s conclave and Tony’s summit of the aged, the outcome of such a survey should not be expected to result in a shiny new industry strategy. First we need positive steps for getting back on track—taking what Peter Drucker called results oriented action, toward our industry’s great potential—at minimum, enabling us to speak clearly to confused Washington bureaucrats.

One step at a time along our learning curve. It’s kinda dumb to be racing off in different directions when times are tough and we most need to pull together. ##

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.

(Editor's Note: All opinions expressed are those of the writer, and may or may not represent the views of this publication, editor or our sponsors. Other points of view are welcome. OpEds or Letters to the Editor on industry related issues may be sent to latonyk@gmail.com or tony@mhmsm.com, thank you.

As a point of fact, Bob Vahsholtz clearly agrees on some things, disagrees on others, with L. A. “Tony” Kovach's editorial perspectives. Alignment with Masthead view points is not required for publication! :-)

“What’s Happened to the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry?”

July 9th, 2014 No comments

Many years ago, a famous Movie Cowboy, Mayor of Beverly Hills, Editor of the Saturday Evening Post and Entertainer, Will Rodgers said, “If Stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?”

Manufactured housing has seen its media image perpetuated and the public perception remains consistently tarnished for quite some time. The HUD Code manufactured home (MH) appears too often to be viewed by government, Realtors  ® and the public as not being desirable. The MH Industry has seen its home production decline and new MH Communities (MHCs) have declined as well. Many of these existing communities are tired with no “Innovation” or “Cool” factor for prospects.

On this date in 2014, along comes the “Tiny House,” a version of the factories “RV Park model.”

The “Tiny House” is less than 400 square feet. It sits on a trailer frame; it has wheels and a hitch. It appears to be of the same type of construction as a RV Park Model or a small HUD Code manufactured home. Media professionals like “Tiny Houses” for stories and about those who live in them. See example below.

tiny-houses-steven-lefer-industry-voices-posted-mhpronews-com

Wow, the media’s attention is so positive to the “Tiny House” that it far exceeds that of the old and tired HUD Trailer/Mobile Home industry. TV shows with Bob Vila endorse it and A+E TV Network will begin showing “Tiny House Nation” July 9, 2014 at 10 ET/11PT on their home product.

The articles point to how “Cute” and functional this small single wide home is; and how they even have a “Cool,” “Hip” factor with “NO” negative publicity. It's astonishing. These homeowners and their tiny houses brag about the size and in some cases folks live in 120 square feet, which is no bigger than a backyard shed. A woman in the article below left a MHPark to live one, ouch!

I understand “Four Lights Tiny House Company” will be attempting to build a “Village” for people to live in a community of them. What? How? Is this not an RV Community? If you are part of the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry, I am sure you are not aware of this image change nor have the leaders of the industry addressed or invited these competing folks to their convention. Are they part of the HUD Industry or do they prefer NOT to be? It sure makes me wonder?

credit-tiny-house-nation-series-graphic-Wednesday-july-9-10et-11pt-

Image credit FYI.TV

Here are three links for you to ponder!

http://www.deadline.com/2014/02/ae-lifestyle-network-fyi-sets-first-slate-launch-date/

http://www.sanluisobispo.com/2013/12/31/2857011/bette-presley-arroyo-grande-house.html

http://www.bobvila.com/articles/tiny-house-village/

Where and what happened to the HUD Code Manufactured Home Industry? ##

steve-leflervicepresident-modular-lifestyles-industry-voices-mhpronews-com75x75-Steven Lefler
Vice President
Modular Lifestyles, Inc.
(888) 437-4587
Dual DRE and HCD Salesperson
Advanced Green Building Professional
CEC Solar Wind Retailer/Installer

http://www.modularlifestyles.com

(First image supplied by Steve Lefler)

(Editor's Note: MHProNews strongly believes that accurate terminology matters, and as was noted with Ken Haynes' Industry Voices guest column today, the thoughts and statements made above are solely those of the writer.

Further, there are points in this commentary that are broad statements that could be construed as technically inaccurate, was used as hyperbole and thus depending on the context, should not be taken literally. Steve Lefler well knows about the recent positive press from CBS News or the Boston Globe, among others, touting the value of today's manufactured home.

