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Free Trade or Economic War?

April 6th, 2018 No comments

Anyone going to school in the U.S. after WW II has learned the breakdown in world trade was a primary, though not only, cause of the Great Depression. It is said import tariffs and barriers caused world trade to be constrained. There is little doubt it was a cause.

I grew up believing it and have done so with little retrospective most of my life. As U.S. auto plants closed in the 1980s and forward (I was a GM dealer at the time), I blamed the unions, the workers, and incompetent auto company management. Whole swaths of the country from the Great Lakes to Maine back to the Mason-Dixon Line started to lose industrial plants, in the heartland of America. They became destroyed areas, bereft of jobs and hope. The bombing campaigns of W.W. II Europe couldn’t have caused greater damage.

FreeTradeOrEconomicWarMartyLavin475

Yet with the belief in free trade in the country so ingrained, we blamed the fallen for their fate. I was part of that crowd. It never occurred to me to ask if free trade was so good, why is its impact so disastrous for the U.S.? Not until recently, that is.

And surely our race for government control of every aspect of our economy led to manacled industrial results, especially in heavy industry. But I heard our technology would bail us out. Who needed autos, steel, aluminum and other smoke stack industries, what with their pollution and dirt? Not the U.S. Uhm, we forgot we needed their jobs.

This all played a terrible self-destruction to our heavy industry and their secondary affiliates. The politicians in power either didn’t see the developments, didn’t have answers, or didn’t care. We have seen recently how quickly our economy can respond when unleased. How hard was that?

It’s obvious that the last 30 years, especially our last 8 years prior to 2017, that one of the most important OleMartyBoy Principles was not understood by our heros in government: “You get more of what you encourage and less of what you discourage.” Simple, eh, but entirely overlooked by our government until last year.

YouGetMoreOfWhatYouEncourageLessofWhatYouDiscourageMartyLavin

I understand Free Trade means that each of the parties share similar rules as to access, tariffs, government industrial financial assistance and the like. Each of the parties is to operate in trade under similar rules, with shared understandings.

Still, the economic talking points by the media trumpet Free Trade, when even the dead and buried know there is little of it with many of our trade partners, especially The People’s Republic of China. That is the problem seemingly overlooked when media discussions center on the subject. Often the quoted experts are those who profit from trade, free or not, usually the finance contingent.

When a trading partner has rules heavily skewed in their direction, as in the case of China, it is very difficult to achieve free trade. Does each party have similar access to the other’s markets? Are tariffs similar? Are privately owned companies in the U.S. competing against government backed Chinese companies who can survive long after a privately-owned U.S. company would be long gone, and thus undercutting its pricing? And most importantly, does the other country operate in a relatively free market?

China has over a billion plus person population. It is a giant country that has been backward, isolated and extremely poor. Coming out of W.W. II, it had a puny, agrarian economy. Its communist dictatorship created a command economy. The U.S., as it had done with Germany, Italy, Japan, and non-communist Europe helped re-establish the shattered economies of these countries with trade. China, under the yoke of brutal Chairman Mao, spent much of the post-war period avoiding the U.S. and brutalizing much of its citizenry. Like all old men, The Great Prick, Mao finally died. A special place is reserved for Him in Hell.

The new generation of Chinese leaders decided their best bet to continue to rule the dictatorship was to open their economy to trade so fewer of their citizens starved every year. We now enter in the final phase of that stage in China. It’s emergence as a world power has been achieved by an almost capitalist drive for growth and trade. Now that fewer of its citizens are starving, it has turned its attention to waging an economic war on the rest of the world.

After the war, Germany sprung economically quickly, Japan following behind, then most of non-communist Europe followed suit. Ex-Communist Europe still struggles. China followed very slowly for years. Their agrarian economy, lack of infrastructure, large over-population, and strict communist control hindered easy solutions for China’s emergence.

But once going in the 1980s, to the present, they blew forward. And who became their greatest trading partner and deliverer of free technology they seemed incapable of creating? Why, good old Uncle Sam. Sam made many concessions to the Chinese to help them economically. In fact the emergence was so great, that the New York Times’ ace reporter, Tom Friedman advocated the U.S. should adopt the Chinese model for the economy. We saw how well that direction worked with the economic performance of Tom’s favorite President, Barack Hussein Obama.

I suffered thru much of the 1980’s when Japan, Inc. was running rough shod over our economy and we all believed they would easily control us. They were going to buy everything in America! Lost any sleep on that one recently? We sure did then. They were then the Asian powerhouse, akin to their speed in conquering much of South East Asia during the war, then unable to maintain their advantage against the U.S., just like in the war.

