“We as an independent manufactured home producer’s association have often worked successfully with resident groups, on issues of mutual interest. We don’t deal with community related issues directly. I believe that people of good will may agree or disagree on details, and still have mutual respect. Let me express my sincere condolences to those touched by the loss of Ed Speraw.” – Mark Weiss, JD, President and CEO of the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform.
Others on the professional side of manufactured housing were invited to share their thoughts on the passage from this life of Ed Speraw, former President of the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA). Regrettably, they declined.
We invited Fred Neil, a Dover City Councilman to share his thoughts. Speraw and Niel were colleagues and friends. That verbatim obituary from Neil about Speraw will follow in a few moments.
MHLivingNews has not previously featured the “passage” from this life to the next of anyone. So why this obituary about the death of Ed Speraw?
Several reasons, including this one.
It’s a sad reality that there is acrimony at all between significant numbers of residents who have homes in certain manufactured home communities. Editorially, we frankly disagree with the notion of ‘rent control’ as good public policy. Another colleague of Speraw – who was the former President of the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA – admitted in an article in 2018 that the rent control law in Delaware isn’t working as intended. Rent control is routinely proven not to work, more on that further below.
That said, as Mark Weiss thoughtfully noted above, one may disagree on a matter, and still have mutual respect. One can and should respect the widely recognized spirit of volunteerism of this departed soul. MHLivingNews extends its sincere condolences to all of those touched by the loss of Ed Speraw.
Here’s what Dover City Councilman Fred Neil sent in as his comments, with the illustrations added by MHLivingNews.
Road Ends for Ed Speraw, Hero to Leased Land Home Owners
by Fred Neil
When I moved to Delaware in 2003 after living in homes in Baltimore which had Ground Rents, I never thought I could lose my retirement nest egg and the new home I bought because Delaware law permitted it to happen. Fighting for change were a handful of home owners in Sussex County led by Ed Speraw, Bill Reed, and Charlie Gallagher. Founded in 1982 as the Sussex County Mobile Tenants Association, the advocates expanded Statewide as the Delaware Manufactured Home Association (DMHOA) in 2002.
For 14 years until he retired in 2016, under Ed’s leadership, DMHOA has worked to change the predatory practices, inequities and injustices permitted by landlords under State Law. William Knnick now heads the organization.
As important this is to the low income and Senior home owners frightened of losing their homes not supported by taxpayers, it hurts taxpayers and the Delaware economy unless laws are changed. Millions of dollars in rent increases are taken out of the hands of 40 to 50,000 home owners and families who can’t spend it in the local businesses that State Legislators pledge to help.
A native of Lebanon, Pennsyvania, Ed joined the Air Force at 18 in 1955. He had 2 tours in Vietnam with the Special Forces TAC Fighter Command until his discharge in 1968. A graduate of Penn State University, he was in the construction business for 40 years.
Speraw was available 24/7 as home owners called him about problems at his home. It was not uncommon for Ed, who was licensed, to slide under a home of a Senior, who wasunable to pay, to fix a problem. He would even correct a problem that was legally the responsibility of the landlord who refused to fix it. Delaware law has no meaningful penalties for Community owners who break the existing laws.
As President of the Delaware Manufactured Home Owners Association (DMHOA), Speraw advocated for every beneficial law passed by the Delaware General Assembly since 1982. For more than a decade, his home was the DMHOA office, except for a few years. From time to time, he funded the organization from his own pocket.
Title 25, Chapter 70 law to protect home owners on leased land is peppered with loopholes leaving the Judges of the Delaware Court to define the law. Otherwise, leased land home owners would be bereft of any protection. As it is, the value of their homes continues to drop as rents rise.
Before Ed and his colleagues became involved Rents could be raised anytime. Now it can be raised only once a year. A change of land use could force the home owners off the land rapidly. Now, a one year notice is required.
The Relocation Trust Authority, another law successfully advocated by DMHOA, created a fund from additional rents paid by home owners and landlords. The Authority provides money to move homes in a change of land use or a small stipend for those who can’t move their home.
Other flawed victories include a Manufactured Housing committee in the House of Representatives, and a “Right of First Offer” law which allows residents to buy their communities, but proved to be a sham. In 2013, after years of unlimited rents increases, including during the recession, for Any or No reason, the Rent Justification became law. It allows home owners to seek arbitration.
In 2010, Ed was honored with the Governor’s Outstanding Community Volunteer Service Award. Governor Jack Markel remarked, “We know you don’t do what you do for awards, but congratulations, Ed, for a long overdue honor!”
The road has ended for Edwin (Ed) Speraw, 1937-2019, the tenacious defender of our Nation and for beleaguered tenants who own homes on leased land. He leaves a yawning chasm in the ranks of Davids battling the Goliaths, in fighting for the American dream. ##
Fred Neil represents the 3rd District in the Dover City Council
MHLivingNews is in good measure educational in nature. So, we are blending two distinctive themes, a sincere obituary, with a teachable moment. For any ways that this misses the mark, this writer alone is responsible. If it hits anywhere near the mark, then lets credit the spirit of Speraw, who believed and worked for manufactured home living.
