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Posts Tagged ‘manufactured housing improvement act’

Who’s in Charge Here?

June 3rd, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s not enough either.

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

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

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

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

Timely Grassroots Engagement with Congress

August 17th, 2010 No comments

MHARR logoWith Congress in recess and with members back in their districts for the balance of the Summer, now is the best time of the year for industry members to seek out, communicate with – and meet – their federal representatives away from the distractions of Washington, D.C. While MHARR is in regular contact with Congress in Washington, D.C. in order to address and advance issues of importance to both the HUD Code industry and consumers of affordable housing, members of Congress are always anxious to hear directly from their constituents on matters that concern them. This is particularly true leading up to the November 2010 mid-term elections, with the control of Congress hanging in the balance.

As a result, grassroots industry members have an outstanding opportunity over the next few weeks to tell their members of Congress directly about the major challenges that the industry faces in Washington, D.C. in key areas, including private and public financing (i.e., the “Duty to Serve” and FHA Title I), and continuing issues affecting the HUD Title VI program, including the deteriorating status and stature of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (MHCC) and the avoidance of – and non-compliance with – required consensus and rulemaking procedures by program regulators on major regulatory issues, such as the ongoing de facto expansion of in-plant regulation.

The common thread running through all of these issues (and many others), that needs to be constantly reinforced with Congress, is that the difficulties the industry faces in Washington, D.C. do not arise from the lack of good laws. To the contrary, Congress has provided the industry with highly beneficial legislation over the past decade, including the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000, and the “Duty to Serve” and FHA improvement provisions of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Instead, much of the difficulty faced by the industry is a consequence of the failure of relevant federal agencies to fully and properly implement these laws in a manner consistent with the intent of Congress. In large part, this occurs because of the comfort level that regulators routinely get from forces within the industry, or outside the industry, or both.

As many in the industry are rapidly recognizing, given the nature of the problem, the solution does not lie in passing more laws that will similarly be ignored or manipulated. Instead – and as MHARR has already begun to explore – ongoing industry engagement with Congress needs to be expanded to include effective congressional oversight of these matters to ensure that the good laws already on the books are respected and properly implemented by federal regulators. With the industry continuing to decline and with regulators’ continuing resistance to the full and proper implementation of these existing laws – which needlessly exclude consumers from the manufactured housing market – Congress needs to be fully engaged in an oversight capacity. And, the best time to embark on such an approach is right now, with one-on-one meetings of industry members with their congressional representatives, at home, in their districts, to be aggressively followed-up in Washington, D.C. by the industry’s national representatives.

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

Putting the Right Pieces in Place

August 5th, 2010 1 comment

MHARR VIEWPOINT – AUGUST 2010
By Danny D. Ghorbani

MHARR logoThe first step in solving a problem — any problem — is admitting to yourself that there is a problem, that the problem is real and that it exists. The second step, and perhaps the most difficult, is to accurately assess and define the problem, so that one or more potential solutions can be considered, weighed and, ultimately, implemented.

By any objective measure, the HUD Code manufactured housing industry has a problem. Over more than ten years, production and sales have plummeted. From a modern high of more than 373,000 homes in 1998, production in 2009 fell to below 50,000 homes. The trend in the statistics, moreover, has been steadily downward, and appears — over the long-term — to transcend both positive and negative changes in the broader economy and the broader housing market. No amount of happy talk or glad-handing can paper over this fundamental fact — the status quo for the industry and its consumers is unacceptable, and must be changed.

But that is the easy part. The more difficult part is defining the problem as an avenue to arriving at solution(s) that will work. To start, we can identify what is not a problem — and that is our relations, as an industry, with Congress and the lawmakers in Washington, D.C., who pass the laws that govern our comprehensive regulation by HUD and the finance programs and entities that impact the ability of lower and moderate-income Americans to purchase industry products that they can afford without costly subsidies.

