- “In general, the figures suggest that manufactured homes have seen price [appreciation] trends broadly similar to those of other homes.” – August 23, 2018 news release by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), page 24 of the federal document linked further below as a free download.
- “I will never make a disparaging remark about a manufactured home. It is a viable and affordable housing solution that is much needed in this country and has provided decent living accommodations for countless people…If this [MHI and Clayton Homes supported] CrossMod™ [home] is built to the federal HUD code, it’s a manufactured home. Calling it something else is just dishonest, disingenuous, and intentionally misleading. We [MHBA] are calling on the Manufactured Housing Institute [MHI] to stop marketing this product and to stop misleading the public.” – Tom Hardiman, Executive Director Modular Home Builder Association (MHBA), with more from Hardiman below of concern to current and potential manufactured homeowners. But the issues should also be understood to be harmful to investors, certain businesses, affordable housing advocates, public officials and others too.
As in many of our reports, there is mix of good news, problematic items and then suggestions for readers to consider that aim to make things better. If you are a new reader, we tend to take things step-by-step, but always get to the headline topic, sometimes multiple times, as will be the case today.
Preface: for the past few years, Manufactured Home Living News (MHLivingNews) has increasingly warned readers that are already manufactured homeowners about various schemes that have been deployed by certain ‘black hat’ operations. We’ve also cautioned shoppers for new manufactured homes that they should be careful to buy from ‘white hat’ companies and learn how to spot ‘black hat’ or problematic behavior. Every business or profession has good and bad members in it. That’s not meant to discourage interest in manufactured housing, which is widely understood by those third-party researchers who have studied the industry to be a positive housing option for millions. Learn more about the good and the problematic via the reports linked here, here, here and here for starters. The last of those four linked reports notes that just because some company is in an ‘association’ that doesn’t automatically mean that they are a ‘white hat’ operation.
That’s a useful segue to this theme for this report which is stated in the headline.
MHLivingNews and our MHProNews.com professional’s sister-site has made the case for some years that the interests of having happy homeowners is the ideal outcome for honest professionals. There ought to be no tension between honest and happy customers and honest professionals or investors.
This topic is both simple and nuanced. Please pay close attention to the details. Good guys or gals can find themselves in problematic organizations, for a variety of reasons. Every profession has good or bad actors. The growing controversies outside of manufactured housing involving tech giants which is drawing significant regulatory and public interest illustrates that point. Furthermore, some may innocently find themselves working for an organization or business that was once largely ethical and is later ‘taken over’ by unethical actors.
To illustrate those points, we previously reported at length on the Manufactured Housing Institute’s (MHI) former President and CEO, Chris Stinebert with the quote found from the report linked. MHLivingNews has been told that non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) are signed by MHI staff. So when you think about the careful wording of Stinebert’s ‘farewell’ message, it can easily be understood as not only good advice to MHI members but also a warning about how MHI had evolved into something arguably problematic. As a Democratic U.S. House of Representatives staffer told MHLivingNews in the summer of 2019, ‘MHI has a reputation for being anti-consumer.’ Ouch, but that is what it is. That staffer’s comment was not solicited, it was offered when MHI’s name was mentioned during a discussion of industry issues.
Frankly, in an era of the increasingly understood phenomenon of ‘fake news,’ it is not that hard to get people to say whatever you want if they think something is in it for them. Therefore, we strive to show as much third-party research as is reasonably possible, precisely to make the point that the insights found here are legitimate and not merely hollow or empty claims.
We could publish very short articles on MHLivingNews if all we wanted to do is make a bunch of unsubstantiated claims, allegations or propaganda. By contrast, providing evidence takes time. Understanding that evidence takes time and thought on the part of readers. But in our view, both efforts – yours as readers, and ours as publishers – are worth it when the facts are communicated as accurately as possible and it is properly understood by discerning readers.
The upshot of what Tom Hardiman the executive director of the Modular Home Builders Association (MHBA) did is publicly blast the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) for what he a “deceptive” practice. It involves the Clayton Homes and their key MHI allies backed “CrossModTM homes” project. That is the name used by MHI and trademarked by them for what they called for about two years a “new class of manufactured homes.”
