Archive for November 20th, 2020

‘MHIckey & MHARRio’

Friday, November 20th, 2020

Blog Posting # 613 @ 20 Nov 2020; Copyright 2020: Educatemhc

Perspective. ‘Land lease communities, previously manufactured home communities, and earlier, ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing!’

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INTRODUCTION: Recognize MHIckey & MHARRio from blogs past? I use these two ‘play on words’ creations to demonstrate how closely the trade advocacy entities are related in the manufactured housing industry and the minds of those of us who career there.

I.

‘MHIckey & MHARRio’

Musings. I’ve known of the Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) since entering the manufactured housing business in 1978. Didn’t really pay much attention to it, however, until 1980, when Carolyn and I launched GFA Management, Inc., as a fee management firm. And the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’)? While not present at the ‘big split’ in 1985, when Danny Ghorbani left MHI to help found MHARR, I was certainly aware of the proceedings.

It was shortly thereafter, in 1988, I began, what’s turned out to be, my perennial on again – off again tete-a-tete, with whoever ran MHI at the time. To that end, I’ve lived and worked through no less than a half dozen MHI executive vice presidents since 1990. MHARR, in contrast, performed its’ yeoman work, in behalf of manufactured housing, under the leadership of its’ founding exec, until a few years ago when he retired.

What happened in 1988 that ‘set the tone and tenor’ of my ongoing relationship with MHI? After penning articles for the Manufactured Home Merchandiser, and Ask George column in The Journal, I pulled the published material together in the first book on professional community management in two decades! The self-published, perfect bound book was titled, Mobile Home Park Management. And here’s where ‘the rub’ began. As a Certified Property Manager (‘CPM’) member of the Institute of Real Estate Management (‘IREM’), I planned to imitate that certification with one of my own – for mobile home park owners and managers.

It was at that very time, MHI decided to launch the Accredited Community Manager (‘ACM’) certification program – and asked me to hold off starting the Manufactured Housing Manager (‘MHM’) certification program. In the interest of being a ‘team player’, I agreed, even helping Craig White, ACM, pen the first of three ACM lesson plans, then teaching a 101 session with him in Portland, OR. *1

Point? As a new small business owner in the manufactured housing arena, I wanted to ‘get along with everyone’. But my first Lesson Learned was, this would be possible, only as long as I followed the lead of the institute’s elected and salaried leaders at the time – albeit they and their foci changed every couple years.

Things went smoothly enough for ten years. Then I learned, after asking pointed questions, there’d been barely 100 new ACMs designated during that period of time! Not a sign of program success. At that point, I dusted off the MHM program, and to their chagrin, started teaching it myself, from coast to coast and throughout Canada. Today there’re nearly 1,500 MHMs owning/operating land lease communities. MHARR has and had no such program.

Then an organizational hiccup occurred, between years 1993 and 1996. This was a pre-REIT (real estate investment trust) effort to ensure effective national advocacy for land lease community owners/operators (though, at the time, we were still talking ‘manufactured home communities’), once several of the large portfolio firms ‘went public’ in 1994. The Industry Steering Committee (‘ISC’), formed in 1993, evolved into the National Communities Council, effective 1 January 1996, under the leadership of Jim Ayotte. This whole scenario is documented in Bruce Savage’s book, The First 20 Years!, available via www.educatemhc.com

At the turn of the century, the manufactured housing industry and land lease community real estate asset class began the 20+ year paradigm shift that’d see, given the loss of easy access to chattel capital, the bulk of new home sales move, eventually, from independent (street) MHRetailers, to being effected within land lease communities. Everyone was ‘hustling’ at the time, as the annual new home shipment volume dropped from 372,943 in 1998 to 48,789 by year end 2009. MHI and MHARR, in my opinion, had no answers or solutions to this seven fold decline in shipments. According to MHI, at the time, more than 10,000 MHRetailers went out of business; and land lease community owners/operators realized they’d have to become their own saviors if they were to survive. This realization led to the debut of Community Series Homes in 2009. Result? In 2009, only 24 percent of new HUD-Code homes were shipped into this property type nationwide. By year 2014 the percentage increased to 40+/-!*2

And there was – and continues to be, CONSOLIDATION – on two fronts. There were 25 major housing manufacturers shipping new homes in 1977. Leading that group was Skyline Corp. at #1, followed by Fleetwood Enterprises (now part of CAVCO Ind.), then Champion Home Builders. The next 22 firms have all been consolidated into others or gone out of business – except for Commodore Corp. of VA (presumably same one as in Goshen, IN. today). Clayton Homes is not on that 43 year old list. Today, we generally talk of two groups of HUD-Code housing manufacturers, the ‘Big 3-C’ firm members of MHI (i.e. Clayton Homes, Skyline-Champion, and CAVCO Industries), plus a few smaller firms. And the smaller, relatively few regional ‘players’ who align with and support MHARR. *3

The other CONSOLIDATION front? Land lease communities nationwide. Back in 1989, when I researched and published the first ALLEN REPORT, there were but 25 known portfolio owners/operators of (then) ‘mobile home parks’. Today, that number has swelled to 500+/-. As the unique, income-producing property type has increased in popularity, among investors, as the Ten Good Reasons for Owning a Land Lease Community became widely known. *4

