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Posts Tagged ‘Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform’

Hearing Explores Government Role in Multifamily and Health Care Facilities

May 22nd, 2013 No comments

Even though this hearing and the Chairman’s quoted comments arise within the specific context of multifamily housing, they nevertheless are relevant to manufactured home financing as they reflect broader thinking in Congress regarding federal involvement in the housing market

Most particularly, the comments in paragraphs 3 and 4 once again confirms what MHARR has been saying all along with respect the failure of the FHA (via GNMA) and GSEs to provide adequate securitization and secondary market support for manufactured home loans and especially personal property (chattel loans) –i.e., that FHA and the GSEs have fundamentally departed from their original statutory mission of providing access to credit for lower-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers. That departure has harmed the very consumers that these entities were formed to serve, as well as the manufactured housing industry as a provider of affordable homeownership, with both FHA and the GSEs refusing to provide high-volume securitization for manufactured home loans – citing “risk” and “perceptions” without any hard data on the performance of current-day manufactured home loans – when it was the ventures of FHA and the GSEs in the “exotic” and subprime site-built mortgage market that led to the insolvency of the GSEs and now the near-insolvency of FHA.

Consequently, even though the availability of high-volume securitization for manufactured home loans – and especially chattel loans – has the capacity to turn the industry around virtually overnight and provide access to truly affordable homeownership for the lower-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers that these entities were created to serve, they nevertheless cling to discriminatory policies that have severely restricted such lending through the FHA Title I program and effectively excluded such loans from GSE support, notwithstanding the statutory “Duty to Serve” mandate. These baseless policies, moreover, have enabled the domination of the chattel finance market by a handful of companies with either pre-existing access to that restricted securitization or independent financial backing, further harming both consumers and the industry.

As this demonstrates, expanding the availability of chattel loan securitization and support to high volume levels must be a top priority for the industry in Washington, D.C.

Given the focus of the current Administration on providing fairness and increased access to home financing for the lower-income borrowers that FHA and the GSEs were created to serve, the industryhas a window of opportunity in the coming months to take concrete steps to correct these flawed policies and expand the availability of manufactured home financing. ##

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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

 

 

 

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Press Release

 

For Immediate Release
May 16, 2013

 

Hearing Explores Government Role in Multifamily and Health Care Facilities Mortgage Insurance and Reverse Mortgages

 

WASHINGTON –The Financial Services Housing and Insurance Subcommittee continued its examination of the troubled Federal Housing Administration (FHA) today with a hearing that focused on several of the agency’s programs that operate outside its mission.

This was the subcommittee’s third hearing this year examining FHA and the need to reform the agency.

“FHA runs its operations contrary to the most basic principles of insurance and is nearing insolvency, putting taxpayers at risk of another government bailout,” said Subcommittee Chairman Randy Neugebauer (R-TX). “Members on both sides of the aisle strongly support FHA’s core mission of providing access to credit for lower-income borrowers and first-time homebuyers. There still is a general consensus in favor of strengthening and improving FHA, without risking further taxpayer exposure.”

Today’s hearing examined the mortgage insurance programs the FHA operates for multifamily housing, health care facilities and reverse mortgages – all of which are activities that reach far beyond the agency’s original mission. The FHA’s original mission is to provide mortgage financing opportunities for low-income and first-time homebuyers.

Given that the FHA was designated a “high risk” agency by the Government Accountability Office earlier this year, many wonder whether the FHA can viably carry out its original mission, much less these other programs that are not related to its mission.

In addition to insuring single-family mortgages, the FHA also insures other kinds of mortgages—such as those for multifamily rental housing and health care facilities—through a separate insurance fund called the General Insurance and Special Risk Insurance Fund. While this fund is not projected to incur losses in the near term, many are concerned about the role the FHA plays in the multifamily market and that its policies subject taxpayers to undue risk.

Due to a lack of transparency in the GI/SRI Fund, Congress cannot fully assess the fiscal state of the FHA’s multifamily insurance program.

The FHA also operates an insurance fund for reverse mortgages that enables those aged 62 or older to obtain additional income by borrowing against the equity in their homes. To make these mortgages possible, the reverse mortgage insurance provided by FHA protects lenders from losses due to non-payment.

In recent years, as home prices have fallen, many experts have become concerned about losses in the FHA’s reverse mortgage portfolio. An independent actuarial review released last November estimated that the economic value of the FHA’s reverse mortgage insurance program was negative $2.8 billion.