In Japan, the command economy stumbled badly in the 1990s and continues to do so. Picking many winners in the economy early boosted them, but command economies seem incapable of letting the losers die, dragging down all with them, by not cleansing by dying. The losers stayed alive with government help, as many do to this day.

Lying in wait in the Chinese economy lurks the same virus, as it does in all command economies, germinating even as we breathe. The trade deficit in the news is that China is enjoying a $350-$500 Billion-dollar annual trade deficit with the US and a $300 billion-dollar annual technology transfer as a gift, (actually by theft). Quickly, who has the most to lose in this transaction? China or Americans no longer able to go to Walmart to buy more cheap unneeded junk?

The economic talking heads making their living on Wall Street or Washington, D.C. care little about American workers displaced for years. Deplorables! Now the economic bigshots lament the possible trade war with China because it threatens their stew, citing the loss of cheap goods for us to buy. Where were these folks all those years as hard working Americans were thrown from their jobs, in places like Buffalo, Detroit and Youngstown, all dead cities. You know, “free” trade is a must, for the elites.

In this blather over free trade, the one thing I have never heard is that the actions of the Chinese constitute an economic war against the U.S., and has been since Nixon went to China. Dead soldiers, bombed cities, lost industry, and loss of fortune is the result of a shooting war.  They are easy to spot. An economic war is harder to see, but the results are similar; ruined cities, lost industry, citizen agony, broken dreams, destruction of the American economy.  We have been living with that. The results are easily visible. It does seem difficult to see from Wall Street and D.C.

This war is being done on the backs of our workers and industry, and our economy. The trade rules are not similar. Technology is stolen en masse. Their markets are often closed to us. They are very smart people and have been out maneuvering us for 50 years. How dumb can we be?

Even though they now have a first world economy, by choice they have a third world pay scale for their workers. This creates quality goods at a price our companies cannot hope to match. And between their lack of free trade and subsidy of the cost of their goods, how do our companies compete? The answer is obvious, we can’t. Thus this massive transfer of wealth from us to them, allowing them to continue their economic war unabated. This has built their new cities, airports, schools, roads and infrastructure to first world standards.

Their actions in the command economy injures their workers as well, keeping a massive economy acting like they barely succeed with worker earnings. But this action is getting pushback as countries wake up from their slumber.

I am running a contest. Thinking the talking heads will prevail, and we do nothing about the predatory Chinese trade practices, I am looking for a worker’s name. I want to know the name of the last American industrial worker, the one who turns off the lights in the last manufacturing plant in the country, just as it closes. Email me the name and the winner gets $100.00 and a video tour of Detroit. ##

marty-lavin-posted-on-mhpronewsMartin V “Marty” Lavin, J.D.
Burlington, VT
Winter Residence, Miami, FL

Editor’s Notes: Marty is a community, retail, and finance veteran who is an MHI award winner.

Note 2: The content is penned by Marty, but the illustrations are provided by the editor. 

“Absolute Disgrace!” MH Industry Association Leader Reacts to Keith Olbermann’s “Trailer Park Trash” Tweet, Reported on The Hill

April 24th, 2017 No comments

It’s an absolute disgrace that this pejorative somehow remains ‘socially acceptable’ among the politically correct elite and their mouthpieces.

People like Olbermann, who routinely slam others over alleged “micro-aggressions” and other fabricated nonsense, would do well to show proper and decent respect for the millions of hard-working Americans who are able to own a home of their own because of the unequalled affordability of manufactured homes located either in — or outside of — manufactured home communities.

MMarkWeissManufacturedHousingAssociationForRegulatoryReformMHARRPostedIndustryVoicesMHProNews

The headline and this graphic are produced and provided by MHProNews, a common practice among some in media to illustrate opinion or ‘letters to the editor’ columns.

They, and a lot of other Americans living in the heartland of the country, deserve better than this type of arrogant slander. ##

MMarkWeissCEO-MHARR-ManufacturedHousingAssociationforRegulatoryReform-posted-IndustryVoices-MHProNewsMark Weiss
President & CEO
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)
1331 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 512
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 202/783-4087
Fax: 202/783-4075
Email: MHARRDG@AOL.COM

(Editor’s Note 1: Weiss’ comments are made with respect to a tweet by Keith Olbermann, published in an article on Washington, D.C.’s ‘The Hill,” see link here, or at the top, above.

Note 2: MHProNews contacted several top people at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), as well as their media contact, to give them an opportunity to share a comment or respond. As of this time, As of this time, more than 48 hours later, they have not done so.)