Our trade media warned readers from early – starting about 2 years ago – that this MHI plan was a “Trojan Horse” for honest manufactured housing independents; but would also logically harm millions of manufactured homeowners too. That logic is similar to the reasoning now set forth by MHBA’s Hardiman.
What follows isn’t courtroom level proof, but it is sufficient evidence that those who understand basic supply, demand and related financial issues would quickly grasp and could agree with the reasoning.
Let’s set the table and sum up what will follow, and then share the quotes from not only Tom Hardiman, but others in the manufactured home industry.
- The Urban Institute, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and the Federal Housing Finance Agency all published research in 2018 that indicates that a manufactured home can grow or ‘appreciate’ in value. That echoes earlier university level research commissioned by the federal government – a HUD PD&R – that stated similar facts which demonstrated that manufactured homes and conventional housing appreciated side-by-side. That HUD PD&R research is found at the link here.
- That should all be good news for manufactured homeowners and shoppers. But the news could and should be better. We’ll explain how. But let’s note for now what many are already aware of, that those ‘black hat’ operations in the industry often seem to get more attention than the white hat types do. Bad news travels fast, they say, and there are reasons to believe that some in manufactured housing deliberately foster bad news, with an aim to depress the industry. Why would someone do that? It’s a fair question, and the answer is troubling but logical for someone with a devious mind. If you have deep pockets and can depress the industry, then the value of existing businesses is reduced. That reduced value allows consolidators to acquire other businesses at a discount. In several ways, that type of marketing manipulating behavior may be illegal, as the report linked here makes the case. Examples of stirring up bad news are linked here and here. Examples of resident groups and third-party media documenting that this can have connections to nonprofits with connections to Warren Buffett’s “donations,” or Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway owned brands and/or MHI member companies – see the viral John Oliver view here – are linked as shown.
What follows will be a series of quotes from a variety of sources, including MHBA’s Tom Hardiman, but also from others inside of the manufactured housing industry.
These quotes will all tend to do two things that MHLivingNews has previously documented. They will reflect the fact that many issues that face renters and others who want an affordable manufactured home could be solved by applying existing laws.
However, as the reports above and below detail, efforts by MHI ‘insiders’ have arguably undermined the interests of both renters and manufactured homeowners. That has ripple effects that also harm the interests of current conventional housing owners, governments at all levels and taxpayers. It should go without saying that when the system is being manipulated, it is because someone thinks they are benefiting, while others are being harmed.
Let’s start with a longer quote from MHBA’s Hardiman 2.7.2020 public statement.
Consider that in the light of this quote previously cited by MHLivingNews, shown below. The Urban Institute agrees manufactured homes appreciate, but they say it can be at a lower rate than conventional housing. But why is that so? Per the Urban Institute, it is because there is less financing options. Why are there fewer financing options? Per numerous voices in manufactured housing, it is because Berkshire Hathaway owned Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders which ‘dominates’ MHI has ‘rigged the system’ to limit what FHFA, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA Title I and other federally backed loan programs do. That, says Mark Weiss from MHARR, makes Berkshire lenders more money.
Now, let’s go back to Hardiman’s concerns.
These two pull quotes above and below from the MHBA will make critical points.
Note that the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) president and CEO, Mark Weiss, J.D., has stressed the need to properly promote manufactured housing and to press for the full implementation of the Duty to Serve manufactured housing mandated by law for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Imagine, more than a decade has passed since the Duty to Serve became law, and it is still not being properly enforced. Perhaps Green Courte Partners, an MHI member company, chairman sincerely believed what he said in the interview quoted below. But over 6 years later, surely there must be doubts about either MHI’s sincereity or effectiveness?
Then, ponder this statement by Pennsylvania Manufactured Housing Association (PMHA) executive Mary Gaiski. Her comment was quoted in McCalls on 2.7.2020. When asked, she didn’t deny or correct the comment.
Why does that matter? Because it is a reflection on growing resistance to manufactured homes by local jurisdictions. Gaiski isn’t alone in that concern, as MHLivingNews has previously cited factory-built homeowner, the Rev. Donald Tye Jr., and others who promote a full and proper implementation of existing federal laws.
There is no reason to be surprised that with MHI’s problematic behavior – which they claim is helping, but the objective data reflects is harmful – that new manufactured home production and shipments are going down instead of up. That too is bad news for current manufactured home owners, as well as independent businesses and investors, as the report that follows explain.