 

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MHI and it’s varied divisions as compared to MHARR

December 14th, 2011 No comments

Over the last several years trial balloons have been released suggesting that the industry’s best interests would be served by a merger of its two major trade organizations the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) and the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR). MHI serves as a trade organization for all of the major segments of the industry. Those segments (manufacturers, suppliers, communities, retailers and lenders) are represented within MHI by their own specialized division. In contrast, MHARR makes their position absolutely clear that their mission is to protect specifically manufacturers from an over reaching federal bureaucracy in the area of regulatory issues.

My position has been consistent over that same time frame that a merger of MHI and MHARR would not be a good idea for the industry. On a couple of occasions that position was incorrectly interpreted as criticism of MHI. My point instead has been that because of MHI’s role of being an overall industry trade (manufacturers, suppliers, communities, retailers and lenders) organization, taking a very aggressive role in the area of regulatory reform can be a difficult role to fill. On the other hand, MHARR makes no apologies for its repeated efforts to rein in a federal agency that is continuing to take positions and implement new regulations that will have significant cost impacts on our product with unsubstantiated benefits. As the chief executive of MHARR, Danny Ghorbani has been relentless in pursuing that mission. While he would like to be able to operate in concert with HUD, the federal agency that oversees our industry, he is not concerned about remaining pals with HUD if HUD is not functioning within the bounds of current statues.

Recently a proposal has been floated for communities to form their own organization to the point of eliminating MHI. A review of MHI’s current action list should provide a reasonably quick conclusion that one would have little confidence in the ability of a newly formed communities trade organization to accomplish even a fraction of the items on the list absent MHI. Communities (and retailers) should feel free to establish a separate trade organization if they desire to see more focus on the needs of their segment of the industry. That representation can be organized and still lend a voice to the overall trade organization as needed. As a retailer I certainly feel at times that MHI’s role is dominated by the interests of manufacturers. My solution, if so motivated, would be to establish a retail equivalent of MHARR. A retail trade organization that would then be focused on issues facing retailers. I believe that could be possible without establishing a goal of destroying MHI.

While I am not in favor of dismantling MHI, I will concede that I disagree strongly with MHI’s recent capitulation in regard to the preemption of fire sprinklers as they relate to the HUD Code and the activities and positions of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee. MHARR’s position was statutorily correct and should have been backed by MHI rather than be undermined. Over a period of twenty years or so of my relationship with MHI, this issue does not mark my first disagreement with them and I have certainly never called for their dissolution due to any of those disagreements. MHI has the capacity and the history to be a very effective voice for the industry. We should work within the organization to address those areas where we disagree.

Douglas Gorman

Response On a Bold Proposal for Moving MHI, MHARR and Manufactured Housing Ahead

November 21st, 2011 No comments

 

One of the proposals being run up the flag pole is to merge MHI and MHARR with Danny Ghorbani to run the areas that are related to manufacturing and with George Allen running the areas related to communities. One obvious omission here is retail – not to mention lending, suppliers and other Industry elements at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) – but the proposal has other issues that would suggest against implementation of such a concept.
 
 
Danny Ghorbani is imminently qualified to serve in a role overseeing the manufacturing issues within MHI. From Danny's point of view though, how long would he function before a clash in organizational culture styles might force him out the door?
 
 
Danny is fiercely defensive of issues that negatively affect his organization's members. Many of those members are small or even single plant operations that rightly or wrongly feel they do not have a sufficient voice in MHI. That perception is the reason MHARR was formed. Without some strong reassurances that small manufacturers will gain confidence regarding their voice and that Danny could not summarily be dismissed after the dismantling of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), I do not see a merger having success.
 
 
The merger idea has been floated before and gained little traction. I have spent approximately ten years working with both MHI and MHARR through my role on the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC). The two organizations functioned very well together in that regulatory environment, but Danny has been free to take up potentially controversial issues that MHI has been able to avoid.
 
 
I have pointed out previously that MHI, by its nature is a trade association that represents the entire industry. By that very nature, it serves in an umbrella or big tent role and all participants may not support an aggressive stance against actions taken by the Federal Government that impact our industry.
 
 
From the perspective of a medium or small manufacturer a significant concern would be to make sure Danny was mentoring a replacement as he gets closer to a time he may choose to retire.
 
 
Recent defensive stances taken by Danny include opposition to unwarranted increased regulatory monitoring activities (implemented by HUD) by the PIAs, exposure of inaccurate fire safety reports by NFPA, and presenting strong arguments for repositioning 3285 installation regulations into 3280 standards to allow for pre-emption of installation guidelines. Would Danny have been free to raise and argue these issues (just to name a few) as an employee of MHI?
 
