by L. A. “Tony” Kovach
Prior to the selection of HUD's Pam Danner, Esq., long time readers of MHProNews.com may recall that MHI and MHARR both agreed on asking for Victor A. DeRose, Esq., for the HUD Code MH program's non-career administrator.
Then a reported error took place at MHI, and as a result, Pam Danner was advised and applied for the position, and she was ultimately picked for the role she now holds. She was welcomed warmly by most in the industry, tepidly but politely by MHARR. In the light of recent and troubling events in the world of manufactured housing, some in MHVille are wondering: is it time to revisit who should head up the HUD Code MH program in DC?
Above from HUD's Manufactured Housing Newsletter, number 4-1.
Danner's first year was marked by her promises to get action on long-pending issues. Indeed, Danner went to various industry meetings, to meet and greet industry pros in feel-good sessions. Some long pending items began to be addressed. Okay...
More recently, a litany or problems and costly issues have been piling up. For example:
problems with Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA 2000) mandated installation programs,
a major hike in fees,
positions taken on the new on-site completion rule that replaced the so-called AC letter,
alleged favoritism in contractor selection,
creating road blocks rather than smoothing the way to make MH more accepted within HUD as she's promised and
even a new HUD website, that some claim is nothing more than an outreach for consumer complaints have all be factors that have caused heart-burn for a growing number of pros.
On the topic of this new “lets get consumer complaints” website, it is evidence of what MHProNews has previously reported, namely that the number of complaints being received by HUD/its contractors are so low, that HUD's MH office planned to do an outreach to stir up more complaints. That forecast has now sadly become reality. Remember, you read that here first – if you read it anywhere else in MHVille reporting at all.
Hundreds of MHPros, this writer included, have sat and listened to Pam Danner live, and heard her promise to better promote MH within HUD, so that MH would be included in more affordable housing initiatives.
Excuse me, but have you or your peers seen any videos or new websites or other efforts that fulfill that hopeful and positive pledge she's repeatedly made to the MH Industry at live events?
MHARR has publicly expressed concerns about Danner's actions since the day she took the post. Both MHARR and MH Industry retailers and others in the industry have said the new on-site rule is a major headache. As MHI themselves reported in a recent WiR newsletter they've written to HUD, a copy of which is linked here.
MHI's message to the industry read in part,
“MHI members, Michael Wade of Cavalier Homes and Alan Spencer of Dakotaland Homes, led the discussion about the regulatory burdens and costs of the Rule. They noted that implementation of the Rule would cost the industry between $7-10 million and impact 10-15 percent of production, and argued that the number of homes that will need to comply with the new labeling, reporting, design and inspection requirements are substantially more than HUD estimated when it published its final Rule.”
What is entirely missing from the above and the rest of their message to the industry was an admission that this issue may never have arisen at all, if Vic DeRose was sitting at the desk that Pam Danner now occupies. Isn't this just another example of an unforced fumble by MHI?
Danner at HUD – industry friend or...?
Some are now actively concerned that Danner is actually trying to harm the MH Industry - or is at best standing by while others are hurting MH within HUD - and she is thereby helping site builders and others who do business with HUD. Let's take a brief look at her background.
Pam Danner ran n 2011 for the Virginia House, against a pro-business
candidate. Did MHI and those who released the HUD opening to Danner know this?
Image credits are as marked.
Danner had experience at HUD years ago, as her resume reflects. The attorney is also failed candidate for an elected office as a Democratic candidate, and has recently supported a Democratic candidate in VA.
Now certainly, the industry has to work with players from both parties. But a close look at her history would suggest that she loves the kind of regulations that the industry ought to be opposing. Did whomever was promoting her within MHI look at the easily found clues as to what a Danner administration at HUD might look like?
Furthermore, once the mistakes was made, in a typical fashion under the leadership of MHI's current CEO, excuses were made that Danner really isn't a bad choice, and that there is no reason to be alarmed that she was going in not as a non-career administrator – which is what the MHIA of 2000 calls for – but rather as a career person at HUD. Hmmm...
A look at the original choice by MHI and MHARR, Victor A. DeRose
Attorney Vic DeRose has ties to MH and the RV industries. Would he still be interested in the HUD non-career administrator role if it became available?
MHProNews hasn't asked, but what we know is that both MHI and MHARR agreed that he would be a good fit for the job. Presumably, they vetted him. Below is a snapshot of an item about DeRose found online.
Photo and credit for above, LeadershipEI.
