Once Again: ‘And Now There Are Four, Maybe Five…’

Blog # 519 revised @ 4 February; Copyright 2019; www.educatemhc.com
Perspective. ‘Land lease communities, previously manufactured home communities, and earlier, ‘mobile home parks’, comprise the real estate component of manufactured housing.’

This blog posting is sole national advocate, official ombudsman, historian, research reporter, education resource & online communication media for North American land lease communities

To input this blog, &/or affiliate with EducateMHC, formerly Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, or COBA7, use Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

Motto: ‘U Support US & WE Serve U!” And, goal for online media? To inform, opine, and help transform and improve manufactured housing and land lease community performance!

INTRODUCTION: This week’s blog posting probably does not need an introduction, as it ‘speaks for itself’, profiling ‘four, no make it five’ national advocates for manufactured housing and land lease communities. Don’t think this has been done before, so is likely a ‘keeper’ for future professional reference where investors, employees, and peers are concerned.

This time around however, I’ve effected a few minor edits to make the blog more readable. So am sending it out for a second time, as so many ‘friends in the business’ asked me to do so. GFA

I.

And Now There Are Four, Maybe Five…

The Increasing Number, Evolving Nature, & Varied Efficacy of National Manufactured Housing Advocacy

In 1975 there was one. By 1985there were two, as a new manufactured housing advocacy entity splintered from the first. Then, between 1993 & 1996, a subgroup of the first entity emerged to ostensibly represent (then) manufactured home communities nationwide. In 2014, a ‘for profit’ alliance ensured ongoing national statistical research, print & online communication, interpersonal networking, and professional property management training & certification for (now) land lease community owners/operators. And during 2018, a new national lobbing group launched out West, to position a dedicated lobbyist, for the realty asset class alone, in Washington, DC.

So, do you think you know who all these folk are? Well, let’s see….

Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’), birthed during 1975, absorbed the National Manufactured Housing Federation – of state associations (‘NMHF’) in 1991. Today, MHI claims to represent all sectors of the factory-built housing industry from its’ offices in Arlington, VA. Majority of its’ income is from HUD-Code housing manufacturer sector members. Visit mhi.org to learn more.

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’), to better effect regulatory reforms, splintered from MHI during 1985, under the founding leadership of now retired Danny Ghorbani. Its’ membership, to this day, is comprised solely of HUD-Code housing manufacturers, and some state associations. And in the minds of many, MHARR faithfully serves as manufactured housing’s ‘regulatory watchdog’ in “Washington, DC. Visit mharr.org to learn more.

In 1993, just ahead of the manufactured home community REIT wavelet, 19 property portfolio owners/operators met and formed an Industry Steering Committee (‘ISC’) to better represent their business interests on the national scene. Three years later, MHI absorbed the ad hoc group, forming the National Communities Council (‘NCC’) – later to become a division of MHI. Enthusiasm was high, early on. But as time passed, and given the decline of novel programs like the Community Attributes System (‘CAS’), and perennial internal issues, the NCC’s presence, in this observer’s opinion, waned, and attendance at meetings declined. Read an interesting history of the first two decades of the NCC, in Bruce Savage’s The First 20 Years! – available at www.educatemhc.com

Fast forward to 2018. During that year, several western states, frustrated over what they viewed as inadequate national lobbying in behalf of land lease community owners/operators, large and small, nationwide, formed the National Association of Manufactured Housing Communities (‘NAMHCO’). To date, a Washington, DC. based lobbyist has been hired and is ‘making waves’ already, as the group grows in membership and influence.