 
The two individuals suggested certainly have the qualifications to share running a newly configured MHI. But:
 
  • Could MHARR member manufacturers have confidence in such a proposed restructure?
  • Could retailers and others have confidence in a proposed restructure where they are not even mentioned?
 
 
As a manufacturer, I would want to have a membership in both MHI and MHARR. I would look to MHI to continue to serve in the broad role as the industry's trade organization. I would look to MHARR to continue to monitor government actions that are an overreach with negative impacts on affordability for our customer base. # #
 
 
by Doug Gorman,
MH Retailer
HomeMart

Open letter to Association Executives on: State Association Dialogue Regarding “STEPS”

November 2nd, 2011 No comments

Dear State Association Executives:

We’ve been closely following your email discussion regarding the regulation of outside steps, including, particularly, the issue of federal versus state/local authority, questions concerning federal preemption and the possibility of approaching the MHCC with a proposal.

Unfortunately, this problem goes back to an issue raised by MHARR, some 8 years ago, when the federal installation standards (24 C.F.R. 3285) were first proposed by HUD and debated by the MHCC.  HUD has taken the position, based on an indefensible “interpretation” of the 2000 law, that installation is not part of “construction” and that only the Part 3280 construction and safety standards are preemptive – meaning that the Part 3285 installation standards are not preemptive.  MHARR (without help from others in the industry), vigorously opposed – and continues to oppose — this “re-codification” of installation, as is more fully explained in Fact Sheet No. 8 of the MHARR Fact Sheets regarding HUD’s failure to implement key 2000 law reforms that we sent to you on September 14, 2011.

The bottom line, for now, is that the Part 3285 installation standards, as construed by HUD, remain non-preemptive.  So, even if steps were part of the 3285 installation standards, or were made part of the installation standards, the federal step standard would still not be preemptive of state and/or local requirements.  Worse yet, because the MHCC only has statutory authority over “construction and safety” standards, HUD’s codification of the installation standards outside of the Part 3280 construction and safety standards, at a minimum, makes it doubtful whether the MHCC could even consider a proposal to amend the Part 3285 installation standards to include steps (and would create an endlessly muddled legal no-man’s land, if it did).

MHARR has been warning, ever since the installation standards were re-codified outside of Part 3280, that HUD’s baseless distinction between installation and construction would come back to haunt the industry and consumers in the form of inconsistent and needlessly costly state and local requirements.  And what you’re seeing here is likely just the tip of the iceberg, as we also noted that the full impact of all this would not begin to be felt until the federal installation program was fully implemented. Unfortunately, this is just one simple illustration from among the ten key reforms of the 2000 law (see your MHARR Fact Sheet packet), designed to complete the transformation of manufactured homes from the trailers of yesteryear to the modern legitimate housing of today, that HUD has refused to fully and properly implement – reforms that were designed to help the industry and its consumers that have been languishing at HUD for over ten years because of a lack of pressure from the entire industry.

Thanks,

Mark Weiss
Senior Vice President
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)

cc: HUD Code Retailers and Communities

“HUD Seeks to Institutionalize Expanded Regulation”

October 14th, 2011 No comments

Almost as an afterthought to its March 2010 proclamation that manufacturer compliance with new expanded in-plant regulation originally billed as voluntary would, henceforth, be “not voluntary,” HUD has recently announced that it intends to proceed with a new rule that would institutionalize that expansion and, at the same time, substantially alter existing regulations defining the pivotal relationship between third-party Primary Inspection Agencies (PIAs), manufacturers and HUD.  What is worse, is that HUD plans to institute rulemaking on this major and costly alteration of the existing in-plant regulation structure without a consensus of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) and without even presenting a complete proposal to the MHCC as required by law and as requested by the MHCC itself.  Indeed, the story of how this has come about is a textbook reflection of HUD’s efforts over the past decade to minimize, circumvent and evade the program reforms of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, and a case study for Congress when it examines the Department’s failure to fully and properly implement that law.

Back in 2008, HUD approached the MHCC with “concepts” for changing the fundamental role of third-party PIAs (and particularly private PIAs) as well as the nature of their relationship with both manufacturers and HUD.  These “concepts” ultimately led to HUD proposed revisions to elements of the Procedural and Enforcement Regulations (PER), that were presented, in piecemeal fashion, to the MHCC Regulatory Enforcement Subcommittee.  That process, however, was halted by a vote of the Subcommittee in September 2008, based on MHARR objections that the consideration of piecemeal proposals – that did not allow a complete evaluation of the interaction between various components – was improper, as was the consideration of such proposals without relevant cost information or justification as required by the 2000 law.

