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Dueling Factions

September 2nd, 2014 No comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Never let a good crisis go to waste …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ObamaCare and Manufactured Housing, Take Two

December 19th, 2013 No comments

In Obamacare, a Different Perspective, a well meaning Texas retailer advances his speculation that through the wonder that is Obamacare, fewer of our housing prospects will be forced into medical bankruptcy and a typical manufactured home retailer or stick built homebuilder might enjoy an increase of five or six sales per year. I believe our Texas retailer is well meaning with his speculation but several factors are not included in observation.

First: Having Obamacare does not mean you will be free from a risk of medical bankruptcy. Given the higher premiums being forced onto unwilling buyers along with massive deductibles, the risk of bankruptcy has in all likelihood been increased. Although we encounter very few medial bankruptcies, most of the ones I have encountered are able to find a path to home ownership because the medical burdens of the past are behind them. Under Obamacare the misleading information that premiums would drop has proven to be one more burden on the current administration as it proves to be untrue.

Second: Employers have laid off workers, decided to cancel expansion plans that would have required new workers and cut back the hours of existing workers due to the regulatory burden of complying with Obamacare. I have lost far more sales in 2013 due to these factors than a hypothetical increase in sales might have brought about had Obamacare been in place at the first of the year. We can get the bankrupt prospect past that event in their life and onto a path to homeownership. I can’t say the same for a client whose hours have been significantly reduced to the point of not budgeting for a reasonable house payment or a client who has lost their job.

Third: This same client will now be forced to purchase a federally mandated level of coverage which is an even greater drain on his discretionary income. Lower discretionary income means a lower likelihood of qualifying for the loan.

Fewer jobs, lower income, part time jobs, higher outgo, lower discretionary income will most likely not add up to an increase in business for the housing sector whether it be site built or factory built. Off topic, but to this mix you can add the new Qualifying Mortgage and other Dodd-Frank rules that will further erode sales. We need to dig in and adapt the best we can to all the changing rules that are headed our way. I respectively suggest that Obamacare will not be a boon to sales as was suggested.

doug-gorman.jpgRespectively,
Doug Gorman
Home Mart
Tulsa, OK

ObamaCare: A Different Perspective

December 5th, 2013 No comments

As a retailer for over 30 years and having operated 15 or so locations, I have lost a few sales per year per dealership due to potential buyers having filed personal bankruptcies in the prior 7-14 years.  Most were due to un-insured medical expenses.

A 2007 Harvard study bears me out.  "Half of U.S. bankruptcies, affecting 2 million people annually, were attributable to illness or medical bills." An article by CNN in '09 raises that percentage to 60%.  Medically related bankruptcies have been rising steadily, up from 8% in 1981 (Businessweek).

ObamaCare – with all it's flaws – is designed to eliminate medical bankruptcy by insuring all without exemptions or caps for catastrophic illness.  What is so bad about that concept?

Just think what 3 -5 more sales per year per retailer would add up to, nationally! 

On top of that, all the site builders would also sell more homes.  Every non-commercial real estate agent would sell more existing homes and their sellers could buy a new home!

Multiply all this out, and you have thousands upon thousands of homes built and sold plus the jobs they create, and the trickle down effect on suppliers, lenders, etc.

It is just a fact that ObamaCare – if tweaked and successful – will be good for housing. I don't care about Olive Garden, I care about the Manufactured Housing Industry! 

Dodd/Frank is the looming disaster for housing, not ObamaCare.

frank-woody-republic-manufactured-homes-texas-credit-azlenews-posted-mhpronews-industry-voices-guest-blog-.pngFrank Woody, Owner
Republic Homes
Texas

(Editor's Note1: Frank Woody (r). Photo Credit azlenews. Frank is too modest to do this himself, so we are posting this for him! Weatherford Police Chief Manning presents an award to Frank Woody for going above and beyond to help law enforcement by providing them a place to conduct training.)