Award-Winning MHI Retailer Regarding HUD Objectives, Pam Danner, Needed Changes

March 8th, 2017 No comments

I can’t improve on what Mark Weiss [MHARR President and CEO] has indicated below:

DougGormanICantImproveOnWhatMarkWeissMHARRPresidentCEOHasSaidBelowManufacturedHousingIndustryVoices-MHProNews

Graphic above and the headline were provided by MHProNews, as is customary in publishing. The words in [brackets] were added for clarity, and the text submitted for publication is by the author, Doug Gorman. 

“While MHARR does not claim to speak for the entire industry, we have made it clear that after years of abuse by federal regulators acting contrary to the law and empowering entrenched revenue-driven contractors to target the industry, the new era of regulatory deconstruction being ushered-in by the Trump Administration offers a profound opportunity that must not be missed or squandered.  And while other segments of the industry – following their recent meeting – have not given any public indication of a change in course, direction or approach based on this new reality, MHARR has been on top of this critical matter since the November election, and has already put in place fundamental priorities and policies that I am happy to share with you and the rest of the industry as shown below:

  1. Elevate and include manufactured housing in all HUD (and other federal) housing and housing finance programs on the same terms as other types of housing;
  1. Immediately re-assign the current career HUD manufactured housing program administrator and appoint an appropriately-qualified non-career administrator in accordance with the 2000 reform law who would fully and properly implement that law and any and all regulatory policies and orders put in place by President Trump;
  1. Immediately prepare and issue a new Request for Proposals (RFP) for the HUD program monitoring contract which would provide for, encourage, and ensure full and fair competition for that position, eliminate all “make-work” programs and functions contained in the current contract consistent with Trump Administration regulatory policies and orders, and terminate the existing monitoring contract upon the identification and selection of a new contractor;
  1. Seek the immediate withdrawal of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) proposed manufactured housing energy rule pursuant to executive action by either the incoming DOE Secretary, the President, or other appropriate authority and, if necessary, seek a congressional resolution pursuant to the Congressional Review Act to reject any such rule if or when finalized; and
  1. Demand and ensure securitization and secondary market support for manufactured home chattel loans in a significant and timely manner by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, so that consumers are not needlessly either excluded from the housing market or unnecessarily forced into higher-cost loans within a less-than-fully-competitive consumer financing market.” ##

Addendum on 1:40 PM 3.10.2017, by Doug Gorman:

I would clarify that Mark Weiss’s language re Pam Danner was that she be reassigned. The original structure of the 21 member Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee  (MHCC) was to have a nonvoting 22nd member. That position was to be a non-career political appointee who would change most likely with each administration. That was the position that Bill Matchneer filled originally as a political appointee reporting to Gary Cunningham at one point. When Gary Cunningham left HUD Bill was promoted to Gary’s career position and the non-career position has never been filled since. Mark’s point was that HUD should structure the manufactured housing program as intended by the 2000 statute. ###

DougGormanHomeMartTulsaOKCreditManufacturedHousingIndustryVoicesCommentaryMHProNews125x125Industry Voices post submitted by Doug Gorman, Home-Mart, Tulsa, OK.  Other guest comments on this or other topics of general industry interest are encouraged and welcome.

 

 

 

(Editor’s Note 1:  Doug Gorman has won several MHI awards as a retailer, and was volunteered hundreds of hours on national issues, served on the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC), etc. Gorman is one of a few individuals who was asked by MHProNews for his thoughts on the needs to replace Pam Danner at HUD, and what MHI’s position on this issue ought to be.  The above was sent by Gorman in response to that inquiry, and was sent for publication.

Editor’s Note 2: There are several Industry Voices posts pending publication, we hope to get caught up in the next week or so.  Please continue to send your thoughts and comments – on or off the record – and be clear what is and is not for attributed publication.  Thank you for your patience.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

MHARR’s Mark Weiss Reaction to Jim Ayotte’s GSE’s Duty to Serve Commentary

January 24th, 2017 No comments

We at MHARR have the greatest respect for Jim Ayotte, but his recent commentary on the final Duty to Serve (DTS) rule issued by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) is far too charitable.

It’s one thing to see the proverbial glass as half full versus half empty.  It’s another to accept a few droplets as half a glass.

And that is what consumers and the industry have gotten from FHFA – a few drops at the bottom of the glass, window dressing that is not likely to lead anywhere soon, despite the urgent need now for affordable and competitive chattel-based consumer financing for manufactured homes.

If Congress had meant the “duty to serve” to be optional, it would not have called it a “duty.”  The dictionary definition of a “duty” has – at its core – a mandatory responsibility.  And Congress is presumed to use words according to their ordinary and customary meaning. But nothing in the FHFA rule would require Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to do anything to support MH chattel loans – not even a “pilot program” (more about that in a moment).  So the “duty” instituted by FHFA is not really a “duty” at all, but a choice left to entities that have steadfastly refused to provide secondary market support for MH chattel loans – which prompted the “duty to serve” in the first place.