Facts simply are what they are. The professional side of the industry and the manufactured home (MH) community resident group side of the industry are sometimes on the same page, sometimes at loggerheads. MHLivingNews has at times tried to help bridge the gap, through education and the use of reason. That’s done at times by featuring happy residents and the independent owners of manufactured home communities. That’s the reality of the majority of MH communities and residents. National and regional third-party research says so, as is linked here and here.
We’ve also previously held errant problematic behavior on both sides of the fence – including billionaires, accountable – as needed.
The issue of rising rents is a matter of supply and demand. Who says? Among them, properly understood, is a national manufactured home community resident leader.
“In 1970, my city of San Marcos had a population of less than 4,000 and was part of the dramatic manufactured housing community development boom of the 1970s, adding over 3,000 pads among 18 manufactured home communities, which led to more than a doubling of the population by the mid 1970s,” wrote Tim Sheahan, President of the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA).
The comments were part of Sheahan’s much longer written comments to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which for the last 10 years has overseen the Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs).
“Like many areas of CA, manufactured home purchasers in San Marcos were lured away from metropolitan areas by the promise of a quiet semi-rural retirement lifestyle with low lot rents and nice amenities, which often included clubhouses/community centers, swimming pools and spas, saunas, shuffleboard courts, pool tables and card rooms, community kitchens; and, in some cases, tennis courts, golf courses and fishing ponds. Downsizing to a MH also enabled them to enhance their financial nest eggs for the retirement years. Initially, stiff competition among various developers during the only time a true “free market” situation existed in these communities commonly led to very reasonable starting rents,” said Sheahan.
Sheahan also wrote, “As the communities filled with “im-mobile” homes, free market forces such as competition were lost and lot rents for captive homeowners skyrocketed in many areas of California.
Sheahan’s use of the term “im-mobile homes” is intelligent and insightful. So too was the point he made about free market forces – competition, cited above: “…free market forces such as competition were lost…” Let’s note the takeaway, when competition was present, site fees remained lows. When competition dried up, as new construction was choked off, much of that natural competition was lost.
The lesson learned? The need isn’t for rent control, rather, it is to foster more competition.
Once the cause of a problem is understood, the solution becomes more apparent. What better goodbye to Ed Speraw than to lift up on this occasion an educationally bridge that could span the gaps, in ways that could potentially benefit millions?
Properly understood – the enemy, so to speak – of communities and residents alike is the lack of options for siting a home. That leads to a range of unintended consequences. Among them, too few new communities being built. NIMBYism often results in public officials making it too difficult for residents to place a home on a privately owned site, even though federal law already provides for exactly that placement option under “Enhanced Preemption.”
Education and understanding are at the heart of the solutions.
When public policy makes either new community building – or the use of more private sites for a manufactured homes, more difficult – then existing communities will obviously have less competition. Lack of competition drives up prices, and thus taxes. That is true in conventional housing, and it is true in manufactured homes. That basic application of the law of supply and demand in turn results in higher site-fees, ‘lot rent,’ for residents.
That’s the logical takeaway from Sheahan’s quotes, above, and the news video, below.
Respect, in Peace
The death of Ed Speraw should spark fresh conversation. Several discussions, actually.
Among them, honoring someone who dedicated their life to the interests of others. That merits respect. At the same time, there should be a serious consideration to the point that Sheahan – intentionally or not – raised.
The periodic battles between some community owners and some resident groups in certain markets creates issues for everyone in that troubled mix. Some try to benefit from that tension. But the solution should include, without being limited to, working together as often as possible to foster more new communities and privately owned sites for manufactured homes. #HousingChoice.
Does anyone else see it like this? Yes.
“I think rent control is a symptom of a larger problem. To my eye, these stories are always about both sides doubling down politically and legally,” wrote Paul Bradley, or ROC USA.
“I would like to think there are alternatives that don’t rely on third-party boards and local ordinances,” Bradley continued, adding, “I approach things with a win/win mindset, and from what I’ve seen, courts and boards seem to satisfy neither party in most cases. A fundamentally different value proposition and mindset is required to stem the tide of rent control.”
As an educational point, a real life example of the negative impact of rent control is spotlighted in this Canadian news report, posted below.
Good public policy could end much of the acrimony that fuels friction between groups that ought to work together far more often. More on this another time, or in the related reports, linked below.
My hope is that by taking two different topics, and striving to thread a needle, is that it might begin to bring people together, instead of driving them apart.
This writer and my family, having lived in several manufactured home communities and homes for many years, and MHLivingNews, hereby extends our sincere condolences to Ed Speraw’s family, friends, and all those who are touched by this loss. May he rest in peace. ## (Lifestyle, news, human interest, affordable housing news, analysis, and commentary.)
(See related reports, linked below. Any third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines. All rights reserved. ©
L. A. “Tony” Kovach and his wife Soheyla co-founded and publish the manufactured home industry’s two leading trade media; Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews.com) and MHProNews.com for business professionals and investors.