The track record of the industry and its representation in Washington, D.C. within this realm is quite good, and the reason is very simple — manufactured housing and the manufactured housing industry are favored by legislators in Congress. And for good reason. The industry provides jobs that will stay here in America, without outsourcing. The jobs that the industry provides are well-paying manufacturing jobs, typically located in the heartland of the country, where the success or failure of the broader economy is largely determined. The industry, moreover, produces homes that provide affordable home-ownership for American families at all income levels without tax-funded subsidies. The industry, therefore, provides a vital resource — affordable home-ownership — without asking for tax dollars, only parity with other types of housing in various government housing programs, such as FHA programs.

So, Congress has been good to the industry. In 2000, it passed the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act, to take manufactured housing into the 21st century and complete its legal and policy transition to the legitimate housing. In 2008, aware of the trouble that consumers were having with financing, Congress included two critical manufactured housing provisions in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) — the “duty to serve underserved markets,” designed to expand and improve private financing and end discrimination against manufactured housing by the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs), and FHA Title I and Title II improvements, designed to expand and improve public financing for manufactured homes financed as chattel, real estate and as part of land-home packages.

These are all good laws, designed to promote the availability and use of affordable manufactured homes. These laws should have fostered an industry boom in the solid national economy of the years following 2000 — with an industry expansion involving hundreds of thousands of homes — and should be helping to foster an industry revival now, in a post-recession economy. At least that was the hope — and the theory. But, things have gone wrong, and therein lies the problem.

The problem is that none of these good laws are being implemented in the way that Congress wanted, and expected. The 2000 reform law has been gutted by HUD regulators and attorneys. There is no — and has been — no appointed program Administrator for most of the past ten years. Enhanced preemption has never been implemented. The MHCC — the real centerpiece of the 2000 law — is being turned into another rubber-stamp “advisory council.” Its proceedings have been taken over by program regulators and a large chunk of its authority was taken away when HUD — without any public comment — read catchall section 604(b)(6) out of the law, which required HUD to bring enforcement policy and practice changes to the Committee.

HERA-based FHA Title I improvements have fared no better. Inexplicably delayed for years, those improvements are now finally being implemented, but their impact appears likely to be minimized by recently announced Ginnie Mae requirements for the securitization of new Title I loans ($10 million minimum adjusted net worth plus 10% of outstanding manufactured housing mortgage-backed securities) that will severely restrict access to the program by the new lenders that will be needed to appreciably increase the availability and number of manufactured housing loans for consumers.

Similarly, the proposed rule to implement DTS published on June 7, 2010, represents a major disconnect with the intent and objectives of Congress that, if implemented, will predictably fall well short in helping to end the discrimination against manufactured homes by the GSEs, that lies at the root of the current near-unavailability of manufactured home financing.

Despite good relations with Congress, then, and good laws passed for the benefit of the industry and its consumers, the results have not matched expectations. The implementation of each of these laws, by relevant federal agencies, has not come even close to what Congress wanted. And in certain respects, these agencies are openly defying clear congressional directives.

The pattern, therefore, is clear. Congress tries to help the industry and, then … nothing — or close to nothing or, sometimes, worse than nothing. For an industry that is comprehensively regulated by the federal government and, thus, thrives or declines based on decisions made in Washington, D.C., this is — and has been — a prescription for trouble. As an industry, we have an obligation, to ourselves and to our consumers, to question — to ask why this is happening, and how it can be fixed before much of the industry falls by the wayside, leaving only a handful of survivors. MHARR is asked constantly why the industry is so impotent in Washington, D.C. in the face of continual resistance by regulators and other administrative types to the proper implementation of the good laws that Congress provides us. MHARR , in response, has studied this issue, going back over the history of the industry’s presence and involvement in Washington, D.C., dating back to the start of federal regulation, to find workable solutions, and will share its findings and suggestions in the September 2010 MHARR Viewpoint.

In MHARR’s view, the industry’s inability to implement critical laws despite strong Congressional support lies at the core of the industry’s difficulties, and needs to be addressed decisively.

MHARR is a Washington D.C.-based national trade association representing the views and interests of federally-regulated manufactured housing.