DutyToServeManufacturedHousingMMarkWeissJDPresidentMHARR-MHProNews-

If all this sounds familiar, it should. It mimics HUD’s “interpretation” of its statutory “responsibility” to appoint a non-career administrator for the federal manufactured housing program as “not mandatory” even though Webster’s says it is.  But HUD (and maybe now FHFA) has gotten away with it because much of the industry plays along.

It’s hard to see, then, how a non-duty which leaves Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac free to ignore the 80% of the manufactured housing market represented by chattel placements (not 70% as reported elsewhere) lives up to the directive of Congress.

While it’s true that FHFA’s final rule leaves the door open just a crack for chattel, rather than slamming it shut as it did in its proposed rules, what does this really do for consumers and an industry that needs competitively-priced and readily-available chattel financing in order to reach its full potential?

DTS was enacted by Congress nine years ago. If either FHFA or the Enterprises were really interested in MH chattel financing, there has been plenty of time to do the groundwork and obtain the necessary loan performance information.  There has even been time for a “pilot program” or two over the last decade.  No, instead, we’re supposed to take it slow, with a non-duty “duty,” while consumers are needlessly herded into higher-cost loans, paying more than they would in a truly competitive financing market not distorted by official discrimination that would be unacceptable in any other context.

With nine years already gone, how much longer will consumers have to wait for the industry to demand full financing parity with other types of housing?  Washington, D.C. is traditionally a graveyard for all kinds of “pilot programs” started with the best of intentions.  Given a “duty” by Congress, the burden is not – and should not – be on the industry and consumers to prove their worthiness. The burden should be on FHFA and the Enterprises to show why they are not complying with the will and word of Congress now. ##

MMarkWeissCEO-MHARR-ManufacturedHousingAssociationforRegulatoryReform-posted-IndustryVoices-MHProNews

By M. Mark Weiss, JD.
President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR).

(The graphic above and the headline are provided by the editor, as is customary with many publishers. The content expresses the views of the writer.)

Kelley Reacts, NPR’s “Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream”

January 2nd, 2017 No comments

There are bad operators in every industry that disgrace themselves and their fellow industry members.  Presuming Syringa Mobile Home Park is as bad as these reports suggest, Mobile Home Park owners across the country will fully support government and tenant actions against the owner.  By all means, prosecute your actions against the owner.  Jail him.  The situation is bad for the tenants, the community, the park industry, government officials, and even the crappy owner/operator himself.  His park is probably now worth a fraction of what it would have been if maintained properly.   This is a lose-lose scenario.  And that’s why there are so few of these situations.

As a landlord, I pay money for maintenance, cleaning, upkeep, property beautification, water, sewer, waste management, property taxes…  All of these expenses are good for my tenants and my community.  Even presuming I’m a cold hearted, self-centered, evil capitalist, these expenditures are smart for me too.  My property investment is preserved, and maybe even enhanced.  My lender doesn’t call my loan and may even encourage me to borrow more money.  My insurance company will charge me lower premiums.  My tenants will be happy and pay rent.  And if I lose a tenant, I’ll have a new tenant eager to move in.  This is a win-win scenario.  And that’s why there are more like mine than like Syringa Mobile Home Park.

SyringiaMobileParkKurtKelleyNPR-AllThingsConsidered-MobileHomeParkOwnersCanSpoilAffordableAmericanDream-IndustryVoicesMHProNews

Regarding tenant owned parks, some like those put in place by ROC are indeed nice places that afford the owners a decent place to live.  However, it’s also a fact that housing projects that offer affordable housing like some manufactured home subdivisions (where the home owners also own the land) are generally worse kept, worse managed, and overall worse places to live compared to a Mobile Home Park (where a landlord owns the land).  In parks, a Lease requires that all tenants behave and keep their home site and home up to minimum standards.  The Park owner has an incentive to keep it nice.  In affordable home subdivisions, less stringent property management and behavior rules couple with less ability and fewer incentives to enforce them.  This results in less desirable places to live.  There’s no one with the time, money and incentives to manage all the residents in a manner that enhances the subdivision for all.

The NPR article is an interesting story about a bad landlord and unnecessary suffering by our fellow man.  However, it’s not an accurate depiction of typical Mobile Home Parks and owners across the country.   And its premise that land ownership by the Mobile Home Owner would universally solve issues like those in Syringa Mobile Home Park is simply wrong.

kurtkelleyjdpresidentmobileinsurance-postedindustryvoicesmanufacturedhousingindustrycommentarymhpronewsKurt Kelley
Typical Landlord

(Editor’s Note: the headline, photo and graphics above and to the left are provided by the publisher, the rest of the content are just as Kelley sent it to us for publication.  That said, Kelley is being a bit modest and perhaps tongue-in-cheek. Kelley is an attorney who operates an insurance agency that works with hundreds of manufactured home communities across the country.  So his observations as a landlord and as a highly informed professional are a pointed refutation of what NPR’s Daniel Zwerdling claims is typical. NPR responded to questions by MHProNews by saying that they stand by Zwerling’s report.  An update with link and additional information will be coming, so please check back to this post.)