(Editor's Note2: this commentary by Frank Woody came as his 'reply' to the article linked below. His comments above are published at his request.)

http://www.MHProNews.com/home/industry-news/industry-in-focus/6659-dodd-frank-fix-hr-1779-preserving-access-to-manufactured-housing-act-of-2013-achieves-growing-bi-partisan-support- )

No God, Jerusalem or Manufactured Housing?

September 16th, 2012 14 comments

by Michael Barnabas

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

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

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

Excuse me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rentals?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Federal Reserve would hurt the

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

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

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

― Theodore Roosevelt

26th President of the United States

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

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

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

Post submitted by
Michael Barnabas

Putting the Qualified Mortgage Dilemma in Perspective

July 19th, 2012 4 comments

Ronnie Richards MHProNewsThe Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law by President Obama on July 21, 2010. The Act implements financial reform sponsored by the Democratically controlled 111th United States Congress and the Obama administration. Passed as a response to the late-2000s recession, the Act is bringing the most significant changes to financial regulation in the United States since the reform that followed the Great Depression. The biggest threat to the manufactured housing industry and the Texas Manufactured Housing Association is the impact the new more stringent regulations might have on loans under $50,000.

I did some research using sales data available on the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs Manufactured Housing Division (TDHCA MH) web site and the Statistical Surveys data my company subscribes to and it confirmed my concerns. According to TDHCA MH data, single section homes comprised 60% of new home retail sales for the five months ending May 31, 2012.

When I ran a retail selling price analysis in Statistical Surveys for the three months ending March 31, 2012, the most recent period available, I found that 92% of all single sections sold at retail had a selling price of $55,000 or less and 7% of multi-sections fell into that bracket. There were 1097 new home single section sales with lender liens titled as personal property (chattel loans) during the first five months of 2012.

Assuming 93% fall below a $55,000 sales price which with a 10% down payment would mean a loan balance of $50,000 or less, 1020 single section homes and 71 multi-section homes would be affected by the new regulations. That is 27% of all new HUD Code sales and 52% of all personal property financed sales.

I don’t need to tell you how that could affect our industry.

Just the manufacturer dues revenue which accounts for approximately 75% of TMHA revenue would decline by 27%. There are sixteen active HUD Code plants in Texas and if you assume a workforce of 150 at each of these plants a reduction in production could result in 648 Texans losing their jobs and that doesn’t even take into consideration the 55 active licensed out of state plants.

Texas currently has 747 active Retailer license holders and 1002 active licensed Retail Sales license holders. Based on a 27% reduction in sales due to the impact of the new regulation, we could see a reduction by 202 retail outlets and 271 retail sales licensees respectively. In total not even counting lenders, contractors, suppliers and so forth we might face a loss of 1120 jobs in our core member group.

The other impact which is difficult to measure is the new regulations could add significant barriers to affordable home ownership with no alternative housing options. There could be a an annual reduction in new HUD Code manufactured housing sales in Texas of 2650 units based on the current run rate if loans of $50,000 and less are highly regulated. Current manufactured home owners wishing to sell their home will find it very difficult to get financing for their buyers under the new regulations.

We can’t let this happen. MHI, TMHA and other interested parties are taking steps to educate those writing the regulations at the federal level about our industry and its unique financing model. The outcome is not guaranteed but at least we are attempting to influence the rule writing and not just sitting on the sidelines.

If you want to learn more about this and a broad range of other industry topics you should consider attending the Annual Convention of the Texas Manufactured Housing Association in Houston August 20th and 21st. You can learn more about all the business building and informational seminars linked at this site. It’s easy to register online at TexasMHA.com or call the TMHA office at 512-459-1221. All are welcome. ##

Ronnie Richards MHProNewsRonnie Richards is the Chairman of the Texas Manufactured Housing Association and Vice President of Marketing for American Homestar Corporation headquartered in League City, Texas.