Archive for May 8th, 2010

Comparing MHARR & MHI Views of MHCC mtg.

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

MHCC Meeting Summaries Present Opportunity to Juxtapose MHARR & MHI Views on Critical & Timely MHIndustry Issues!
&
Predict Future of the HUD Code Manufactured Housing Idustry!

If, like me, you were unable to attend the April 2010 meeting of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (‘MHCC’), in Tulsa, OK, know the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) & Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’) published summaries of said event. And there the (perverse form of) ‘fun’ begins….

I

MHI’s introductory paragraph describing the MHCC meeting. ‘The MHCC met…to discuss a full agenda of proposed changes to the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards. Susan Brenton…chaired the meeting. Elizabeth Cocke…served as the Designated Federal Official (‘DFO’). Teresa Payne…was introduced….Nineteen of the 22 voting members, including all but one of the producer members of the committee, were in attendance.’

MHARR’s introduction follows this title: ‘MHCC at brink of destruction as HUD attempts to Render it Irrelevant’. So, ‘The cumulative impact of years of mismanagement of the HUD manufactured housing program, under its prior leadership, was on full display as the MHCC met….Building on a series of actions initiated and advanced by HUD during the past several years, the role, authority, functionality and independence of the MHCC has…been replaced by de facto HUD domination, in procedure and substance.’ (Lightly edited. GFA) How so? Read on….

II

MHI’s commentary regarding MHCC By Laws Changes. ‘Ms. Cocke reported HUD’s changes to the bylaws of the MHCC, based on the advice of the General Services Administration (‘GSA’). Key changes…provide for exclusion of industry trade association representatives to serve on the MHCC, and clarification on HUD’s authority to issue interpretative bulletins and changes to the MHCCs. DFO also announced HUD will be making changes to the MHCC subcommittees and task forces, to ensure balanced representation, and reduce the number of participants, as the current committee structure has become unworkable.’

‘New bylaws give HUD discretion to set the agenda for MHCC meetings, but the Department will certainly consult with the MHCC chair and other committee members. Nothing in the new bylaws prohibits the MHCC from continuing to bring forth recommendations and proposals it feels are important.’ Following two sentences confirm status quo of MHCC statutory role regarding responsibilities, and recommendations.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE. After reading paragraph number nine (9) following, reread previous two paragraphs (above); then, critically reflect on how such liberty cum subjugation, by federal regulators, now affects – and eventually cripples, the manufactured housing industry as we know it today! GFA

MHARR’s commentary regarding MHCC By Laws Changes consists of nine paragraphs addressing specific aspects of HUD’s forced changes to the bylaws. Following material necessarily abbreviated, but important and timely to read nonetheless! Again, pay close attention to content of paragraph number nine (9).

1. Severe restrictions on the role and authority of the MHCC. ‘HUD, through an Interpretive Rule issued by former program management, without opportunity for public comment, has stripped MHCC of much of its’ statutory role and authority, by placing off – limits, from MHCC review and comment, a myriad of Agency interpretations and decisions affecting the standards and their enforcement that directly impact the industry and consumers.’ And there’s more following….

2. Exclusion and censorship of collective industry representatives.’ With no collective industry voting representative on the MHCC, industry organization personnel (i.e. MHI & MHARR executives) were barred from posing questions or raising points during Committee debate, by a ruling of the…DFO at the meeting. This censorship allows HUD to place its’ views and opinions before the MHCC, while effectively silencing other collective viewpoints and perspectives.’ And there’s more following….

3. HUD control of MHCC agenda. ‘HUD has taken complete control of the agenda for all MHCC meetings. HUD itself can determine which matters and proposals will be brought before the MHCC and what subjects can even be discussed by the committee.’

4. HUD control of MHCC schedule and update cycle. HUD has taken control of prioritization of proposals before the Committee. Previously, the MHCC decided how to prioritize proposals received from HUD, or the public….And there’s more following….

5. HUD control of MHCC subcommittees. ‘…HUD has taken control of the membership of MHCC subcommittees. Since it was established, the MHCC has allowed interested non – MHCC members to participate in – and vote as – members of its various subcommittees, where much of the Committee’s actual work is accomplished. HUD…has given itself veto power over appointment of individual subcommittee members (allowing it) to skew membership to particular members, and viewpoints it favors.’ (Lightly edited. GFA)

6. HUD control of subcommittee referrals. ‘HUD has taken over assignment of proposed revisions of standards and enforcement regulations to specific MHCC subcommittees.’ And there’s more following….