Those who know Lefler's noteworthy work in net-zero and near-off-the-grid factory built homes makes him a pioneer, and that has lead him to a level of what might politely be described as frustration with the industry-at-large and its leaders for not promoting our factory-built home product, as his column above suggests.

As a recent Masthead blog post – Manufactured Housing's Declaration of Independence – underscored, market facts tell us our industry ought to be booming.

As on any issue of industry relevance, MHProNews accepts submissions of articles that may represent similar or other viewpoints. Subject line, “Letter to the Editor” or “OpEd for Industry Voices blog” can be sent to latonyk@gmail.com.

Moblehome, not Mobile Home

July 9th, 2014 5 comments

Does it not roll off your lips? Moblehome. It has a certain rhythm and melody to it. You can say it as one syllable, and not sound like an idiot.

Moblehome, as in a noble home, not a mobile home.

At one time HUD code homes were the only manufactured homes. Not any more.

Man-u-fac-tured-hous-ing, does not roll of your lips. In fact, it is quite laborious to say, with six syllables and no rhythm nor melody. It’s antiseptic. Moblehome is poetic.

Mobile Home is 100% all-American.

I know it’s crazy and against the grain, but I was in it long enough to spout off about it.

Mobile Home should not be a four letter word anymore.

I started in the mobile home finance business working for GECC in Dallas, in 1971, directly for Harry Gilmore, who worked for Fred Wiesenberger, who worked for Scott Conroy, my maternal uncle. Sometime prior to that, Uncle Scott had convinced General Electric to create a “Special Products” division of General Electric Credit Corporation, now GE Capital Corporation, for the sole purpose of offering wholesale and retail financing for mobile home retailers on a national basis.

At the time there were few national lenders, all full recourse, and limited to 84 month retail installment contracts.

I was a mobile home account manager handling about 1500 owners. I managed anything and everything to do with the financed home (primarily collections) from point of sale to completion of contract or repossession, by phone or in person at the residence.

Anyone who was in the business in 1971 knows exactly what kinds of mobile homes were offered to the public. It was not pretty, and in some cases, downright scary.

We all see, on a regular basis, unless you live completely in an urban environment, the vestiges and remnants of the sales heydays of the early 70’s.

There are hundreds of thousands of trailer houses and mobile homes across this country, from coast-to-coast and border-to-border, still in use, well after their intended life span, all pre-HUD, half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards, a fourth of them uninhabitable upon leaving the factory, and a fourth of them, like Rollohome, built exceeding the HUD code before there was a HUD code.

The HUD code created a new nomenclature, which has been described by Allen Wallis of

the Natural History Magazine as having four phases;

  • from 1928 – 1940 the travel trailer period;
  • from 1941 – 1954, the house trailer period;
  • from 1955 – June 14, 1976, the mobile home period; and
  • from June 15, 1976 to now, manufactured housing.

Since 1976, we, as an industry, without exception, no matter what sector of the industry one is involved with, as a group, were on a single mission; trying to eradicate all previous terms when describing manufactured housing built to HUD code specifications. It is a valiant and endless chore, perpetually trying to reach the general population, and primarily, our regulators and legislators.

Yet here we are, in 2014, and I still hear on local broadcasting; “trailer,” “trailer house” or “house trailer” and “mobile home,” rarely “manufactured home.”

On national broadcasting, one hears mobile home, an occasional trailer house or trailer park, and rarely, manufactured home.

I see National, State, and County elected officials being interviewed, saying trailer house and mobile home, never manufactured home. Sometimes they will call a HUD home a modular.

I cannot count the times an RV has been referred to as a mobile home, whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome. Motorhome, mobilehome, what’s the difference? Ignoramuses! Are the FEMA trailers ever called anything but the FEMA trailers, even though half of them are HUD code homes and not travel trailers. I doubt you will ever hear, “FEMA manufactured homes.”

I am not saying we have failed, but we sure seem to have a long way to go, after already working on it for 40 years. I have called and emailed I don’t know how many TV stations and networks complaining about their cavalier use of “trailer house” for the last 30 years, although I haven’t called lately. I don’t work in the business any longer, but I do follow it and I do try to educate morons from time to time.

The fact is, the general public has not embraced the term manufactured housing and probably never will. HUD Code manufactured homes are called about everything but manufactured homes by the general public and public officials.