Confronted with this rejection, HUD responded with a three-pronged strategy.  First, beginning in late 2008, it embarked on a campaign to expand and fundamentally change in-plant regulation on the ground, without first complying with the due process requirements of the 2000 law, based on an elaborate series of “enhanced checklists,” “field guidance” documents and “standard operating procedures” that were not – and still have not been – presented to the MHCC for consensus review or published for notice and comment rulemaking.  Initially, and for nearly a year-and-a-half afterward, HUD characterized the major changes implemented by these documents as a process of “voluntary cooperation,” only to ultimately deem them “not voluntary” in March 2010.  An August 24, 2011 article in the Capitol newspaper “The Hill” aptly describes this type of process (being used increasingly by regulators), stating: “Th[e] new guidelines are  supposedly ‘voluntary,’ but don’t be fooled.  The federal government … has long been engaged in an egregious and unconstitutional regulatory power grab.  The strategy simply is to saddle disfavored industries with regulations disguised as ‘voluntary,’ and therefore not subject to the normal rulemaking process and judicial review.”  Although written about a different set of “voluntary” guidelines, the same logic and analysis holds here.

Second, in 2009, HUD returned to the MHCC with a unified regulatory proposal to amend the PER regulations in a way that would legitimize and provide legal support for such “on the ground” expanded in-plant regulation.  In a formal September 2009 letter ballot, however, HUD was unable to secure an MHCC consensus on this proposal, specifically due, as reflected by MHCC minutes, to the Department’s failure to provide the Committee with adequate justification showing the need for such changes, as well as its failure to provide concrete information regarding the cost-impact of its proposal.

Third, when MHARR continued its objections to the “on the ground” imposition of such a costly regulatory expansion without compliance with relevant due process protections, HUD, on February 5, 2010, issued an “interpretive rule,” without opportunity for public comment, designed to ensure that the MHCC would never get an opportunity to review its expanded in-plant regulation checklists, “field guidance” and standard operating procedures, by simply reading catchall section 604(b)(6) – requiring MHCC consideration and related rulemaking for any change in “inspection practices” – out of the 2000 law.

Now, HUD is taking the next step to institutionalize expanded in-plant regulation.  As announced by HUD regulators at an August 17, 2011 meeting of the MHCC’s Regulatory Enforcement Subcommittee, the Department plans to go forward with a proposed rule relating to the role and activities of the PIAs without further consultation with the MHCC, despite the absence of an MHCC consensus due to HUD’s own failure, in 2009, to provide justification and cost information that the MHCC is required to consider by the 2000 law.  Questioned about this procedure, HUD’s representative stated that the MHCC had “had its chance” in 2009.

This stance, however, flouts (once again) the requirements of the 2000 law. Section 604(b) of the law requires that the MHCC consider every proposed PER regulation, absent a declared emergency.  Further, section 604(e) of the law requires that the MHCC consider the cost-impact and justification for any such proposed regulation.  The MHCC, however, has never been provided with this requisite information by HUD.  As a result, there are two possible scenarios in this matter, both of which violate the 2000 law – (1) if HUD’s new proposal is in any way different from the proposal that failed to attain an MHCC consensus in 2009, then it has never been considered by the MHCC and violates section 604(b); (2) if the new proposal is identical to the 2009 proposal, it still has not been properly presented to and considered by the MHCC in accordance with the law, because mandatory elements required for MHCC consideration in accordance with the law – cost-impact data and a showing of justification – were never provided.  Put differently, if HUD’s position were correct, the Department could effectively evade the consensus requirements of the 2000 law on every proposal simply by refusing to provide the MHCC with cost-impact, justification, or other  information needed or required for MHCC review and consensus comments.

HUD, in an attempt to minimize this further restriction of the role and authority of the MHCC and its own obligation to comply with the due process requirements of the 2000 law, noted that Committee members could submit comments during the public comment period on the proposed rule, but this misses the central point of the MHCC and the 2000 law – that regulatory changes should be based on the consensus agreement of all program stakeholders.  And there is not – and never has been — a consensus on any changes relating to the role of the PIAs or an expansion of in-plant regulation.  Simply stated, a federally-regulated industry that has lost more than 80% of its production over the past 12 years, should not allow this kind of incremental evasion of the law.

In MHARR’s view, this proposal, a vestige of prior program management that sought to minimize and bypass the reforms of the 2000 law, should be withdrawn by the new program management and re-submitted to the MHCC, this time with proper cost-benefit information and specific justification – if one exists.

MHARR VIEWPOINT
By Danny D. Ghorbani

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) is a Washington D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing.

