Sarah Palin & ManuFractured Housing!

Sarah Palin & ManuFractured Housing

‘When Imitation is not a Sincere Form of Flattery!’

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The Countdown Begins….

Mark Twain, in 1888 wrote, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter – it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Same can be true with placement of two consecutive letters in one word; though in the following example, it’s the stark difference between a compelling personal story and political chicanery.

Manufactured housing pioneer, retailer and community owner Dick Moore of Millington, TN., recently got snookered at an airport bookseller’s kiosk. In search of Sarah Palin’s best selling autobiography Going Rogue, ‘An American Life’, he was surreptitiously sold Going Rouge, ‘An American Nightmare’, authored by two senior editors at The Nation magazine, Richard Kim & Betsy Reed. Dick was not happy.

Palin’s 413 page book is graciously “Dedicated to all Patriots who share my love of the United States of America. And particularly to our women and men in uniform, past and present – God bless the fight for freedom.” And it’s a good, positive read to boot!

The editors, in their 320 page attack, offer no such grateful Dedication, just this description of their target: “…a Christian fundamentalist opposed to the teaching of honest sex education in schools and in favor or teaching creationism alongside evolution, a climate – change – denier and government – basher alarmingly ignorant of the world and totally unprepared to be president.” Are they alarmed by and scared of her? You bet! “…this is a woman with at least nine lives. By our count…she’s still got seven left.” In any event, Going Rouge is an apt example of when ‘Imitation is not a form of flattery’.

Had something akin occur when authoring and self – publishing my first book, Mobile Home Park Management, in 1988. The real estate management trade association to which I paid dues, and to whom I’d submitted the manuscript for publishing consideration, instead came out with their own book on the same subject. The justice?
22 years later, Landlease Community Management, in its’ sixth edition, continues to sell well, and is foundation text for the popular Manufactured Housing Manger (‘MHM’) professional property management training and certification program! The other book? Long out of print.*1

And there’s yet a third example of inglorious imitation; but this time around, with the near tragic result of nearly killing – off an entire industry, until it learned to ‘make (housing production) lemonade out of a (regulatory) lemon’; that is, until recently….

It begins with enthusiastic kudos from the Assistant Secretary for Housing Production & Mortgage Credit of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, (‘HUD’), when speaking to housing manufacturers: “…you set your fourth consecutive annual record, shipping almost 580,000 mobile homes…Your one percent increase in volume during that year stands in start contrast to the 14% drop in single – family, site – built housing starts…I should think (this) indicates a definite trend for the future. Today, mobile homes constitute just about the only true low – cost houses available…which are at the same time decent, safe, sanitary and comfortable.” Sheldon Lubar, March 1974, quoted in ‘A Comparison of Different Dwelling Costs’ Mobile Homes, Housing’s Best Buy, by Carl Edwards, June 1974. (Emphasis added by Edwards)

Well, it didn’t take long for mobile home manufacturing ‘imitators’ schlock product to severely tarnish the present and future reputation of this uniquely American factory – built housing type, to the extent Congress was forced to legislate in behalf of consumers, enacting the infamous HUD Code, effecting implementation during 1976. The same year, Congress mandated changing product’s moniker from ‘mobile homes’ to ‘manufactured housing’. And, as you likely know, the MHIndustry’s annual production was immediately halved to a quarter million homes shipped per year, remaining there for two decades, until experiencing a too brief renascence in 1998 with 372,843 shipments. Today? We’ll be lucky if we can tally 50,000 new HUD Code homes during year 2009.

All this brings us to today, January 2010! Well, guess what? Secretary Lubar’s kudos, relative to true affordability, decency, safety, and comfort of HUD Code housing is as accurate now as in 1974! The problems are: 1) we have yet to figure out how to effectively promote manufactured housing, nationally and regionally, to the American home buying public; 2) establish and support a well – functioning secondary market for the resale of manufactured homes; and, 3) secure sufficient floor plan and retail chattel (personal property) financing for our customers! In short? ManuFractured housing is broken! Even now, is ‘almost too late’ to identify and implement practical, effective solutions to these timely marketing and financial challenges and opportunities. But some are trying, and within 30 days, a way for you to participate as well.