FHFA, GSEs and the Duty To Serve Manufactured Housing – Mark Weiss, JD – Viewpoint

December 14th, 2016 No comments

Chattel lending is crucial to the availability of affordable manufactured housing for American families, representing as much as 80% of consumer loans for the purchase of new manufactured homes.

Knowing this, Congress specifically included manufactured home chattel loans in the “Duty to Serve” provision of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008.

The total exclusion — thus far — of those loans from two proposed DTS implementation rules is, therefore, incomprehensible and has never been explained or justified in any credible way by either the GSEs or the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA).

TenYearDelayDutyToServeGSEsManufacturedHousingMMarkWeissManufacturedHousingAssociationForRegulatoryReformIndustryVoicesMHProNews-

The headline and graphics on this page are provided by MHProNews, and not the writer. Other viewpoints on this or other manufactured housing related topics are welcome. Image credit, MHProNews.

The nearly ten year delay in properly implementing this simple and straightforward congressional directive has harmed both consumers – who have been left hanging with no remedy — and the industry, which continues to suffer from unnaturally low production levels due to discrimination by the GSEs.

While a mandatory pilot program including chattel loans – combined with a specific commitment to transition to a full “going basis” securitization model within a short and finite timeframe — would potentially be a step forward, a chattel “pilot program” in itself would not fulfill the mandate of DTS. ##

M-MarkWeiss-MHARRPresident-ManufacturedHousingAssociationRegulatoryReform-posted-MHProNews-com-75x75-Mark Weiss, JD
President & CEO
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)
1331 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W., Suite 512
Washington, D.C. 20004

Kurt Kelley, JD, Sounds-Off on Dr. Ben Carson for HUD Secretary

December 5th, 2016 No comments

That’s great news.  I have some “Carson for President” bumper stickers.

Dr. Ben Carson is a true American success story.

drbencarsonpresidentelectdonaldtrumpthehillgetty-postedindustryvoicesmanufacturedhousingindustrycommentarymhpronews

For more insights on this controversy, see the Daily Business News story – “Is Ben Carson the Right Choice for HUD Secretary? Depends On Who You Ask.Images and headlines on this blog are supplied by the publisher, not the opinion writer. All views are those of the writer, other Op-Ed or letters to the editor are welcome.

He started with only the love of his mother, yet he became the best brain surgeon in the country and one of America’s most admired men.

Dr. Carson knows what it’s like to be the little guy.  He’s exactly what D.C. needs. ##

kurtkellyjdpresidentmobileinsurance-postedindustryvoicesmanufacturedhousingindustrycommentarymhpronewsKurt Kelley, JD
President
Mobile Insurance

Marty Lavin’s Views on Seattle Times-BuzzFeed Clayton Homes VMF-21st Controversy

January 15th, 2016 No comments

Phew! After reading the Seattle Times news article on Clayton Homes and Vanderbilt Mortgage, I am reminded of a scene in the movie, “No Country for Old Men.” In it, the deputy after viewing a horrific scene, says to the sheriff, “That’s quite a mess ain’t it, sheriff?And he replies, “If it ain’t, it’ll do till the mess gets here.

I also read Clayton’s response to the article and that sheds some light on the matter.

As an example, anyone with rudimentary loan knowledge knows well that just because a person who is of color makes $100,000 per year and pays a greater interest rate than a white making $35,000 per year, that of itself is not racist per se. Lenders look at demonstrated ability and desire to meet loan commitments, which are not locked to income. The better the payment record, the lower the rate. That is what drives the interest rate once loan qualification is determined.

The article surely knows this as it is hinted upon, but it destroys the tenor of the piece about racism and unethical and unlawful behavior by Clayton, if revealed.

I do not know Warren Buffett other than what I learn in the media. I have generally been very positive on Buffett, though I am taken aback by his support for a president with obviously anti-capitalist actions and leanings. But then I am reminded Berkshire-Hathaway has many companies that could be brought to their knees by IRS probes, EPA investigations, and the like by an unfriendly president. Further, government can do things to you and for you. Above all, I think Buffett has not only been smart, successful, and ethical, he is also a pragmatic soul. You can’t do what he has done without being highly pragmatic, so I give him a pass on Obama support. 

Now as to Kevin Clayton, I personally know him, like him and hold him in high regard.