Manufactured Housing Production Rebounds at Last

October 5th, 2011 No comments

Washington, D.C., October 5, 2011 – The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) reports that according to official statistics compiled on behalf of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), manufactured housing production rebounded in August 2011, posting its first increase in 12 months.  Just-released statistics show that during August 2011, HUD Code manufacturers produced 5,187 homes, up from the 4,896 HUD Code homes produced in August 2010, representing a corresponding month increase of nearly 6%.  The last time that industry production recorded a corresponding-month increase was in August 2010, when production grew by 9% over August 2009 levels.  This increase brings 2011 cumulative industry production, through the end of August, to 32,015 homes — 9.9% lower than corresponding industry production of 35,566 homes over the same period last year, but a distinct improvement over double-digit cumulative production declines earlier this year.

While any production increase is welcome news, the manufactured housing industry – given its status as the nation’s primary source of truly affordable non-subsidized home ownership — should be experiencing more significant long-term growth in the face of a sluggish economy that accentuates the affordability of its homes in relation to other types of housing and features historically low interest rates on home loans.  The fact that it has not yet benefitted from conditions that, in the past, have stoked industry growth, underscores that the sustained industry decline since 1998 is less a result of the broader economic environment than factors uniquely affecting manufactured housing – specifically, the unavailability of consumer financing and HUD’s failure to fully and properly implement key reforms of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 that were designed to ensure the parity of manufactured housing as “housing.”

Now, though, the industry’s two national trade organizations, MHARR and the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) have agreed to work together, jointly and cooperatively, to address three major issues concerning consumer financing and the implementation of the 2000 law, specifically, the need to expand sources of consumer financing and eliminate unnecessarily

restrictive barriers to entering the manufactured housing market, the appointment of a non-career
administrator for the HUD manufactured housing program, as provided by the 2000 law, and the re-appointment of collective national industry representatives to the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee, the centerpiece reform of the 2000 law.

A joint MHARR-MHI delegation has already met with senior HUD officials to address these three specific issues and will follow-up accordingly.

The Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform is a Washington, D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of producers of federally-regulated manufactured housing.

Avoiding the Perception and Reality of Discrimination

August 3rd, 2011 1 comment

In a disappointing scenario being played out in disaster-stricken communities across the nation, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) policies are resulting in de facto discrimination against HUD Code manufactured housing as both temporary emergency and permanent replacement housing.  At the same time that these policies are unnecessarily complicating badly-needed relief for disaster victims, FEMA, on June 7, 2011, hosted a day-long meeting in Washington, D.C. to explore, discuss and otherwise consider the details of a possible “small footprint” temporary HUD Code emergency home design.  Given these two seemingly opposite directions, a good many HUD Code manufacturers, anxious to meet the current pressing need for post-disaster housing with the most affordable, transportable and rapidly deploy-able homes available, while facing historically low productions levels, are starting to wonder exactly what is going on.

What is “going on,” is that FEMA, facing an immediate need for both short-term emergency relief housing and permanent replacement housing in communities where the existing housing stock and infrastructure has largely been decimated, has, for now, seemingly retreated from the use of new federally-regulated HUD Code housing as a primary source of emergency housing.  Instead, displaced disaster victims have been put-up in rental housing as much as an hour away from their former homes, or in non-HUD Code modular units.  Media reports, for example, indicate that FEMA is currently constructing up to 324 three-bedroom modular homes in Kansas City, Missouri, that will be sited on city-owned land in the north part of town, for some 624 Joplin families and individuals in need of housing.

In part, this appears to be a reflection of specific policy choices by FEMA.  In a May 31, 2011 Associated Press article regarding Joplin, Missouri relief housing, a FEMA spokesperson stated, “despite the distance, putting people in permanent housing is preferable to trailers….”  Another FEMA spokesman commented  that “the agency will consider bringing trailers to Joplin if enough existing housing isn’t available.”  Consequently, FEMA policy seems to be that today’s HUD Code manufactured homes, despite serving as “permanent housing” for millions of Americans and being regulated under federal law as residential dwellings and not “trailers,” are somewhere down its list of options to house disaster victims.

In other places, like Cordova, Alabama, FEMA has failed to overrule — or even object to — local officials who have barred the placement and use of HUD Code manufactured homes as emergency relief housing based on local ordinances, even though such emergency housing is provided with federal tax dollars by a federal government that, under the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, is supposed to “facilitate the availability of affordable manufactured homes.”  According to news reports, FEMA’s official comment on this HUD Code  housing ban affecting large numbers of displaced disaster victims, was that “it’s a local issue….”  Whether this is an outgrowth of a “second choice” policy for HUD Code housing or simply unwarranted deference to biased local officials, the result is the same — discrimination against HUD Code manufactured housing that hurts both disaster victims and the industry.