During most of this time, from year 1980 forward, there was a ‘for profit’ outlier, in Indianapolis, IN., working alongside the not-for-profit trade entities just profiled. Originally, GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing, a COBA7 division (‘Community Owners – 7 Part – Business Alliance’) materialized in early 2014, to serve land lease community owners/operators statistical research, print & online communication, networking & deal-making, as well as professional property management training & Certification needs. Now, in 2019, all this has undergone major change, transitioning from a print presence to 100% digital platform, under the guidance of EducateMHC. So, for land lease community products and services, via this ‘for profit’ presence as a national manufactured housing advocate, visit www.educatemhc.com

So, there you have an overview of four to five national advocates for manufactured housing in general, three of which focus on land lease communities in particular. Now, let’s take a closer, albeit subjective, look at each entity and how they’re perceived, by some, today….

But first, a general and important observation. In the 1980s and early 1990s, when there were two national advocacy bodies, MHI & MHARR, representing HUD-Code manufactured housing – in different ways (e.g. regulatory cooperation versus resistance), federal legislators and regulators were wont to play one entity off against the other, when pressed to legislate or regulate in regards to manufactured housing. So, this contretemps (‘embarrassing situation’), or evergreen issue, is not a new challenge to the industry, but one that continues to this day.

Manufactured Housing Institute. Some pundits say, ‘If there was no MHI there would not be a manufactured housing industry!’ Likely a lot of truth to that, as no other national advocacy entity comes close to representing ALL segments of that specific type factory-built housing. And there’s the first ‘rub’. If one accepts Don Carlson’s (publisher of now defunct Automated Builder magazine) description of factory- built housing, as comprised of 1) production site builders (i.e. stick builders using factory-fabricated components like roof trusses and pre-hung door and window units), 2) panelizers, 3) HUD-Code manufactured housing, and 4) modular homes; well, where does MHI fit into the ‘production site builder’ and ‘panelizer’ representation picture? It doesn’t. MHI also claims to represent the modular housing folk, but to a far smaller degree, than manufactured housing, given a minimal website presence. And there’s the institute’s questionable practice of reporting new home monthly shipment volumes, researched and published by HUD’s contractor, the Institute for Building Technology & Safety (‘IBTS’), differently from HUD itself, MHARR,NAMHCO, COBA7 – and now, EducateMHC.*1

Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform. Until the manufactured housing industry’s nadir year 2009, when only 49,789+/- new HUD-Code homes were shipped, MHARR’s focus was solely on regulatory matters pertaining to their core membership, mostly regional manufacturers of HUD-Code homes!*2 Since then, the association’s political and industry interest has broadened to include chattel capital sourcing for new HUD-Code homes going into land lease communities; and, the unique, income-producing property type itself. Additionally, MHARR has become known for its’ overt support of the creation of a new national trade body to, in their opinion, better represent post production business enterprises. And while this has yet to occur, some credit said encouragement as a catalyst speeding the emergence of aforementioned NHAMHCO.

National Communities Council division of the Manufactured Housing Institute. There is no separate MHI/NCC web site dedicated to the information needs of land lease communities, large and small. Over the years (1996 – present day), good ideas have come and gone. An attempt to ‘quality grade’ land lease communities was tabled out of fear of stigmatizing properties based on curb appeal, resident relations, rules enforcement, and other measures. And finally, in this asset class observer’s opinion, contemporary professional property management training and certification do not begin to garner the attention sorely needed, for image improvement, throughout the property type nationwide. So, it’s been no surprise to see other attempts at advocacy, education, and representation materialize in recent years.

National Association of Manufactured Housing Communities. Too early to say much about this new arrival on the national advocacy scene. However, some find it confusing to refer to ‘manufactured housing communities’ in the entity name, when manufactured home community has been di rigour since 1994, upon publication of J.Wiley & sons’ texts, Development, Marketing & Operation of Manufactured Home Communities, and How to Find, Buy, Manage & Sell a Manufactured Home Community. And of late, given that as many as six, some say seven, types of shelter can be found on-site in this unique, income-property type, makes for a good case for ‘land lease community’ as trade moniker of choice. *3

Community Owners (7 Part) Business Alliance, as of January 2019, has been absorbed by EducateMHC, a for profit firm, to continue the research, preparation, and distribution, via digital means, of products and services available from GFA Management, Inc., dba PMN Publishing, since 1980. *4

