Posts Tagged ‘GAO’

Affordable Housing – Fleetwood, Champion, Clayton – Genius of the Christmas Story

December 22nd, 2018 No comments


Depending on who’s estimate we accept, there’s some 550,000 to 660,000 homeless in the richest nation on earth, the U.S.A. As rents rise, so does homelessness, says Zillow’s research, which supplied the higher homeless count. With some $22 trillion dollars spent on “Great Society” programs as of a 2014 Heritage Foundation report, one must ask – how much waste, fraud, corruption, and ineffectiveness is there at the federal level alone?


The U.S. homeownership rate doesn’t place us in the top 40 nations on earth, how is that possible?

And it’s almost Christmas.

The genius of the Christmas story is so vast that it can’t be fully grasped in any one article, or book. It can be viewed in a variety of accurate ways. Suffice for now to note that Mary and Joseph were home-owners, not per se ‘homeless.’ Rather, they were traveling when the couple finally found shelter in a stable.

What sparked their journey, so late in Mary’s pregnancy? Because the Roman Emperor Caesar had mandated a census count for tax and other purposes. They had to travel to Bethlehem, because it was mandated by imperial decree – their law.

The carpenter and his family experienced what it was like to be homeless. For what Christians call the “Holy Family,” that stable they sheltered in for the Christ child’s birth may have been in a cave.  For thousands in towns like Los Angeles or San Francisco, it may be tents, a cardboard box, dumpster, or a sleeping bag. The ‘luckier’ homeless in the U.S. are living in vehicles, not designed for residential purposes.

Why is it so in the U.S., two thousand years after the birth of Jesus?

There are many causes, of course. Here on MHProNews we track, research, follow-the-money, and report our findings daily on certain aspects of news and view that routinely relate to the broader issue of affordable homes and public policies.

The Holy Family weren’t Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Green, Socialists, Communists, or any other political or special interest group – which isn’t a slur on any of the member of those groups, just a statement of fact.  But with so many who claim to be Christians, it’s no wonder each of those political groups’ leadership periodically gloms onto the moving Christmas tale, spinning or weaponizing what occurred for their own purposes.

Rather, the Jewish Joseph and Mary were faithful, non-partisan, working-class people.

For thousands of years, there’s been dictators like Caesar, or shrewd (unethical) business people who’ve rigged their scales to give less than what a buyer bargained for.

Before there was Clayton Homes in contemporary manufactured housing, there was what we should clearly state is the OLD Fleetwood Homes and PREVIOUS Champion Homes that were affordable manufactured home builders. The old Fleetwood and Champion of the 1990s were in a race to buy up chunks of the industry in their day.  The two firms often paid hefty premiums for retail locations, hoping thereby to increase their market shares, also thereby narrowing the distribution networks of competitors products.

As Warren Buffett observed in an annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders that in 1998 Fleetwood, Champion, and Oakwood – then the Big Three of manufactured housing – has some 44% of the market. According to data from the now defunct Manufactured Home Merchandiser Magazine, the top three that year – Champion, Fleetwood, and Oakwood – produced 172,723 of the 372,843 total HUD Code manufactured homes shipped that year, or 46.3 percent of the total.

By 2017, it was Berkshire owned Clayton Homes that had some 50 percent market share, although they claim in their annual report that it was ‘only’ 47.7%. Unlike the old Champion and prior Fleetwood, Buffett’s brand Clayton Homes didn’t overpay for retail outlets, factories, or anything else.  Rather, Berkshire’s subsidiaries bought locations, loans, and businesses at a discount – a ‘value’ – as investors understandably call it.

There are numerous questions that should arise from this outline.  For example, two decades ago – when it was Champion and Fleetwood that dominated the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI) – how different was it from how the Berkshire brands in manufactured housing dominate MHI today?

Community owners didn’t feel well represented in the old MHI.  So, they forged the National Communities Council (NCC) side of MHI. There are MHI/NCC members – some from the large companies – that tell MHProNews that they still don’t feel well represented. Is it a surprise that a new national MH Communities association is coming to birth?

Among resident groups, there are squabbles and contests too. GSMOL, for example, wags a finger at MHAction, saying the later are taking credit for things that the GSMOL accomplished. On the professional side of MHVille, the independent producers’ Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform (MHARR) similarly asserts that MHI often takes credit for things that MHARR or others accomplished. Interesting, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, there are thousands of professionals – and millions of residents – all trying to earn an honest living. Their struggle is often more about battling systems that are often arguably “rigged” by the “big boys” against the smaller businesses and the masses of workers and retirees whom they seek to serve.

Then, millions more trapped in rentals that one protest leader said was “too damn high.”

But negative media like the problematic Netflix series the “Trailer Park Boys” fuels stereotypes that cause many to never consider what the GAO, NAR, Fannie Mae, Ford Foundation, HUD, and other third-party researchers called the most affordable, permanent, and safe – yes safe – new homes in America.

Inaccurate stereotypes, the propagation of misleading information, stigmas, and corrupted, rigged systems all are contributing factors to the tragedy of over a half-million homeless and relatively low rates of home ownership in the U.S.A. today.

Scales, information, and systems are usually rigged in order to cheat the many to benefit a few. It was so thousands of years ago, and it is similar so today.

But angels reportedly sang at the birth of the child Jesus whose birth into a sinful and corrupted world we celebrate on Christmas.  Wise men came from afar bearing gifts to curiously see first-hand what that star over Bethlehem was all about.

We are wise when we ponder the deeper meanings of the Christmas story too.

As we bring or open our gifts for each other, let’s remember that a greedy and power hungry few are working to manipulate scales, information, and the masses, for their own benefit. That’s arguably why there’s still so much poverty, and why millions in America are trapped in Mr. Potter’s rentals, and don’t own a home.