What happened...another MHI Embarrassment?
At the time MHI and MHARR agreed on the Vic DeRose appointment, there seemed to be a real opportunity for MHARR and MHI to work together on a range of issues.
The internal fumble at MHI, where a team member advised Pam Danner of the opening - allegedly against the expressed desire of their president, Richard 'Dick' Jennison - was just one in a series of missteps that lead to a cooling of what was a chance for Jennison and MHI to bridge gaps with MHARR that many in the industry wanted to see take place.
At Tunica, MH Pros Sound-Off to MHProNews
While Jennison and MHI certainly have supporters in spite of gaffs and their own spin on stories, a range of pros in and out of MHI approached this writer during the Tunica Show to express their concerns that MHI's track record in recent years has shown little or no progress on key issues for the manufactured housing industry.
Besides numerous private approaches from industry pros, the following took place in public.
One Tunica education panelist - Bob Crawford from historic independent retailer Dick Moore Housing - made an impromptu, public call for creating a new, post-production association to represent independent retailers and communities.
Another panelist at the same session, new MHI member Frank Rolfe, stated his belief that MHI is wasting it's time in pursuing S 682/HR 650 passage.
It should be noted that this and our sister publication has and still does editorially support the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act in its current and prior forms (HR 650/S 682).
So the fact that we are hereby drawing attention to the concerns of industry pros to these issues should be understood as reporting on how others are feeling about developments, not just commentary. We've invested dollars and time in passing HR 650/S 682.
But the problem is that some staff at MHI are arguably creating unforced errors in the potential path to passage of the very bill the association and its members are striving to get passed.
The point here is that MHI has in recent years done a fine job of shooting is own foot; why? As a concerned pro-association member, myself and others are saying there has been more than ample time for the association to fix the various issues that keep cropping up. To allow for a lack of accountability on serious issues that could make or cost the industry billions, that's simply unacceptable.
MHProNews will continue to shine the spot light on such errors and issues.
Related to Finance...A Need For MHI's Self-Examination?
A well known industry leader told MHProNews on 3.30.2016 that the industry has missed the opportunity - which may still exist - to get the so-called consumer groups on board with the LO Comp rule change - that's half the effort HR 650/S 682 is designed to accomplish.
That well placed, and well informed pro believes such a deal can still be made.
Doing so might save MH lenders sizable sums every year, and could yield more closed sales and happier customers too.
That same pro agrees with MHProNews that there are talented people at MHI, but believes they are being rallied around tactically mishandled agendas.
There are numerous issues the industry faces, some at HUD, some with CFPB or other agencies. The time to revisit the mishandling of issues in the current CEO's administration as noted is critical for national association members to get the positive results for which they are paying their dues.
MHProNews will continue to support a positive, pro-industry agenda while calling for accountability by MHI staff in its day-to-day work.
A serious and objective look by state and corporate association leaders needs to take place, so that the MH Industry advances because of - rather than inspire of - the work MHI and others are doing. This isn't about emotion or who is who's buddy and why. It ought to be about what's going right, what's going wrong, and why. If things are going wrong, and the mistakes were avoidable, who is being held accountable?
Back to Pam Danner...
Regarding Pam Danner, JD, it seems prudent for industry leaders to touch base with Vic DeRose - or any others that well informed industry leaders believe is well qualified - to see if there is an interest in taking the helm at HUD's MH program.
Then, once a clearly positive option exists to replace Danner, the MH Industry should seek once more to join forces and get a change in the program's leadership. Danner arguably has and continues to fail the industry – as well as taxpayers and consumers – in providing a fair and balanced approach to MH.
After all, Julian Castro's said on a video linked here that MH is a vital part of America's battle for quality, affordable housing. How much more of an open door do we need to get the playing field for MH leveled before we get the treatment that the industry wanted when the MHIA of 2000 was passed into law?
It's your MH Industry! “We Provide, You Decide.” ©
FYI - we're holding our powder dry on other similarly costly and important topics from the DC metro, in the hopes that the industry's leaders will do what is necessary to hold accountable those who've allowed these issues to go sideways, and to fix what's wrong in Arlington...and at HUD.
Industry pros don't need spin - we don't need messages about meetings and letters coming out of MHI - as useful in normal circumstances meetings and memos can be. These are not normal circumstances at MHI HQs. We need bottom line, measurable results that allows MH to tap billions in more profits, which could mean 5, 6, 7 or more figures added to the bottom line of an organization like yours. ##