“The more things change the more they stay the same.” That’s the common translation of what French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote in 1849 – “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” per Wikipedia and Quora. Over 66 years ago, in 1954, a well-known leader at the time named Walter Reuther made the call for building 2 million new homes a year in an article for the National Housing Conference (NHC). The population was less than half of what it is today. Reuther said then that the “Housing and Home Finance Agency has stated, however, that only about one million homes will be built in 1954.” That was less than half of what they needed then.
If the need then was 2 million a year – and because we have about 111 million in rentals now, per the Apartment List – then the need today may be double what it was then – more like 4-5 million new homes a year. That would be a rough idea of what it would require to close the gap for affordable homes that exists currently, because some 72 percent of renters want to own, per Policy Genius on January 4, 2021.
Meeting those desires for home ownership would create millions of new jobs and tens of thousands of new business opportunities.
It is past time for the millions who desire to have the American Dream, or who want to protect their American Dream, to look at decades of evidence that personally impacts each and every person in our nation, regardless of color or creed. The review further below is for a specific reason. It could be summed up in this question. What has changed? Or more precisely, what has changed for the better? What is worse now than then?
Hold those questions for later, but let’s state for the moment the following. Those who have conventional housing, as well as those who own a pre-HUD Code mobile home or post-HUD Code manufactured home, each face a unique set of challenges. We focus here on Manufactured Home Living News on mobile and manufactured homes, as well as other types of factory-built housing. But we do not ignore the realities of the broader housing marketplace. Right now, more housing is needed, period. Some are concerned that without more housing, as CNBC reported in April, that a market meltdown could occur in the foreseeable future. While that is disputed, certainly without more homes brought on line in short order, prices will only continue to rocket up, most experts agree on that point.
Only factory home building can close that gap. So, most of America would benefit from more unsubsidized affordable homes, and that is what manufactured homes have provided for decades.
That said, consider the troubling trend line below of home ownership rates during this June 2021 National Home Ownership Month.
- Note that as rental vacancy rates decline, that is a signal that rental costs will rise.
- The rate of construction – 66 years after the Reuther article further below – is no closer to closing the gap now than then.
- Indeed, what that FRED graph below reflects are decades of a roller coaster ride of higher and lower rates of homeownership.
What does that mean, in practical terms?
There are several takeaways. Among them:
- All of those decades of promises by political leaders from both major parties about increasing home ownership have never actually come to pass.
- Which begs the question: why blindly trust those who are making new promises, when the old ones have demonstrably not been kept?
- That brings up the question, who can you trust? Perhaps more important, how can you know with a good degree of certainty who you can trust?
Let’s note that all humans can make an honest error. For instance, we frankly get typos. We do not intend them, but we get them. Most can forgive such relatively modest glitches, because everyone walking the planet today has glitched.
That said, there are more serious mistakes. When someone is pondering a life-changing decision, they need to be able to rely on information. Which once more bring us to the question, how do you know who you can trust?
How Can You Know Who Can You Trust?
One of the tragic realities of our age is that information and opinions are often stifled, ignored, spun, or weaponized. What to do? Common-sense tips include:
- when researching, get to the core facts.
- Look for evidence about factual claims from more than one source.
- Question the claims of those who appear to have an obvious or hidden agenda.
- Look at the historic patterns. For instance, does a company or organization have a periodic string of problematic behavior?
- When allegations against a firm, person, or group are made – are they evidence based? Or when they are closely examined, are they merely some naysayer using smear tactics?
- Do not be afraid to question a common notion that may or may not be grounded in facts. Too often, media can cause people to confuse persuasively delivered opinion or a spin – a paltering mix of truth and half truth – as if it were factual. Opinions and facts often may or may not align.
- Beware of the slick trap of a cleverly deceptive statement being repeated over-and-over, an often repeated deception or error does not make the truth.
- Facts are whatever is real. Everything else could reflect mere confusion, ignorance, or malice.
As regular readers know, we are evidence-based critics of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and others like them. That said, even problematic individuals can say something that is demonstrably true. That is the wisdom of the ancient and proven principle of separating out the wheat from the chaff. Paraphrasing Buffett, he is correct in saying that when someone or some group has a problematic track record, that is a good reason not to trust them.
The Case For Affordable Manufactured Homes
Hold that last question, and let’s first turn to some links for evidence that manufactured homes are a proven, safe, appealing, home option that can appreciate like conventional housing does and gains or loses value for the same types of reasons as ‘site built’ houses, townhouses, or condos do.
- HUD commissioned an investigative report during the Obama-Biden years on manufactured homes. It was third-party, university-level research. They studied facts that included manufactured homes used in urban setting in multiple cities in different parts of the U.S. What did the researchers learn? Common concerns about manufactured homes simply do not measure up to reality. For example, manufactured homes and conventional housing appreciated in mixed construction neighborhoods side-by-side. That HUD report on manufactured homes is linked here, and is part of a larger collection of such research found exclusively on MHLivingNews linked here.