I have a very hard time seeing the Kevin I know supporting some of the racist actions described in the account. While there are too many incidents to overlook, I do not believe the people I know at Clayton/Vanderbilt would initiate or condone the racist behavior alleged in the article.

If for no other reason, the folks at leadership there are flinty-eyed businessmen, and they know that in today’s world a southern US company building and selling low-cost housing to many minorities and low income individuals will be rigorously regulated by government and the all-powerful non-profits. This is especially true when you are building and financing that old bugaboo, manufactured housing.

I do not sit in the Clayton/Vanderbilt board room. I have no “insider” take on this situation. My opinions hinge mostly on accounts in the media.

But I would offer this takeaway, were I to be asked. A company as large and important in its disliked industry as Clayton is, will be a target for strict compliance with every law and rule and if destruction can be brought about of the entity, so much the better. The rules being written by the CFPB and others are not only meant to regulate with ever moving targets, if it leads to business emasculation of the companies and the industry itself, few tears would be shed in DC and elsewhere. 

Some of the animus held against MH is deserved, and incidents as reported in the Seattle News story build on that animus. That is much of the tale here and the news account is prepared to report without revealing any details harmful to its tenor.

It does, however, leave unanswered the steps Clayton could take to create positive change in the organization. No matter how exaggerated the racist incidents regarding employees are in the news account, there certainly seems something is going on internally at Clayton/Vanderbilt. I’m not sure a mere denial is sufficient.

The employee to employee incidents of the type alleged must be ruthlessly quashed, little leeway given upon employee complaint, a quick internal investigation by experts at first complaint, and a quick decision based on the best information as to fault. Any superior allowing or contributing to such prohibited behavior gets one warning and fired upon the next, no matter who it is. This starts at the top and such behavior not only is illegal and wrong, it is poor business to allow it to happen, creating internal disharmony. It also leads to formal regulatory complaints no one wants to face.

Racist disrespect of customers or borrowers is even worse than employee to employee incidents. An employee has the option to leave a disrespectful business environment. A customer with a 20 year loan behind on their payments, struggling to meet them, needs to be handled firmly, but strictly within the law. Any collection supervisor allowing or suggesting disrespectful collection calls can not continue to allow such behavior from agents, and should it continue, warning and firing is the answer. Assuming Clayton is recording all calls with consumers, a sample listen-to of some calls daily will quickly reveal whether these allegations bear any truth.

Clayton is the wonder of the industry, wonderfully profitable in an industry little accustomed to such success. My 35 year familiarity with the organization has seen them as highly motivated, perhaps in the extreme, Kinda peeking out of the news account are people in an organization prepared to push the envelope to meet business goals or the keep their job, or even to avoid ridicule or censure.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a strong believer in firm performance requirements for associates, with rewards for successful performance, dislike of failure, with training and guidance to correct poor performance, ended by firing for continued lack of success or effort. But one senses the pressure to succeed seems to be driving some people to violate company procedures to reach their goals, even though the associate probably knows it is acting improperly. That’s too much pressure.

With the animus directed at manufactured housing by the media, government, the non-profits and regulatory statutory edicts, its dangerous to tread too close to news accounts like this. This can lead to the drip-drip-drip of continued news accounts, more regulation, more charges and the severe impairment of a company. Who wants to get to work with a rabble of protestors marching in front of the Maryville office with “Clayton Loans Matter” signs? 

Now that the media is chasing Buffett for answers, my fear has been that he would be so hounded defending Clayton, that at some point the $500 million in annual profits might seem like insufficient returns. I’m not sure that will happen or that it would have negative consequences for the manufactured housing industry, but I fear it could. ##


MartyLavin-JD-Attorney-ExpertWitnessManufacturedHousing-IndustryVoices-MHProNewsMARTIN V (Marty) LAVIN
350 Main Street
BURLINGTON, VT 05401
att’y, consultant, & expert witness
only in factory built housing

(Editor’s Notes: The above was first submitted in late December, and excerpts were quoted in the MHLivingNews report, linked below.

http://manufacturedhomelivingnews.com/lies-advocacy-journalism-and-statistics-seattle-timesbuzzfeed-attacks-warren-buffetts-clayton-homes-defends-charges-of-racism-and-discrimination-critical-analysis/

Some of the commentary by Marty Lavin that was not originally used – notably the notion that Warren Buffett might find the headache of manufactured housing too much to stomach, and then he may be inclined to spin them off from the Berkshire-Hathaway family of firms – was deemed in the editor’s judgment not necessary for the critique of Mike Baker and Daniel Wagner’s slanted report.

