The manufactured housing industry is now 7 months into a slump – a downturn. How is that possible, during an affordable housing crisis? Is it incompetence? Or something else?
Photo at left is a still from a YouTube video, posted further below.
While controversial himself in mainstream media reports for a variety of reasons, prominent Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) member Frank Rolfe is on record for calling out prior MHI Chairman Nathan Smith and the association for “hypocrisy.”
Rolfe also accused MHI of failing to promote good news, while failing to defend against bad news.
The phrase ‘the industry’ is often a euphemism for MHI. While the two are obviously distinct, given that MHI is the industry’s umbrella association and larger than its rivals, there are reasons that phrase is used.
Despite his own controversies, did Rolfe make valid points in the quotes cited above?
A recap of Nathan Smith, partner in SSK Communities, and their media and legal woes are linked below. It includes numerous mainstream media video reports, which underscored Rolfe’s first point.
The recent, useful – and largely favorable comments to the manufactured home industry in general – made by HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a speech last week are of this morning at the date and time shown still not posted on MHI’s website. Why not? It is arguably good news for the industry at large. It was made at MHI’s own event. Secretary Carson is in charge of the agency that has the primary federal oversight for manufactured housing.
Where is the MHI logic in not having a favorable talk spotlighted on their own website? Again, this evidence makes a point Rolfe claimed about good news not being shared by MHI.
This oddity begs questions. For example, is it only Rolfe at MHI who has expressed concerns about MHI? Hardly.
Kenny Lipschutz – whose firm is a MHI/National Communities Council (MHI/NCC) member – said the following in an interview with MHProNews.
Tom Fath is a partner in his family’s manufactured home community business. The sell new and pre-owned manufactured homes. Their operations are reportedly doing well. Which makes Fath’s comments all the more striking.
This comment was a response to a critique of MHI and their ‘advertorial’ campaign. Fath was arguing that facts and consumer benefits should be stressed, rather than claims that actually undermined the industry’s credibility.
Is Fath alone? No.
Current and former MHI members have privately and publicly called out the trade group for being ineffective, for favoritism, for being an oligarchy, or of de facto working to consolidate the industry.
In 2017, state communities associations broke from MHI, saying the planned to form their own trade organization. They have since done so. Their founder explained their break from MHI as follows.
So, there are significant examples of MHI members – past and present – plus other industry business leaders – that have in word and deed voiced published concerns about the state of the industry in general, and often named MHI in particular.
One More Level
MHI’s current and 2 prior executive committee members, have all faced various troubling legal or problematic business practice allegations.
Satirical logo by MHProNews, provided under fair use guidelines.
George F. Allen, along with Spencer Roane and Tom Lackey of SECO have had their own mainstream media woes.
Allen and Roane have ‘taught’ selling contract for title at SECO or elsewhere, a practice that the New York Attorney General’s office and others have taken action against. https://www.timesfreepress.com/news/local/story/2018/may/26/industry-members-decline-take-sides-rossville/471775/
Allen has been an MHI critic in the past, as these pull quotes from his website remind industry professionals.
George F. Allen, has a modest following today, which once used to be a larger following. Once Allen was re-embraced by MHI’s leaders = purportedly to be a surrogate for them to blunt growing industry concerns and criticisms = Allen has muted his prior blasts, and has arguably turned instead at sliming MHI’s critics.
But Allen, who was persona non grata just a few years ago at MHI, has more recently cozied up to and has been re-embraced by the Arlington, VA based association. Joe Stegmayer appeared again at Allen’s annual event in 2018.
Joe Stegmayer – as MHI’s Chairman – lends to the under-informed a certain credibility to Allen. Allen in turn has purportedly attacked privately and publicly this publication for holding the industry’s power players to account. But instead of accepting the opportunity to disprove or debate the issues raised, Allen has resorted to slurs and a call to boycott MHProNews.