So, where does manufactured housing national advocacy go from here? Hard to tell. While everyone is enjoying the gradually increasing new home shipment volume, land lease community owners/operators have known, for a decade, they must control their own destinies – no longer relying on independent (street) MH Retailers and ‘company stores’ to fill vacant rental home sites! Yes, there’s ongoing need for overall industry representation by MHI, regulatory oversight by MHARR, advocacy by the NCC, lobbying by NAMHCO, and availability of seven categories of products and services available via COBA7 cum EducateMHC. What we don’t need now, frankly, is yet another national trade association.

And I’d be remiss here, if I didn’t make at least passing mention of major, ongoing consequences, resulting from sweeping ‘consolidations’ among HUD-Code housing manufacturers and land lease community owners/operators, where national and state advocacy is concerned! When an industry evolves, from dozens of housing manufacturers, to just ‘Big Three C firms’ controlling 80+/-% of national market share, expect political power ‘among those few’ to be concentrated on at the very top of the national advocacy pyramid. Much the same can be said about consolidation of land lease communities into 500+/- property portfolios. Early on, there were thousands of ‘Mom & Pop’ property owners actively engaged in state legislative affairs, today there are far too few, as major portfolio ‘players’ opt to not encourage on-site property managers to participate in local (state association) matters! Yes, manufacturer presence and power are very evident on the national level, while state and local participation goes begging, suffering benign neglect – until a major issue (e.g. pending landlord-tenant legislation) sounds an alarm and stimulates action.

In this industry observer’s opinion, while manufactured housing and land lease community national advocacy have increased in entity representation, and evolved in purpose and nature, they continue to struggle achieving efficacy in day to day application. Every businessperson involved in this industry and realty asset class today, should actively support their state association, and the national trade body they feel best represents their particular interests!

And there’s one more emerging, albeit increasingly major, ‘evergreen’ issue encouraging far better national representation and advocacy. That is, solving the ‘affordable housing’ crisis in the U.S. today! For the first time, during years 2017 & 2018*5, in my 40 years in manufactured housing, ‘housers’ (national housing policymakers) are actively investigating the role manufactured housing, and yes, land lease communities, might play in providing truly affordable, non-subsidized, energy efficient housing throughout this country. What’s amazing, to me, is how little these folk know about factory-built housing and its’ advantages. This is a major challenge right now, and in the immediate future, for all four-to-five national advocates. Are MHI, MHARR, NAMHCO, NCC, and EducateMHC up to the task? We’d better hope so! GFA

End Notes

1. IBTS reports a monthly total of new manufactured housing units shipped, including a varying number of DESTINATION PENDING 9’DP’) homes. MHI deducts the number of DP units from IBTS published total, but adds back in DP units from the previous month – assuming all have been shipped to specific locations. According to IBTS this is not a valid assumption, as there is no follow-up accounting for DP units, and it’s common for such accounting to be resolved only after a plant shutters, and remaining inventory is reported to IBTS.

2. MHARR does not publish a list of its’ member firms.

3. Mobile homes, manufactured homes, modular homes, park model RVs, ’RVs for a season’, stick-built homes fabricated on-site to imitate manufactured homes, and now ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) like Tiny houses.

4. Including the 30th anniversary ALLEN REPORT, monthly Allen Letter and the Allen CONFIDENTIAL! Publications, as well as the soon to be released ‘21st annual National Registry of ALL Lenders Serving Manufactured Housing & Land Lease Communities’. To purchase, visit www.educatemhc.com

5. National Housing conferences, in Washington, DC., initially challenged housing aficionados to come up with a workable definition for affordable housing. That’s been done. Today’s challenge is to educate ‘housers’ as to the practicalities of manufactured housing & land lease communities. Are you interested in helping? Contact gfa7156@aol.com

George Allen, CPM Emeritus, MHM Master
EducateMHC
Official MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764

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