- In 2018, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) Certified Business Economist (CBE) Scholastica “Gay” Cororaton did research on the “market for manufactured homes.” She learned that manufactured homes were far safer than most people realized, even in windstorms. Cororaton also learned that most renters could afford to be a manufactured homeowner. Like the HUD report above, she saw evidence that manufactured homes can and do appreciate. Meaning, it was a path for household wealth creation. Cororaton’s research starts on page 48 and is linked here, and is part of that same collection of research linked here. A specific look by MHLivingNews of her research is linked here.
- Windstorms and Manufactured Homes. Fear is perhaps one of the key limiting factors for those who do not consider a manufactured home. But is that fear based upon reality? Frankly, no. Yes, every year, x number of conventional houses, pre-HUD Code mobile homes, and post-HUD Code manufactured homes are lost during a tornado or other wind-storm event. But years of research has proven that a properly installed manufactured home is resilient to windstorms. The fatality rate is in single digits, or low double digits out of some 22 million living in a manufactured home. See the video with report linked here, which includes the risk-assessment statement of National Weather Service (NWS) expert Greg Schoor that puts the question in proper perspective.
We could go on, but that is sufficient to make the point that there are years of independent research that proves the value of modern manufactured homes. You could find more information linked above, or the more recent report linked below.
Since There is So Much Factual Evidence Supporting Manufactured Homes, Why Are They So Misunderstood?
That’s a critical question that merits an intelligent, evidence-based answer. This gets troubling fast. But facts are what they are. Here on MHLivingNews, and our MHProNews sister-site, we lay out the facts and evidence, so that others can examine the details for themselves. Our readers do not have to take our word for it, anyone can see the research and evidence for themselves.
That said, let’s step back a bit before we directly answer that question.
Congress examined the research regarding manufactured homes before passing widely bipartisan legislation in 2000. That law was called the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act (MHIA) of 2000 (sometimes called the 2000 Reform law). First, Congress examined the evidence for manufactured homes, and they found it to be a good option for millions of Americans. Then, the MHIA did several things to make that already proven option for affordable home ownership even better that before.
- Consumer safeguards. That includes a state-based, HUD authorized dispute resolution process that is not commonly found in far more costly conventional housing. If a service or installation issue covered under warranty is not properly performed by a seller or service provider, home buyers do not need to hire an attorney. They only have to file a complaint. Independent inspectors are called in. What’s impressive, is that out of the roughly 95,000 manufactured homes sold annually in recent years, only a few dozen of those annually ever get to dispute resolution, a sliver of less than 1 percent. That too is a sign that the law is working, that inspections are producing good quality, and that most consumers are satisfied.
- Federal energy, construction, safety standards are all provided for in a performance-based The house must perform like a conventionally built house, even though the manufactured home is far less costly.
- Serious savings are achieved because the homes are built indoors in much the same way as cars, clothes, appliances, electronics or other factory produced items are built and save money. Once built and sold, homes are then transported to their homesite for installation. Rural Development Perspectives, for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said in their report that some 85 percent of manufactured homes are never moved once they are initially installed on a homeowners selected home site. Other research before or since have similar data claims. Now, that has its own implications. First, it is mistake to call a manufactured home a “mobile home” because they are not very mobile! Nor is “mobile home” the proper name for such homes built after June 15, 1976. As manufactured home resident advocate Tim Sheahan has often said, it would be more accurate to say “immobile homes” because they cost some $5000 to $10,000 to move and re-install.
- So, when you buy a manufactured home, plan with the thought in mind that if you ever decide to sell it, it should be sold where it is located. Because moving it is not likely to occur. Odds are about 6.7 to 1 that you or any others will ever move a manufactured home. With good planning, that is not a problem because conventional housing is rarely moved when sold too.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) New Research
The CFPB has new research, which we have taken a first look at in the report linked below.
Suffice it to say that it largely confirms what MHProNews and MHLivingNews have been reporting in recent years. We plan a separate report on that here on MHLivingNews in the near term. That new report will have additional information that the CFPB has provided exclusively to MHLivingNews and MHProNews. Watch for that update here.
Which brings us to this question.
Why are manufactured homes so misunderstood? When there is an affordable housing crisis and manufactured home production could rapidly close that gap, why is the industry underperforming?
Again, third-party research available to those questions points to the same concerns that we have been publishing for years.
Let’s simply point to what previously referenced research reports by independent third parties have said. Read each of those if you are really curious about why the industry is so misunderstood. Understand that as odd as it may sound, MHI – to pick but one example – is demonstrably not properly promoting the truth about manufactured homes and manufactured home living. Do they say nice things? Sure. But they miss far more opportunities than they hit. As Exhibit A to illustrate today that claim is the fact that MHI has not – per the Google search below – promoted manufactured housing as a consideration for June and National Homeownership Month.