Allen’s call for a boycott is noteworthy, because it can be an element in antitrust law. Allen has also used demonstrably flawed claims in a purported effort to slime the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR), which is trying to address underlying issues, and thereby help the industry return to growth. Attacking a trade group that is honestly and honorably seeking growth during an affordable housing crisis and while the industry is in a slump ought to be common sense. Thus, Allen’s attacks on MHARR merits its own scrutiny. See that report, via the hot-linked text/image box linked below. But once more, it also sparks further questions and concerns.
There are evidence-based examples of how MHI leaders have directly and indirectly rewarded Allen and SECO, which he is associated with.
Now MH Village’s co-president, Darren Krolewski – who previously praised MHProNews for taking on the tougher issues – more recently has launched their own trade publication, which is of course their right.
MHVillage’s Krolewski dubbed their new publication MHInsider, the first three letters of which spell MHI. They are in fact a prominent supporter of MHI. They have given Allen and SECO a lift via their own platform. Attempt to find an article in MHInsider that is critical of MHI or Clayton Homes. There are better odds of winning the lottery than finding a critique of any MHI or Berkshire Hathaway MH industry company leader, or of those who are the ‘big boys’ at the Arlington, VA based trade group.
Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) Howard Walker arguably had a different view on what should be done about good and bad news than what MHInsider- or the flip-flopping George F.(F?) Allen – has taken. The late Walker, JD and longtime vice chairman and a right hand man to Sam Zell, ELS’ chairman, said this.
While it was before the more recent fact checks, it was after other examples of concerns and issues being raised by MHProNews not found elsewhere in the industry’s trade media. So not unlike the prior comment of praise by Krolewski, Walker said the following for publication.
The words of the late Howard Walker, JD, longtime ELS Vice Chairman, shared for publication with MHProNews.
MHProNews has previously cited the need for good business ethics, quoting the following as an example.
This publication has also promoted the notion of getting to the root issues of the industry’s challenges, citing Zig Ziglar as follows.
When the industry hit the start of its now 7-month slump, what have MHI’s leaders offered? Let’s look at some examples of ‘slogans vs. solutions.’
Last fall, when the corporate leaders of the trade group arguably knew that the downturn was underway, MHI produced a video promoting the association. The stills that follow are from that video and are provided under fair use guidelines for media.
The first slogan was a claim of changing the perception of the industry. If it was for the better, then why aren’t sales growing?
The next MHI claims is one of momentum. This was clearly not true, unless they meant momentum in reverse? Instead, what the ‘new class of homes’ project arguably has done is divert lending that ought to be going to all manufactured homes under the Housing and Economic Recovery Act (HERA) of 2008 away from all manufactured homes, to only a few ‘select’ homes. Here’s how MHARR President and CEO, Mark Weiss, JD, phrased it.
MHI also claimed in their video to be promoting the industry. That may be true in a technical, fig leaf, or posturing sort of sense. But the lack of growth in manufactured housing shipments itself undermines the credibility of the Arlington, VA based trade group’s claim.
Nevertheless, to prove their point, MHI cited statistics that were wildly arguably misleading at best, ordemonstrably deceptive at worst.
While MHI in their monthly shipment report doesn’t deny the decline, neither are they addressing the underlying causes, nor have they proposed a remedy via their messages to the industry. Why not?
When, MHProNews called out the deception, and offered MHI and their leaders an opportunity to respond, MHI hired an outside attorney who issued a series of letter threatening this publication and specifically mentioned our showing these still video images. Some of the claims that MHI’s outside attorney made are dealt with in a report linked below.
So instead of offering solutions, MHI has offered slogans. Instead of addressing legitimate concerns, they have threatened this publication that their own leaders have previously praised as being pro-industry. Perhaps more to the point, as the quote below reveals, their leaders ought to know that they have to address bad news, as Rolfe suggested in the quote cited above. If they know they should, but fail to do so, what does that say about the trade group? What concerns does that raise?