So, has CONSOLIDATION been good or bad for the manufactured housing industry? I can state only my position, but here goes:

• Where HUD-Code housing manufacturers are concerned, their ‘floor fee $s’ and reduced number presence (i.e. fewer but larger firms as MHI members) has concentrated their influence (and power), in my opinion, at the expense of all other segments of the manufactured housing industry; e.g. lack of proxy voting, patronizing of luxury meeting venues (a.k.a. affluence gerrymandering), etc..*5

• Where land lease communities are concerned, state housing associations have suffered the most, as there are fewer ‘Mom & Pop’ owners to patronize and support education, networking, and political action events. And the relatively recent influx of ‘outside investment $’, and resulting property mismanagement, has created increased turmoil, and once again, raised threats of landlord-tenant legislation, like rent control.

While I’ve seen CONSOLIDATION slow somewhat, during the past few years (i.e. limited number of manufacturers and investment grade communities to acquire and consolidate), it won’t stop altogether. Smaller, regional manufacturers are still easy prey for behemoth firms; and today, portfolio firms are wont to ‘trade’ properties among themselves, rather than – as in the past – rely on real estate brokers to bring prospective sellers to them.

Back to MHIckey & MHARRio. My lowest and highest points as an MHI member? Lowest occurred during the 2011 annual meeting in Austin, TX., in a National Communities Council division gathering, when the chairman called me, and a friend (fellow land lease community owner) sitting next to me, ‘out’ loudly and publicly for opposing what we viewed as too much portfolio control of that group. This happened in front of 70 business associates and was embarrassing. We were given no opportunity at the time, or later, to defend or even explain ourselves. That was the last MHI meeting my friend has ever attended.

High points? Actually, there’ve been two. One, a few years before the sad incident described in the previous paragraph; when MHI honored me as their Industry Person of the Year! And then, in 2018, MHI honored me as their first and only (to date) Emeritus Member!

Today? I’m content with my relationship with MHI and MHARR – though in the latter instance, I am not, nor have I ever been, a member, given their tightly focused mission of ‘regulatory reform’ in behalf of smaller HUD-Code manufacturers. I continue, however, to believe MHI, and by extension, the NCC division, would better serve land lease community owners/operators nationwide, if they’d incorporate some of my/our (now EducateMHC) products and services into their resource repertoire for this real estate asset class.

End Notes
1. Quoted from SWAN SONG, combined history of the realty asset class and official record of new HUD-Code housing shipments from 1955 to the present day. Available for purchase via www.educatemhc.com
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Ibid
5. By way of example, there’s this paragraph, with redactions, from a recent email exchange between MHBusinessmen: “…one of those…thinly veiled trade secrets within MHI. Specifically, as long as the (interrelated) firms you mention – and their leaders in particular (e.g. ______ = chairman of MHI & corporate attorney for __________ ; ________ = past chairman & still influential within MHI & head of __________; and, of course, _________ = ‘everyone’s friend’ & head of __________) reign in Alexandria, VA. (MHI’s headquarters); well, the entire industry and realty asset class will pay a price related to business suppression.”

I.

FHFA 2021 Loan Caps Lower & Restrictive

$ “Volume caps for Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac have been set at $70 billion for each Enterprise, with respect to their purchase of multifamily loans in calendar year 2021. This is a modest proportionate reduction compared to the prior year cap, which was $100 billion during the longer five-quarter period…” *1

But here’s the rub:

“To be counted as mission-driven, affordable housing manufactured housing communities (‘MHCs’), must either be resident/government/nonprofit-owned (think ROCs or resident-owned communities) or must have tenant pad lease protections as outlined in the Duty to Serve (‘DTS’) regulation.”*2 In my opinion, this latter paragraph is misleading, discriminatory, but reacts to predatory business practices (i.e. extreme rent increases) of outside investors whose property loans the GSEs guaranteed during the past couple years. Specifically:

• Affordable housing manufactured housing communities. Where did the FHFA come up with this beaut? They’d have been better off, and easily understood, if they’d opted for ‘affordable land lease communities’. When will they ever learn?

• Discriminatory? So the FHFA believes resident-owned communities are fairer to homeowner/site lessees than privately owned (and REIT) land lease communities. Not always so. Not all residents have invested in the cooperative-owned business structure, and are subject to, some times different, rent rates set by their erstwhile peers.

• Reaction to predatory business practices. Guess we, as a realty asset class, deserve to have ‘tenant pad lease protections’ foisted on us, given the extreme rent increases, and other abuses to homeowner/site lessees, that have occurred during the last couple years.

It pains me to tell you how disappointed I am in recent Press Releases from the FHFA and GSEs (i.e. Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac). Last week you learned here, of the ‘infeasibility requests’, by said GSEs – approved by the FHFA, to backburner the ongoing and dire need for chattel capital, to effect mortgages for home-only loans! And now this week, while not as overtly negative for land lease communities, we see the naiveté GSEs continue to demonstrate relative to the realty asset class – see the three bullet points above. GFA

End Notes.
1. Quoted from MHI’s HOUSING ALERT dated 17 November
2. Ibid

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