Not mobile home, moblehome, or if you’re nutty about spelling, mobilehome, but one word and when we say it, we are not talking about your grand dad’s mobile home, we are talking about a state of the art, preferred single family residence, blah, blah, blah. I’m not saying give totally up on trying to get the general population to say

manufactured housing, but it’s a slow boat to China. I personally like to say moblehome and I make it perfectly clear I am not talking about a trailer, although the steel is always there, so technically, it’s a trailer with a house on it that trails behind a tow vehicle at some point in its life.

At least we are not called come alongs. ##

ken-haynes-jr-new-mexico-manufactured-housing-association-past-president-manufactured-housing-living-news-com75x75-Ken Haynes, Jr. Please see his commentary on the literally historic and very relevant today document attached to Drawn Quarters – Then and Now.

 

 

(Editor's Note: MHProNews strongly believes that accurate terminology matters, so the thoughts and statements made above are solely those of the writer.

Further, there are points in this commentary that are broad statements that could be construed as technically inaccurate, and should not be taken literally, eg; “half of them currently uninhabitable by today’s standards,” should be read as hyperbole to make the author's point, rather than taken as fact.

As on an issue of industry relevance, MHProNews accepts submissions of articles that may represent other viewpoints. Subject line, “Letter to the Editor” or “OpEd for Industry Voices blog” can be sent to latonyk@gmail.com.) 

NCC Meeting News Update

January 27th, 2013 No comments

National Communities Council Members:

With the growing need for affordable housing combined with the rapidly evolving regulatory environment, lack of homebuyer financing, and other challenges, our industry has tremendous opportunities at the same time it faces significant hurdles. Both MHI and the NCC have experienced a period of major transition, and with our Washington leadership team now firmly in place, I believe the most important step ahead is to develop a vision and action plan for the NCC that provides the foundation to carry us through the next few years of supporting the industry and servicing our membership. In lieu of the NCC business meeting that has been held traditionally in conjunction with the MHI Legislative Conference and Winter Meeting, at the upcoming meeting the NCC Executive Committee will instead hold a closed planning workshop focused on solidifying the NCC’s vision for the future. Our goal will be to define a vision that ensures the NCC supports MHI’s broader legislative advocacy and marketing outreach efforts, provides the range of services most valuable to the variety of constituents we represent, makes interim NCC meetings more productive for all of our members, and expands our membership to add to our resources and strength as the only MHI division representing community owners.

While the traditional NCC meeting will not be held during the upcoming MHI Legislative Conference and Winter Meeting from February 24-26, I strongly encourage all NCC members to attend this important gathering and support MHI’s advocacy efforts. Our industry has an excellent opportunity for expansion as the housing market recovers, but we need unity and alignment to ensure the regulatory and legislative environment supports our goals. The upcoming Legislative Conference in Washington is the best place to contribute by making our collective industry voice heard on Capitol Hill and helping your legislators recognize our industry’s vital role in providing affordable housing.

As just one example of how your voice can make a difference, the recently released CFPB rules will have a significant impact on community owners and operators, and while the industry did not achieve all of its goals for the new rules, MHI and member efforts clearly had an impact.  For example, within the Qualified Mortgage rules, the CFPB did expand the spectrum of loan amounts and has proposed a qualified mortgage exemption within the new category of “smaller creditors.”  Just today, we are learning that it appears all new manufactured homes may be exempt from the new appraisal requirements for higher-risk mortgages.  While information continues to develop, it is critical that we work together in the legislative process to present industry unity and bring positive results.

The regulatory environment will continue to shift rapidly as additional Dodd-Frank and CFPB rules are promulgated and reform efforts are undertaken. These changes and their impact on your business will be central to the upcoming Legislative Conference, and your participation in MHI’s advocacy efforts is vital to ensuring the best result. I look forward to seeing you in Washington and to working with the NCC’s Executive Committee to lay out a vision that leverages our opportunities, responds to our challenges, and supports your success well into the future.

Sincerely,
David

David B. Lentz
Chairman
National Communities Council

(Editor's Note: this memo was originally sent to NCC members by Vice President Jenny Hodge on Tuesday January 15, 2013. It is reprinted here with permission.)