These are educated, well paid professionals. To have such stunning errors time and again are so startling – if they were reliable – a miss that it arguably screams instead of an agenda.
Before pivoting to the final part of today’s report, the NHC media release on Walter Reuther, let’s sum up.
- Sadly, while there are many benefits to living in America, we can not be blind to the problems either.
- The above and what follows underscores the meaning of the famous statement “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana. History does not repeat exactly. But anything that has happened before can happen again, in some form or fashion. It is foolish to believe, based upon the evidence of facts and history, that government is going to magically solve the housing problem. The good news is that government made the solution available in a way that overcomes local barriers.
- “The more things change the more they stay the same.”
- That said, those laws are demonstrably being thwarted. Why? Because keeping those laws from being enforced, in the minds of a few, benefits their interests. Then in turn, they have have demonstrably not stood up for the facts. Indeed, the case can be made that they are often the source – directly and/or indirectly – of the bad news.
- Paradoxically, but to make the point, Warren Buffett – often via so-called dark money sources – has funded the attacks on his own Berkshire-Hathaway owned brands, and that of his allies in MHI. Buffett, and others like him, have used a method they call the castle and the moat, or just the moat for short. They may cause an industry – such as manufactured homes – to underperform. Then, they consolidate that industry at discounted values. As just a few quick quotes to illustrate that claim, consider the following.
Once more, it is worth noting that the new CFPB research will demonstrate these points.
With that background, what follows from the National Housing Conference (NHC) provided this emailed news release to MHProNews for the Labor Day 2020 weekend.
Why look at it again now? Because, as noted, the themes and lessons are as important now as it was then.
NHC has the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) as a member. MHI often touts its relationship between NHC and other housing group “partners.” In fairness, NHC has praised manufactured homes. It is MHI that has often not done as good a job about promoting their own profession.
Which once again begs the question: given that conventional builders cannot keep up with housing demand in 2021, why didn’t MHI step up to the plate and do what MHProNews did, or what MHLivingNews are now doing? Namely, use this multi-million new homes a year concept to promote the amazing value of manufactured homes?
Rephrased, when you look at the evidence, it is one more apparent example of how MHI magically misses an opportunity to do what a normal association should do.
As BigThink put it: “People who don’t learn from their mistakes don’t mature. … it’s also true that those who do learn history are doomed to repeat it…”
Part of NHC’s background on the writer said: “Walter Reuther (1907-1970) was one of the most important and impactful labor leaders in American history.” Let’s note that MHLivingNews is not taking a position on what Reuther said per se. It is rather to underscore that we are seeing very similar claims today as were being made 66 years ago.
2 Million Houses a Year
By Walter Reuther
As the country celebrates Labor Day, it’s a time for people in the housing industry to celebrate the role of the American Labor Movement in championing affordable housing and home building. Labor unions became the nonprofit co-sponsors of hundreds of affordable housing developments across the country beginning in the 1920s and were charter members of the National Housing Conference when it was created in 1931. NHC is pleased to reprint an article written for us by labor icon Walter Reuther in our 1954 Annual Housing Yearbook. His message calling for construction of 2 million homes each year to fight a housing affordability crisis resonates as loudly today as it did then – when the U.S. population was a little over 150 million, less than half of what it is today. His prescient views are reprinted below. ––Ted Chandler, AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust
If America is to catch up with its tremendous back log of needed homes and keep pace with the rising demand, we must build about two million new housing units each year. The administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency has stated, however, that only about one million homes will be built in 1954. This would be 10 percent below the level of 1953 and 40 percent below our achievement in 1950.
The fact that we are currently building only half the homes this nation needs means that only higher income families are being satisfied as to their housing requirements. We are failing to develop a program to satisfy the housing needs of the majority of our families. With some exceptions, particularly for veterans, the housing policies of the federal government still do not permit millions of low and moderate income families, whose need for housing is the greatest, to buy or rent decent homes at a cost that is reasonably related to their ability to pay. This unserved potential market, of course, is made up primarily of working people and their families.
If we are to move forward in the effort to end slums and substandard housing conditions in the United States, there are several courses we must follow:
A tremendous expansion in home-building can be achieved by gearing our program to meet the needs of the moderate income group. Millions of American families earn too little to buy their own homes at present prices and conditions of payments, yet they earn too much to be eligible for public housing… The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) believes this can be done, without sacrificing the quality or adequacy of the home, by a combination of low initial payments and long-term loans at low interest rates under the government’s insured mortgage program. No other way to do the job has been demonstrated.