7. Manipulation of MHCC appointments. Politically – motivated appointments to the MHCC, during the past several years, have skewed the balance of the Committee with special interest advocates, who don’t appear to share the broader interest of mainstream manufactured housing consumers in affordably – priced, non – subsidized home ownership.’ (In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve applied for appointment to the MHCC continually since year 2000, but for naught. GFA)

8. Mischaracterization of the role and authority of the MHCC. ‘HUD declared, at the Tulsa meeting, the only role of the MHCC is as an ‘advisory committee’ to respond to specific HUD proposals. This contradicts and skews the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 reform law, authorizing MHCC to develop its’ own proposed standards, regulations and interpretations….’

9. Mischaracterization of GSA ‘Requirements’ vs. ‘Guidelines’. ‘After attempting to justify HUD domination of the MHCC to ‘requirements’ of the General Services Administration (‘GSA’), which is generally responsible for federal advisory committees, under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the HUD DFO later acknowledged certain points had been ‘overstated’, and GSA ‘requirements’ are, in fact, only ‘guidelines.’ However, none of the negative rulings (i.e. described in previous paragraphs) of the HUD DFO were retracted. (It’s at this point you should go back and reread the first two paragraphs of Part II of this blog posting, and critically reflect….)

MHARR concludes their remarks about this startling manipulation of the MHCC, concluding with this dire prediction: ‘Now that HUD has degraded the role, authority, functionality and independence of the MHCC, and has stacked the Committee against the industry and mainstream consumers, it will attempt to force as many costly and damaging proposals through the MHCC as possible. HUD indicated proposed rules will be published in rapid sequence this Summer, on a number of major pending matters, some of which do not have the consensus approval of the MHCC.’

III

MHI’s commentary on specific MHIndustry issues, beginning with fire sprinklers.
‘HUD, in an effort to protect the preemptive nature of the HUD code, proposed a ‘where required’ standard for fire sprinklers, based on the NFPA 13d fire sprinkler code. The MHCC voted to refer the proposal to its’ Technical Systems subcommittee. MHI’s Technical Activities Committee is working on its’ own proposal to present to the MHCC and HUD.’

MHARR’s commentary on fire sprinklers. ‘MHARR opposes the HUD – proposed federal fire sprinkler standard on multiple grounds and urges the MHCC to reject the proposal.’

NOTE. Since one of the distinguishing hallmarks of the Manufactured Housing Construction and Safety Standards Act is federal preemption from local building codes, e.g. requiring water sprinklers in private residences, Why is this a matter of discussion at all? Reads like ‘opening the door’ to other local building code mandates. GFA

MHI and MHARR, as far as this industry observer could see, hold similar views relative to other proposals at the MHCC meeting, including:

• Vent exhaust outlets
• Entertainment outlet receptacles
• Fireplace venting/crawlspace ventilation
• Ground anchor assembly testing protocol
• Tamper resistant receptacle outlets
• Tankless water heaters
• Tie down systems
• Vented space heaters

Want copies of the two documents from which these proceedings have been quoted? Call MHARR @ (202 783-4087 & request ‘Report & Analysis’ dated 3 May 2010. Phone MHI @ (703) 558-0678 to request ‘Summary of the MHCC Meeting’, dated 5 May 2010.

IV

Is there a bottom line to the confusing, heavy – handed, internecine code interpretations and actions described in this blog posting, occurring between manufactured housing’s two national advocacy organizations, with the consort of a federal regulatory body – masterful at manipulating expectations of, and consequences to, both trade organizations, as well as our industry as a whole?

YES, and ‘internecine’ is the very word best describing said consequence, considering it means: ‘accompanied by mutual slaughter; extremely destructive’. Friend in the MHBusiness: WE ARE THERE! First, we must get our own house in order. Then…

The very agency, apparently maneuvering and manipulating the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (Agree or disagree?) – and by extension, the entire manufactured housing industry, has done little during it’s 35 plus years of regulatory oversight, to ever actively promote this most honestly affordable, non – subsidized, high quality, energy efficient, eminently transportable, and ‘very green’ type factory – built housing to the American home – buying public! That’s gotta change if we’re to survive as an industry! HUD, are you paying attention?