In the meantime, against this backdrop, FEMA, at its June 7, 2011 gathering, devoted an entire business day to a discussion — with industry members — of hypothetical “small footprint” one-bedroom HUD Code units that FEMA might be interested in purchasing under a “possible” future contract.  This, in turn, has led to the creation of  task forces, committees, discussion groups and the like, and meetings of those groups, to explore the particulars of such units, while, at the same time, it was apparent from the various FEMA presentations, that there is considerable confusion and disagreement, within FEMA, regarding the most basic aspects of such a unit, including: its size and configuration; its compliance with federal accessibility criteria; possible mandatory compliance with the International Residential Code; the installation and storage of such units; and the possible use of such “small footprint” homes as permanent housing.  And all this is if FEMA goes forward with such an initiative at all — with FEMA officials cautioning that nothing has yet been decided.

The bottom line for now, is that while there is the appearance of discrimination against new HUD Code manufactured housing in the field for both relief and permanent replacement housing, the industry has been left to chew over the details of a possible new opportunity that may be, could be, or might not ever be.  So, what to do?

Let there be no mistake, the industry can and should continue to work with FEMA.  The HUD Code industry has traditionally taken the lead in providing — on a quick, timely and flexible basis — safe, decent and readily deployable relief and replacement housing for disaster victims.  The industry should continue to pursue this role vigorously with FEMA at the policy level, which is why MHARR participated in the June 7, 2011 FEMA meeting and the Association has already started to follow-up on ways that the HUD Code industry can provide even more assistance to FEMA and other government agencies responsible for post-disaster relief.  The HUD Code industry already has the knowledge, know-how and experience to  provide whatever FEMA and disaster victims need.  But it must also address current FEMA policies.  Very simply, FEMA must be urged to change policies that have resulted, effectively, in discrimination against HUD Code manufactured housing and to re-commit to the use of HUD Code housing — of all types — as an equal participant in its federally-funded programs for both short-term emergency housing and permanent relief housing.

In MHARR’s view, the HUD Code industry has long been at the forefront of helping government provide both temporary relief and permanent replacement housing for victims of natural disasters, and with appropriate policies in dealing with FEMA, there is no reason why it should not continue in — and even expand — that role. # #

Danny D. Ghorbani is President of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform.  MHARR is a Washington, DC-based national trade association representing the views and interests of producers of federally regulated manufactured housing.  Danny can be reached at 202-783-4087.

Saving Independent Manufactured Home Retailers and Communities

July 18th, 2011 1 comment
Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform = MHARR

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform = MHARR

The manufactured housing industry has traditionally been able to deliver a quality product to home buyers at an affordable price because of its unique system of factory-based production combined with its network of independent retailers and independent land-lease communities.  This unique marketing and distribution structure has allowed the industry to prosper over the long-term, while serving and meeting the needs of American consumers of affordable housing.  Today, though, the independent retailers and communities that are the core of this system and make it work, face serious challenges at the national level that are not being addressed and resolved effectively — and have not been addressed effectively for years.

Because the manufactured housing industry is comprehensively regulated by the federal government, all of its various segments and all of its members are impacted directly by decisions made in Washington, D.C.  And, while all segments of the industry share certain common concerns at the national level, the specific interests, specific priorities and specific needs of all those segments in the nation’s capital, as shown by experience, are not necessarily identical.  For 20 years, though, since the post-production sector’s last independent association, the National Manufactured Housing Federation,  was merged into the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) to create an “umbrella group,” those specific interests and priorities have been swallowed by a dysfunctional process that has resulted in lowest-common-denominator positions and approaches to national-level issues that have not worked and have helped grease the skids for the industry’s prolonged decline.  Even worse, as part of this process, the particular interests of smaller independent post-production businesses have been overwhelmed and pushed aside by the power and influence of a few large corporate conglomerates.

A key part of the solution, therefore, to halt the industry’s long-term decline and restore it to production levels in the hundreds of thousands of homes, where it should be, must be the re-establishment of a dedicated, national post-production sector organization to effectively represent the specific concerns and interests of independent retailers and communities in the nation‘s capital, while working cooperatively with a single, united national producers’ organization on matters of joint concern.  And the sooner this happens, the better it will be for the entire industry.