For millions of additional families who are in the lowest income bracket, there is no hope of attaining decent shelter except through the provision of subsidy to meet the economic rent. This group, now largely existing in substandard dwellings and in slums, just does not have sufficient income to buy or rent private housing at prevailing costs. No method except subsidized public housing has been found to meet their minimum needs, despite continuous searching by leaders of both political parties and of the building industry.
One way to help moderate income families meet their housing need is for government to assist in forming cooperatives, as the government did for farmers in Rural Electrification Act (REA). Cooperative housing offers an opportunity to groups of citizens, who want to join with each other in a common effort, to obtain good housing at lower costs and with greater opportunities for good neighborhood development…
The obstacles to adequate housing for minority groups must be removed. Land must be made available. Mortgage money must be assured to minorities on the same basis as to all other Americans. Slums must be eradicated and replaced with wholesome, well planned neighborhoods. All this requires broad cooperation at all levels of government and by all elements in the community. No substantial housing progress can be achieved without solving the special problems of our minorities whose need is more urgent than those of any other group.
We must act promptly along all of these lines if Americans are to be decently housed. The alternative is to slide backward still further, adding each year to the already mountainous backlog of need. While we still hope the day will come when private builders will bring housing costs within the reach of the average wage earner, and the mortgage bankers will make loans available in the large quantities and at the liberal terms which our members require, we cannot wait for vague hopes to materialize. To meet the housing needs of today, we must have bold leadership, now.
Additional Related Information
It will be noted that not a word was said in the above by about the mobile home industry of those days, which were part of the evolution from trailer houses, into mobile homes and finally the manufactured housing industry of the last 4+ decades.
Then as now, factory-built pre-HUD Code mobile homes or post-HUD Code manufactured homes were built in some instances with union labor, in other cases in non-union plants.
But all too often, the factory-built housing industry was simply overlooked in discussions about the need for housing. Yet, it was and remains the most proven form of affordable housing.
At the time Reuther wrote that article quoted above, TV was then in its infancy. Cell phones and the internet would come decade later. But the more things change, the more they stayed the same.
There is still a need for millions of housing units annually to catch up with the widely acknowledged housing shortage, plus keep up with a growing population.
That said, there are other takeaways from this snapshot from NHC and Reuther. The balance of his bio per NHC’s flashback read as follows.
“Walter Reuther…led the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and was a close confidant of Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. When Dr. Martin Luther King was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, it was Walter Reuther who, having read King’s Letter from Birmingham City Jail, raised $160,000 for the bail needed to release all the imprisoned protesters. He was a central player in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Medicare and Medicaid, and the Fair Housing Act.”
The words Democrat or Republican are not used by NHC in that paragraph. But every president they mentioned was a Democrat. The essential role of Republicans in passing the voting rights and civil rights acts is totally unmentioned. While Reuther’s role in advocating for minorities is mentioned, entirely overlooked is the fact that President Lyndon Banes Johnson was a racist who reportedly used the “N-ger” word on numerous occasions.
That isn’t said to make all Republicans seem like saints, or all Democrats seem like villains. The history is a mixed bag. That’s proven once more by the fact that under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, they failed to get good existing laws that support more manufactured homes enforced.
Merely saying something that sounds good isn’t the same as doing or accomplishing the goal being discussed. Dangling a promise isn’t the same as delivering on a pledge. Understanding that bit of historical wisdom is essential in looking back and in looking at our own times.
With all of the above in mind, what’s a thinking person to do? Throw up their hands in frustration? Walk away from voting, from politics, from working to get or protect the American Dream? No to each of those. Because political dropouts benefit those who have rigged system.
“I find I get along better with the construction workers and the cab drivers…The people who count in the world.”
- Donald J. Trump, 1989
You can’t lump all people from this or that group blindly into one category. In the report below, a lifelong Democrat has the courage to call out others in his party for what they are doing to Americans.
We believe that only informed people grounded in the truth are in a position to act to resolve the problems of our time. Freedom is never free. It always requires effort. Lies by leaders are nothing new.
“The way you get democracy to function
is by informing the public.”
– Robert Kennedy
To learn at a glance the history and possible solutions of our modern scenario, see the linked report below.
That’s a wrap on this installment of “News through the lens of manufactured homes and factory-built housing” © where “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Affordable housing, manufactured homes, reports, fact-checks, analysis, and commentary. Third-party images or content are provided under fair use guidelines for media.) (See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them.)
By L.A. “Tony” Kovach – for MHLivingNews.com.
Tony earned a journalism scholarship and earned numerous awards in history and in manufactured housing. For example, he earned the prestigious Lottinville Award in history from the University of Oklahoma, where he studied history and business management. He’s a managing member and co-founder of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com. This article reflects the LLC’s and/or the writer’s position, and may or may not reflect the views of sponsors or supporters.
Connect on LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/latonykovach
Recent and Related Reports:
The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which can be accessed by clicking on them.