The upshot is this. As MHLivingNews has repeatedly reported, there is a growing body of evidence that key members of the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) are routinely behind the problematic and often potentially illegal behavior that has caused several state and federal investigations.
Resident leader Bob Van Cleef is among those who have joined the call for Congress to investigate, see reports linked above and below.
When the respectful rival of manufactured homes – the modular home builders association leader Hardiman – calls on MHI to stop this practice, for our own reasons, we strongly concur. Hardiman’s interests are distinctive. But they dovetail with that of manufactured homeowners, affordable housing advocates, and informed white hats in manufactured housing to this extent. He’s 100 percent correct that the solution that MHI is avoiding is to properly educate and promote to the public and officials the truth about manufactured homes. As he says, be proud and “own it.”
Instead, what MHI and key members have done is arguably harm the interests of manufactured homeowners. See what the Zillow data below said.
- When interest in manufactured homes declines,
- when financing options in manufactured homes are limited,
- when placement and zoning options are hampered, that may benefit a few deep pocket companies, but it harms the vast majority of the population.
That’s the deductive logic of Hardiman, the Urban Institute, MHLivingNews editorially and that of other experts that have considered parallel issues.
MHLivingNews believes that years of corruption at MHI – which arguably includes specific federal officials at HUD, FHFA and possibly other federal bodies – is bad for literally tens of millions of Americans.
Part of the solution is to press public officials at the state and federal level to investigate the evidence of alleged corruption. That should be done via public hearings by lawmakers involved in oversight and through investigations at the state and federal levels.
Even a single person in each state could make a proper complaint. If you own a manufactured home, you should consider making a formal complaint to public officials. But far better than one, is if you have other friends that also own a manufactured home, have them read this report. Then, organize several like-minded voices and speak up to public officials in unison. The squeeky wheel often gets attention.
To learn more, first sign up for our free emailed updates.
Then, feel free to contact our publisher via the link here. Be prepared to properly identify yourself, have your email address handy, and to be ready to take notes during a phone call. We stay busy, but are willing to help get homeowners started on the path to solving these issues. The solution in a sense is easy. Ask public officials to do their jobs by investigating and enforcing existing laws.
Manufactured housing is not a partisan issue. Both major parties were part of the passage of key legislation supporting manufactured housing. Research by members of both major parties make it clear that manufactured homes are a good option for affordable housing, just as MHBA’s Hardiman and others have said. Indeed, MHLivingNews and our MHProNews sister site have long said that all forms of factory building have specific advantages in various circumstances. Each type of ‘off site building’ serves an important role.
But 2020 is an election year. Whomever you tend to favor during voting in some ways doesn’t matter when it comes to manufactured housing; why? Again, because both major parties have supported manufactured homes as necessary for the affordable housing solution. HUD Secretary Ben Carson and his predecessors have too.
Several items linked and noted are arguably “deceptive,” as Hardiman put it.
Deceptive trade practices, antitrust violations, market manipulation, false statements under oath – these and more can be state and/or federal offenses. Sadly, all too often when the rich and well connected cross legal lines, they may get a pass or a wink and a nod. But the case of Bernie Madoff, one time billionaire who was proven to be a con man, proves that even the rich and powerful can be brought to justice. The challenge is that those behind MHI are companies with deep pockets that are politically connected. The good news is that 2020 is an election year. If people of good will make this an issue for various campaigns, then the odds of breaking up this purported corruption of manufactured housing homeowner’s interests increases.
There are years of problematic news reports that involve key MHI members, including, but not limited to, Clayton Homes and their affiliated lenders. Nothing will change until it is challenged.
Current manufactured homeowners, renters, and all other people of good will should dig into the facts shown to understand why this topic matters to the nation. There are good reasons why presidential candidates from both of the major parties have been campaigning in manufactured home communities.
A few big boys benefit while the many are harmed.
To learn more, see the related reports. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (Mobile and Manufactured Home Lifestyle News, news, commentary, fact-checks and analysis.)
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Soheyla Kovach co-founder of MHLivingNews, (pronounced like Co-Vatch like a watch with a V) and is a managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC parent company to this platform and MHProNews.
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