That said, since The Motley Fool has recently published an analysis that may be problematic in places, nevertheless it comes to a similar conclusion that Marty Lavin did days before. Namely, that $577 million in profits from Clayton Homes may not seem enough for Warren Buffett to want to retain MH firms in Berkshire-Hathaway.

MH Industry insiders may recall that Buffett spun off the MHC components of Clayton Homes after they purchased the vertically integrated company.

The Masthead Blog on MHProNews has drawn attention to MHI’s lack of response to the PBS NewsHour report, and to the Clayton Homes drama too. This was done after a source connected with MHI suggested to MHProNews that ‘five figures’ was spent by the association in the direct costs associated with the PBS NewsHour interview.

http://mhpronews.com/blogs/tonykovach/2016-louisville-show-previews-updates-on-media-clayton-homes-drama/

Note that top MHI staff, when asked by MHProNews about the amount of money spent on the reputation and media management consultants and the related PBS interview costs, declined to answer.

MHProNews again wishes to encourage MHI to speak out publicly on at least the PBS related negative media.

It should be noted that while many in the industry – from firms of all sizes and from state associations – are reluctant to speak out on these issues publicly, there has been a steady stream of private ‘thank you’ messages and calls to MHProNews and MHLivingNews for our leadership in presenting a more accurate and balanced view of The Seattle Times and PBS NewsHour takedown reports.

http://manufacturedhomelivingnews.com/what-pbs-newshour-missed-about-manufactured-home-living/

It should also be noted that Isbhel Dickens/NMHOA declined a public debate on the issues raised from the PBS NewsHour, and that Dickens linked the PBS and Seattle Times/BuzzFeed reports. The download of Dicken’s message, is found on the article linked here. It is insightful reading for a serious researcher on these issues, as it clearly suggests that this bad media blitz is all about the politics of HR 650/S 682.

Given that some Democrats are now calling on an investigation of Clayton Homes and their related lenders in the wake of this,

http://www.mhpronews.com/blogs/daily-business-news/democratic-lawmakers-want-doj-to-investigate-clayton-homes-lenders-in-wake-of-seattle-timesbuzzfeed-report/

it seemed timely to revisit Marty’s original replies, posted above. Marty Lavin agreed.

MartyLavin-JD-Attorney-ExpertWitnessManufacturedHousing-postedMHProNews-com-_001

Thoughtful industry comments on this topic or others, is welcome.) FYI, the full-sized version of the recent photo with Marty – is at the right. Updated with these pics at Marty’s request, so others can see just how terrific he looks wrapped inside that grand ship he and his bride Pat/Ava share, berthed at upscale Miama Beach. ###

marty-lavin-jd-manufactured-home-community-owner-on-board-spy-sea-2-22-2104

Marty Lavin on board the rear deck of their custom 70′ Italian ship, the Spy Sea, Miama Beach, FL.

Reaping the Consequences from the Past…the Outcome is no surprise

December 17th, 2015 No comments

As you can imagine, I am hardly surprised (that MH failed to get S 682/HR 650) included in the Congressional Omnibus Appropriations bill, and failed to get chattel lending okayed by FHFA with the GSEs).

This industry ran roughshod over consumers for many years. Too many LLC (land lease community) owners acted as dictators. Millions of people losing their homes, and the litany continues.

The good the industry has achieved was insufficient to balance the past damage. As those in power watched these results, an ingrained animus arose which may well be resistant to be overcome, and it colors every decision regarding MH. That puts our supports at a constantly defensive position.

That does and will continue to dog the industry,  getting help from on high will be ever-difficult,  no matter how needed and logical. 
I’m not sure there is any easy cure to our dilemma, but staying the course on good product, superior consumer treatment, and building value can be the only logical course.

Politicians may help, but their help is uncertain and unreliable. As we saw with DTS (Duty to Serve, part of the HERA 2008 bill), passing a law hardly forces the matter to happen. Bureaucrats, commissions and boards are the true powers. They have not been with us. ##

marty-lavin-50-posted-mhpronews-com-industry-voices-blogMARTIN V. (Marty) LAVIN
att’y, consultant, and expert witness
3
50 Main Street
BURLINGTON, VT 05401

winter address: Nov-May
PO Box 545927
MIAMI BEACH, FL 33154

(Editor’s Note: the parenthetical statements abvoe are not in the original, but were edited in to make clear this expert’s statements, which are otherwise faithfully reflected as sent to us for publication. Headlines are typically supplied by the editor, as is the case in this OpEd too.  Please note that Marty Lavin, JD, took a strong, pro-HR 650/S 682 stand via video, see that, linked here.  Marty worked with one of the GSE’s for years, learn more about that in the same video previously linked.

Other comments on the failure to get Preserving Access included in the Congressional omnibus appropriations bill have come in, a sampling off the record comments, linked here, and on the record thoughts from Triad’s CEO, Don Glisson Jr, linked here.)