Such facts puts MHI in an awkward spot, perhaps because MHProNews has cited investor relations reports by publicly trade MHI member companies that also point out the obvious truth that the industry is underperforming.
In 1998, manufactured homes (MH) outsold RVs by some 3 to 2. In 2017, RVs outsold MHs by some 5 to 1. RVs recovered far more quickly from 2008. The facts raise questions. One, is the effectiveness of MHI as the post-production or ‘umbrella’ association in the country. The other question is more sobering. Has Buffett-Berkshire “Moat” strategies kept manufactured home production at historically low levels to allow a few big boy brands to consolidate others at a discounted ‘value’ by MHI insiders?
MHLivingNews, NAMHCO, the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform for years, even a former MHI president on his exit message have raised concerns about the failures of MHI.
What has MHI done in a practical way to address the issues? At their recent Congress and Expo, they offered this slogan – “Let’s Keep Building.”
Slogans coupled with an action plan are fine. But where is MHI’s action plan? After all, they claim themselves to represent the interests of all segments of the industry, per the following from their website this morning. The commentary in the blue boxes are by MHProNews.
It should be noted that not all in the industry are sliding. The article below is but one example of a firm that is bucking the trend. That clearly implies that others can too.
Which begs the question, what the devil is going in with MHI’s so-called leadership? What are the ‘powers that be’ behind MHI actually doing?
What’s Going On?
The largest corporate force behind MHI are the Warren Buffett led Berkshire Hathaway owned brands. A survey of troubling mainstream media reports about their behavior is linked below.
Before several of these episodes occurred, became known, or were coming into focus, Clayton, 21st, and MHI supported the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act. In hindsight, was the entire bill a ruse? A head fake designed to consolidate the industry into ever fewer hands?
That’s what a more detailed report, fact-checks, and analysis linked below examines.
There are already several federal investigations reportedly underway with respect to Clayton Homes, and their related lenders. Former Clayton division president Joe Stegmayer, Cavco Industries are under an SEC subpoena, to name but a few of the publicly known federal investigations.
But sources tell MHProNews, that other investigations – federal and others – are also underway.
The fact-checks by MHLivingNews of the recent Last Week Tonight with John Oliver revealed that each firm the satirical, sharp hit on “Mobile Homes” made was on a MHI member connected firm.
Warren Buffett has been documented to have financially supported via so-called ‘dark money’ channels the organizations that attacked his own brands, and MHI firms.
It is with that backdrop that publisher L. A. ‘Tony’ Kovach takes a deeper dive into what in hindsight was arguably the true goal of the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act. Tony Kovach raises the questions, have more than just antitrust laws been broken? Are possible fraud and RICO concerns valid?
That ‘deeper dive’ report is linked here.
It is far more pleasant being a cheer leader when one has something honest and honorable to cheer. But to fail to call out real problems is to betray readers who are looking for solutions, not slogans, slurs, slimes, or dodges.
While surrogate writers for the powers that be – like Allen – purportedly use diversionary, smear or slime tactics vs. engaging in an actual – robust discussion or debate – MHProNews continues to follow the evidence, follow the money, and does fact checks to uncover what the underlying issues actually point toward.
Robinson is a good speaker, good writer and likeable person, says MHProNews publisher, L. A. “Tony” Kovach. The questions that they duck and dodge will only continue until they are properly addressed in a transparent way, he opines.
Therefore, while Joe Stegmayer and George F. (F?) Allen are playing footsie – or MHInsider and the bulk of the others in the manufactured home industry’s trade media other than MHLivingNews or MHProNews ignore the vexing issues – or slime those such as MHARR for raising logical concerns and for offering solutions – our pro-growth platforms will continue to promote the good news about manufactured housing, while holding to account those who are behaving in problematic ways.
That’s today’s third look at “Industry News, Tips, and Views Pros Can Use,” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)