First efforts at solutions appeared almost a year ago, on 27 February 2009, when 100+/- HUD Code home manufacturers and landlease (nee manufactured home) community owners/operators convened at the RV/MH Heritage Foundation’s Hall of Fame, Museum & Library facility in Elkhart, IN. (the ‘birthplace of manufactured housing’), for the first Historic SUMMIT Meeting! Purpose of the gathering? Open lines of communication between these two disparate segments (one manufacturing/distribution oriented, the other realty development/investment focused) of the manufactured housing industry and real estate asset class, to learn what each side ‘needed, wanted & expected’ relative to the design, size, specifications, features, and pricing of the HUD Code housing product. Since that day, nearly three dozen Business Development Mangers (‘BDM’), employed by HUD Code manufacturers, have increased the number of new HUD Code homes sold into landlease communities (‘LLCommunities’). And, at 18th International Networking Roundtable in Chicago, during September 2009, it was agreed by the 200 businessmen and women present, the popular notion (circa 1998) of Development Series Homes be supplanted by Community Series Homes (i.e. smaller, affordable, easily transportable, energy efficient), generally destined for LLCommunity siting! Don Westphal, of Michigan, agreed to serve as National Clearing House for input on this subject. Read his inaugural CSH article in January 2010 issue of the new Allen Letter professional journal.*1

For in depth coverage and review of these and other advances, review archived blogs on this website, especially one titled: ‘Let’s Make History Together!’ Why? Because it contains ‘The Near Perfect Storm Manifesto!’ which introduced the now much talked about premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by the Year 2020!’ Furthermore, the January 2010 edition of the aforementioned Allen Letter carries, in side by side columns, official responses to said premise, by the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (‘MHARR’) and Manufactured Housing Institute (‘MHI’)! Also know, the same issue of the Allen Letter contains a free copy (for paid subscribers) of the 21st annual ALLEN REPORT (a.k.a. ‘Who’s Who Among LLCommunity Portfolio Owners/operators in North America!’); otherwise available for $250.00. *1

The Countdown Begins!

If an entrepreneur or executive businessman or woman, active in the HUD Code MHIndustry or LLCommunity asset class, and sincerely desirous of becoming and being an integral part of a national effort to Save Our Industry!, plan to be present at MHI’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., on 1 & 2 February 2010. Here’re at least two reasons:

First; are plans to Save Our Industry! on MHI’s meeting agenda? If so, you must to be present to participate in the discussions! If not; you should be present to ask, ‘Why not?’ Or, has MHI leadership decided the manifesto’s premise: ‘Imagine No New HUD Code Homes by Year 2020!’ is just an alarmist exaggeration, or simply inevitable – hence unworthy of further effort, from either or both national MHIndustry advocacy bodies. Think of this meeting as a weather report and forecast; and you the participant, as a barometer, measuring and reporting the low or high pressure your business interests is/are experiencing at present and what you can reasonably expect in the near future.

Second; William Matchneer, HUD’s Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regulatory Affairs and Manufactured Housing, is MHI’s invited guest presenter at this meeting. Again, you owe it to yourself to be present to hear what he has to say about MHIndustry ills; otherwise you’ll never really know ‘that side of the story’. And if present, ask why HUD appears to resist full implementation of the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (‘MHIA@2000’) – ten years after its’ appearance on the housing scene? And, why the reluctance to appoint a non – career administrator to oversee the work of the Manufactured Housing Consensus Committee (‘MHCC’) pursuant to MHIA @ 2000?. Also inquire about HUD’s position regarding installation of water sprinkler systems in our homes, and why?

Know what it’d take to really make this an open, lively and (hopefully) productive forum? An invitation from MHI, to MHARR’s chief executive, Danny Ghorbani, to attend and participate in dialogue with Mr. Matchneer! Unfortunately, as needed and worthy a stimulus as this would be, it will not happen! Ask me why sometime. Better yet, when you phone (703) 558-0678 to request registration materials for MHI’s meeting, make that suggestion, and watch what happens…

Unable to attend MHI’s Winter meeting in Savannah, GA., but want to support the national movement to Save Our Industry!, hopefully via the efforts of one or more of our national trade advocacy organizations? Then, tell everyone you know, in the MHIndustry & LLCommunity asset class, about this blog. Encourage them to read it and respond appropriate to their circumstances and passion, or lack thereof, about the subject. Better yet, make copies of this blog and circulate them to all your ‘friends in the MHBusiness’, encouraging them to become actively involved as well!

So, what happens after MHI’s meeting in Savannah, GA? It depends on what happens, or doesn’t happen, at said meeting. Was there positive and substantial progress planning how to Save Our Industry!, or was the Winter meeting simply another non – starter? Past blogs have hinted at a new Business Model being articulated for the HUD Code MHIndustry. If you’d like a sampling of raw material submitted and parsed’, to date, by manufacturing/distribution & realty development/investment executives and entrepreneurs around the country, make your request via Reply at the end of this blog. Include your postal mailing address to receive this material. And, as has also been penned before, you might want to pencil in 26 February 2010 onto your business calendar.

The Countdown Continues…

End Note.

1. To order the text, register for MHM program, and or subscribe to the new Allen Letter professional journal, phone the MHIndustry HOTLINE: (877) MFD-HSNG or 633-4764 or (317) 346-7156.

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

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