Magazines and Birthdays

June 12th, 2015 No comments

I think around 2005 or so I was at the Wisconsin Association giving my latest Doom and Gloom prognosis for the future of our industry. (Actually my gloom was less than the future industry doom.) Amongst the many in the crowd was Tony Kovach (LATony to me), who took some exception to my pronouncements. He thought me wrong.

Tony was and is an industry booster of the first water, endlessly positive about the industry, the homes we build, the people in the industry, and its bright future. He could envision no malady of the type I forecast. To him the industry was just too needed for American housing to drop to the 49,000+ homes it ultimately did. And while I thought it would be bad, very bad, I did not believe shipments would drop as low as they did.

Tony recounted for me the same positive industry facts every time we spoke. I accused him of being a cheerleader and he always accused me as a half-empty glass kind of guy. Never mind that in 1998 my company originated $188 million of MH refinance loans. Surely that keeps a full glass outlook on one.

But 1998 was followed by 1999 which brought the first Hai-Karate face slap that things were in decline. What we didn’t recognize at the time was how much things had truly changed. This was not one of the frequent industry episodes so common to me since 1972, that you knew would come, make you drop your knickers, and then resolve itself, the industry regaining its footing at profitable levels. Not this time.

It took some time during this episode but by 2003 it was obvious to me, if not to everyone, we were in uncharted territory, with challenges ahead of the type unknown in the industry since its founding.

Since I first met Tony, much has happened. He and his family have become my good friends, I communicate with him frequently, and occasionally write or speak a piece for his publications, MHProNews and MHLivingNews. Spare no concern, the Lavin skepticism for the industry’s future has not infected LATony, he is an irrepressible industry booster.

He is the first to the battlements protecting the industry from unfounded and undeserved outside attack. He defends the industry from the regulatory overreach which unnecessarily hinders the industry, but more importantly, does harm to our client base, reducing their housing choices at a time when too few housing choices abound. That is tragic for all involved.

Tony has been quick to respond to these grievous conditions, leading the industry defense, in compliment at times with association(s) support and at times seemingly more effectively than the association(s). (Today the associations seem to have narrowed views, not necessarily spanning the interests of all its constituents.)

Ours is a small industry. It was far larger 20 years ago, but even then it was not large. At points during that time there were 3 or 4 industry publications covering industry matters. In my eyes the Manufactured Home Merchandiser was the pick of the litter, probably because both Tony and I were correspondents providing occasional pieces from us to further some industry topic we felt important.

With regrets, the Merchandiser  went the way of the dinosaurs, industry activity so low that the magazine ownership finally tired of subsidizing its printing and mailing. Regrettably, Herb Tieder, the publisher, could not be talked into going with an internet e-magazine, and the end came, at which point the Merchandiser had become a brochure, no longer a magazine.

Interestingly, Tony decided that there was a gaping niche to be filled with an MH e-magazine and brought his considerable energies to bear in forming the aforementioned e-publications. Like all new ventures, it took huge effort, trial and error, and serious dedication to get these ezines off the ground. At the same time he was expanding his consulting business, keeping Tunica going and bringing the Louisville show back from the coffin. All very good stuff.

Let’s face it gang, without Tony’s industry magazines we are pretty short of an industry-wide vehicle for thoughts, alerts, discussions, interviews and news. Tony also is fearless in taking on matters which offend, interest or challenge him.

Further, he solicits a wide range of views on many topics from many sources. Don’t agree with Tony on a certain subject, which can happen? No way he withholds his pages from your thoughts. Tony and I frequently diverge on viewpoints. That has never been a problem. He solicits my views though he knows like two paths in the woods, we diverge.

Tony is a young man, his magazines just coming into maturity, with enormous promise as industry news and education vehicles. He is to be highly complimented for his industry leadership with his e-magazines. But more importantly, as I age along to oblivion, I feel fulfilled that my prized Merchandiser has a worthy successor. Most satisfying.

This Sunday, June 14, Tony reaches his 39th birthday. Assuming a long, healthy working life, we have many years to look forward to his innovative and interesting magazines. Thank you, Tony, from me and I think from many others in the industry. Well done!

P.S. For you low information types, this year is also the 39th birthday of the HUDCode. Happy Birthday to the two of you. ##

marty-lavin-50-posted-mhpronews-com-industry-voices-blogMarty Lavin, JD.

 

(Editor’s note:  Tony Kovach passed 39 years some years ago, so that part is vintage Lavin humor, but the 14th of June – Flag Day – is indeed his birthday. And June 15th is indeed the 39th anniversary of the date that the first HUD Code manufactured home began on the MH production lines.)