Remember the message of the Manufactured Housing Manifesto, published a few months ago on this website: ‘If we, as an industry, don’t get beyond what some call a Grand Conspiracy (To put us all out of business!), or what others refer to as our industry’s Near Perfect Storm; given the percentage rate of shipment decline between years 2008 & 2009 alone, we will ship only 250 new HUD Code homes come year 2020…that’s only 10 years away, the same time period between beginning the new Millennium and now, when in 1998 we shipped 372,843 homes – but during all of 2009, only 49,789 new homes!

Anyone at MHARR, MHI & HUD listening? Everyone reading this blog posting should surely hope so! And YOU can prompt them to listen, by copying and forwarding this sobering message to everyone you with whom you connect in these three bodies!

As always, your reaction to, critique of, and recommendations for, this weekly blog, are sincerely appreciated. Respond directly hereto, via MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD – HSNG or 633-4764 or gfa7156@aol.com.

Frankly, many of you do read and comment directly to me every week. In the previous paragraphs, you’ve been given a pretty good feel for perspectives expressed by MHARR and MHI, indirectly by HUD, and this industry observer. How ‘bout a fifth, alternative view’, added to this mix? Following commentary is quoted from an email received from a recent former factory – built housing manufacturing executive, on April 27th, the day before the above – referenced MHCC meeting was held in Tulsa, OK:

“MHI and MHARR are completely and totally lost in the mire of government bureaucracy. To help – which they do not now – they must get off HUD and get after marketing and financing our products! Until we have economic power, we are just a bunch of whiners. (We need to become) a viable option to NAHB’s huge leadership.”

Rejoinder? I’m certain MHI and MHARR would reply, that HUD’s adding of regulations (Think’ fire sprinklers’, for starters) add cost to our affordable housing product. And HUD would relish increased freedom to regulate even more. But how ‘bout if all three parties, for the first time, would begin working together to actively and effectively market our unique housing product, to grow that economic power through larger market share!

What are YOU, beginning today, going to do about this manufactured housing situation?

Here’s just one possibility. HUD Code home manufacturers continue to contact me regarding scheduling and hosting a third NSAC caucus – like national event, to address some of the very same issues, big and small, described throughout this blog posting. If YOU are a HUD Code manufacturer, and haven’t contacted me yet with your support for a focused, limited participation, strategic national event, please do so ASAP. Need a dozen bona fide ‘players’ to pull this off, and we’re not there yet. It’s your future; what are you going to do ‘outside the (trade association) box’ to seek, and hopefully identify, creative yet practical solutions – even ‘cutting edge solutions’ to the heady – if – not – survival – challenges we all face today?

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FYI: Sale of Manufactured Housing $$$ Primer continues to be brisk! If you don’t have your copy yet, phone (317) 346-7156 or order via this website @ only $29.95 (postpaid).

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Mark your calendar! If a landlease community owner/operator, plan now to attend the 19th annual International Networking Roundtable on 15 – 17 September 2010, likely in Phoenix, AZ. As this is a ‘By Invitation Only’ affair for LLCommunity ‘players’ from throughout the U.S. and Canada, call (317) 346-7156 to ensure your name (Real estate and chattel lenders Welcome as well!) is on the invitee list – and request a FREE reprint describing what occurred at last year’s Roundtable in Chicago, IL. The Roundtable is manufactured housing’s stellar annual event, combining three major activities: stellar interpersonal Networking among peers; 24 stimulating, timely Topics covered by as many presenters and panels; and the only LLCommunity Deal – making Event all year long! Attendance limited to 200, so don’t be left out this year!

*****

George Allen, Realtor®, CPM Emeritus®, MHM’ Box # 47024
Consultant to the Factory – built Housing Industry & Indianapolis, IN. 46247
The Landlease Community Real Estate Asset Class (317) 346-7156

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Postscript: Response to last week’s blog, describing formation of an informal national CONSORTIUM of Print and Online Manufactured Housing – related Trade Publications and Media, was strong and motivating, especially considering The Grissim Report announced the day following, it was ceasing publication. Those subscribers were afforded an opportunity to ‘receive out’ their subscriptions, with monthly issues of the Allen Letter professional journal. To date, most have taken advantage of said offer. Point in telling you all this? Manufactured housing’s print and online publications continue to dwindle in number, so actively support those of us who remain! Next meeting of the CONSORTIUM will be in Washington, DC, mid July, during MHI’s Summer meeting.