As MHARR has pointed out before, the HUD Code industry is the only major industry in Washington, D.C. that keeps all of its different segments and interests under one umbrella organization.  The real estate/site-built housing industry, the automobile industry, the recreational vehicle industry, the marine industry and a host of others in Washington, D.C., all have separate associations for their production and post-production sectors.  The representation of these industries is organized along functional lines, recognizing that different sectors of the same industry, while united by certain over-arching concerns, have specific individual concerns that are best advanced by separate organizations that cooperate with each other as appropriate.  In an age of ever-increasing specialization and growth in the role of the federal government, this is just common sense.  By contrast, an “umbrella organization,” where different industry sectors, in the formulation of policy, are routinely expected to sacrifice their own interests to protect others, is a prescription for weakness, bureaucracy, ineffectiveness and failure, and lies at the root of the industry’s current sustained decline  — particularly its problems with public and private financing.

For example, with an independent association for retailers and communities, the industry’s current crisis dealing with the SAFE Act and Dodd-Frank mandates most likely would not exist, because those mandates should  — and undoubtedly would — have been addressed before they were signed into law.  Instead, as has been acknowledged by various sources and confirmed by reports from Congress, the ball was dropped on this major post-production issue, and the industry is now scrambling against difficult odds to secure after-the-fact fixes, with the survival of its small businesses on the line.

It’s no different with Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae or the Federal Housing Administration (FHA).  An independent association of the nation’s retailers and community owners would not have let manufactured housing loans drop to a miniscule portion of the business of these agencies.  It would have been on top of the failure of these agencies to properly and adequately serve the needs of American families who rely on affordable manufactured housing with strong, decisive positions and follow-up from day one.  It would not have provided cover for manufactured housing detractors within the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) — who ran them into the ground purchasing risky sub-prime loans that people could not afford, while choking-off private financing for manufactured homes that people could afford.  Nor would it have spent years on a “select” program that is so “select” it’s virtually useless, while allowing manufactured housing loans to shrink to less than 1% of the GSE’s portfolios.

None of this should be news to any of the nation’s hard-working independent retailers and community owners who are struggling just to survive while sending their hard-earned dollars to Washington, D.C. to fund national-level representation that, with little or no regard for smaller independent businesses, has presided over a shrinking industry, while a handful of larger corporate conglomerates have benefited.

A dedicated post-production association in Washington, D.C. would advance the specific interests of independent retailers and communities with strong, undiluted positions that would be more targeted, more focused and, therefore, more effective, while working hand-in-glove with a single, united, dedicated manufacturers’ association to promote, advance and protect the industry’s broader interests in Washington, D.C.  But this will not happen until the nation’s retailers and community owners take the bull by the horns, exercise leadership, and demand change to resolve the fundamental structural problem that continues to handicap their representation — and the representation of the industry as a whole — in the nation’s capital.

In MHARR’s view, retailers and community-based entities face a clear choice — continued dysfunction and decline, or a change to a new national level industry representation structure to lead the industry back to real prosperity.  # #

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR)
1331 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., Suite 508
Washington, D.C. 20004
Phone: 202/783-4087
Fax: 202/783-4075
Email: mharrdg@aol.com

The IBISWorld Controversy and the Manufactured Housing Industry

April 13th, 2011 3 comments

Exclusive MHMSM.com Industry In Focus Report

The March 2011 IBISWorld report that cited manufactured home dealers as a ‘dying industry’ has made news inside and outside of the manufactured housing industry. MHMSM.com has contacted a variety of Industry leaders and personalities from coast to coast to get their comments. On-the-record comments have included national association leaders, as well as professionals in factory-built housing from the manufacturing, retail, communities and lending sectors.

Messages, comments and calls to MHMSM.com from manufactured home industry professionals dribbled in at first, and then gained in volume as publications such as The Atlantic and Business Insider covered the IBISWorld report. As an example of mainstream media coverage, a TV station in Houston reportedly called a regional firm to interview them about the developing IBISWorld story.

Derek Thompson, associate editor at The Atlantic, penned a commentary that included these words:

“At the center of a perfect storm of boomer burnout, a brutal recession,
and a rapidly changing industry, the mobile home retail market
could be the worst industry in America. Here’s why.”

Photo from The Atlantic
Photo from The Atlantic

“If I asked you to name America’s least fortunate industry, your mind might go to record stores, obliterated by on-demand apps; or photofinishers, left in the cold as digital cameras turn Americans into our own photo editors; or fabric makers, where business is booming … in Shenzhen, China.

“But when it comes to unlucky industries, it’s manufactured home (aka mobile home) retailers who really hit the trifecta. First they missed out on the housing boom. Then they felt the gut-punch of the recession. Now they might yet miss out on the recovery. That makes them America’s fastest dying industry, according to a new report from IBISWorld.”

Paul Bradley with Resident Owned Communities USA (ROC USA) was one of the first in the manufactured housing world’s leadership to publicly respond to this IBISWorld report. Bradley wrote a feature article for MHMSM.com that analyzed the IBISWorld report. Quoting from Bradley’s analysis:

“The (IBISWorld) report states ‘demand is dwindling’ and ‘sales are stagnant because the industry is not innovating, and that sales are likely to continue falling in the coming years.’ They go on to say, ‘Manufacturers have made cosmetics changes to manufactured homes, but they have not been significant enough to alter their life cycle stage.’ The report puts MH retailers in the ‘Industry stagnation’ category of declining industries.

“Are you kidding me? These are ‘deeply researched answers’?

“First, the headline clearly comes from their marketing division as a means of grabbing headlines. The research is not about a dying industry but a declining industry segment – one of two long-standing distribution channels in the business.

“With MH shipments in 2010 at 50,000 or 20 percent of 2000 levels, it’s not news that retailer revenues over that period declined. On that data, I’m surprised establishments are not down more than 56 percent. It suggests that the segment has excess capacity and additional closings are likely.

“Most surprising to me is laying the blame at the feet of manufacturers on the issue of design! From a ground-level market vantage point, that’s misplaced.

“The industry’s great declines came about as a result of, first, an industry-created chattel collapse where the seeds were sown in run-up to the 373,000 shipments in 1998. The collapse, and the repossession overhang which followed, began the decline like a skilled boxer’s well-placed left jab.

“The right overhand came next in the form of aggressive sub-prime and predatory lenders in the site-built market. In that run-up, traditional MH buyers – who were harder to finance for MH as a result of the chattel collapse – were lost to site-built housing in an eerily familiar boom market.

“Dazed by the right hand blow to our collective heads, the left to the body that has people reeling now is the regulatory reaction – the SAFE act, etc. – to the clearly consumer-eating lending practices of the last decade.

“The results of this three punch combination are declines of the magnitude widely reported and felt, and like a good whack, the pain lasts a while.

“Innovation in housing design, however, is not the industry’s chief failing.

“For those of us in the community market segment, in fact, innovation in new homes is a small issue – not a non-issue but a mere shadow of the aforementioned home financing issue. In fact, we are seeing demand for replacement and in-fill homes but only where we are able to arrange decent home financing. People want more efficient homes and the cost savings with new EnergyStar homes can be dramatic based on buyers with whom I’ve spoken.”

(Editor’s Note: The complete analysis by Paul Bradley can be found at this link.)

Other commentary in the form of articles proposed for publication, private and public comments followed. Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute issued this email as part of his response:

“State Execs & MHI Board:

“A very well articulated response to the IBIS report from last week by Paul Bradley which was just posted on www.MHMSM.com.

“I’d also just add that the sentiment at the Tunica Show, the Louisville Show, and the expected strong turnout at the Congress & Expo and the Tulsa Show and York Show later this month certainly don’t indicate this industry is going anywhere.

“Tony/Paul – I hope you don’t mind me sharing. We’ll see you in Las Vegas. Thanks for your support.

“Thanks-

“Thayer”

MHMSM.com spoke with Danny Ghorbani at the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) and to Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute.

Danny Ghorbani stated in a telephone interview that his comments were not the official position of MHARR, but represented his own views on the IBISWorld report and related.

Ghorbani stressed that the IBISWorld report represented the “failure” of “the post-production sector of the Industry” [meaning, MHI] in “serving that segment of its membership.”

The MHARR official then referenced two previously published documents that do represent MHARR’s official position, which were previously published on MHMSM.com in August and October 2010. These MHARR Viewpoint articles called for ‘the post-production segments’ of the manufactured housing industry to form their own national association; a thinly veiled vote of no-confidence from MHARR towards MHI.

MHMSM.com spoke extensively with Thayer Long at the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI). The typically soft-spoken Long was quick to respond.

Long was at times tongue-in-cheek, at other points direct in his comments about the IBISWorld report and Ghorbani’s often pointed comments on the matter. It should be stressed that Long’s comments, which follow, should be viewed as his own, and not necessarily reflective of the official view of MHI.

In an exclusive interview with MHMSM.com, Long shared the following thoughts:

Thayer Long:
“If it is a dying industry, then ok, then I guess I quit! And if Danny wants to blame it on us [MHI], okay, what else is new? … I am still struggling to figure out what he (Danny Ghorbani) is doing right now. Name one thing that he has accomplished … in the past three years? What has he accomplished…? I would love for you to think about that and get back to me. What has he accomplished? We [MHI] win and lose some battles. But at least we try. We have accomplished some things. Except, except, except… [MHARR]…nothing….

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