Affordable Homes, Warren Buffett as Mr. Potter in Christmas Classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”


May the inspiration of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus enlighten our minds, hearts, and hands to do whatever is just and good. Because the honest actions of the few – then and now – can uplift the many, inspire the wise, and bring out the good in others.  The honest truth always what sparks change for-the-better in our world.

Merry Christmas to all. ## (“We Provide, You Decide.” © ## – (News, Masthead commentary, and analysis.)

(See Related Reports, further below. Text/image boxes often are hot-linked to other reports that can be access by clicking on them. Third-party images and content are provided under fair use guidelines.)

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Related References:

The text/image boxes below are linked to other reports, which an be accessed by clicking on them.

Where I Come From


Understanding the News as Business, and Manufactured Housing


It’s Your Profession – Investment of Time, Talent, Treasure – So What’s Next?

Back to Basics – What is Classical Liberalism, and What Can It Mean for Manufactured Housing Growth?




CFPB, GAO, HUD, CFED and Manufactured Housing Industry Professionals

October 5th, 2014 No comments

Among the “great calls” was a respected CEO who told me that many issues in MH are so complex, it makes the eyes of lots of industry professionals glaze over. The caller asked me to keep things as simple as possible, so more ‘get it,’ and based upon improved understating, they can act properly.

To make things more visual and easy-to-use, let’s use graphics below to compliment the written commentary and make big issues more manageable.

You can find the articles relating to each of the headlined items linked below. We know MH pros, investors, public officials, not-for-profits and others follow such stories by the thousands daily.

As important as these issues are, let’s step beyond them briefly to pull some threads together with graphics. These images and facts will tell a powerful tale that – once understood and acted upon – could raise our economy and industry to new record levels.


Chart: Wikipedia

USA Facts in Graphics

America became the number #1 nation on earth in production, finance and business; due in part to very modest regulations and simple taxes.


Bill Clinton as president famously said “the era of big government is over,” and later authored a book which advocated a more “partnership” approach between government and business. During a radio interview I heard about his book, former President Clinton suggested modeling what was working between business and government in Korea.

Whatever one thinks about President Obama and his administration, what is indisputable is that during his term, the U.S. federal government’s grown bigger than ever.

We also see routine headlines of often spectacular debacles in recent years. Examples:

  • The billion dollar flawed roll out of the ACA (aka ObamaCare)

  • Veterans Administration (VA) scandals

  • The Secret Service in turmoil

  • GAO’s lavish private parties

  • Choking off lending with CFPB regulations, not only of MH, but also of conventional housing, business and other lending

  • IRS targeting conservative groups

  • Solyndra or other green energy scandals and failed programs

  • The highest percentage of Americans outside of the workforce

  • More on disability and various aid programs

  • High unemployment, under-employment, more low wage jobs and most Americans are worse off now than 6 years ago

  • Vast government debt and groggy deficits that add to the debt

  • A foreign policy we keep hearing the president say is “surprised” by events (Benghazi, ISIS, Russia/Ukraine/Crimea, US Mexican Border, etc)

  • …and White House statements that President Obama reads or hears about such issues in the media instead of federal reports, his classified daily briefs, etc..

Before proceeding, as an independent speaking only for myself, let me be clear: during President George W. Bush’s term, the surplus budget created by the Gingrich/Clinton reforms of welfare and entitlements in the 1990s was lost. President Bush’s so-called “Compassionate Conservatism” created new, unpaid for entitlements and programs. We entered a war in Iraq on what we were later told was “incorrect intelligence” reports. There’s debate on the question of problems which lead to the financial collapse of 2008; could the Great Recession of 2008 have been avoided?

Certainly there are examples in every presidency of serious mistakes made, so this isn’t about partisan finger pointing.

What all this does is make a simple point! Against that backdrop of such clear facts and evidence, why do so many have such great faith in government? Why?



Stop and think! Streamlining the federal tax and regulatory system –
as any number of economic and political leaders suggest –
could create a huge economic boom.

MHProNews cartoon.

Solidarity and Subsidiarity, not anarchy or oligarchy

There is a case to be made that the bigger government gets, the more abuse, waste and foul play there is.

In November 2014 elections, IMHO we have little choice but to look at the policies and outcomes of the last 5 years, and vote “no confidence” in those who passed those policies, administer and (sometimes…) enforce them.

But beyond November’s mid-term elections?

“Crony capitalism” works hand-in-hand with big government “socialistic” policies. The irony is that the crony capitalists are robbing from their own future, as well as that of the rest of us too.

Democratic and Republican political camps

The chart doesn’t necessarily imply cronyism, but
note these individuals are in both
Democratic and Republican political camps.
Chart source: ValueWalk.

Henry Ford made it possible for more people to have good jobs that improved their lives. Ford prospered, because many others did!

For all their bluster about “the top 1%,” this Administration goes to the billionaires and millionaires for their political fundraising. The top 1%, 3% and 10% got richer, while the rest of the nation got poorer.

Who is fooling whom?

What these charts also imply is there is no need to artificially hike minimum wages, which some claim would cost 500,000 jobs. What we need instead is to restore the robust demand for workers, which economic growth routinely produces! More demand for workers leads to higher pay. More working means fewer on public programs. Everyone in the mix benefits.


Federal policies are choking off small lenders, arguably harming
small business and job creation. Chart source: Face the Facts – George Washington University

Former SBA chief in the Obama Administration, Karen Mills’ report for Harvard says Credit is
still tight for
Small Businesses.

Fortune Magazine points to MA and other states creating
Public Private economic partnerships.

Energy and Construction Jobs pay more than most jobs

Energy and Construction Jobs pay more than most jobs.
Domestic energy would reduce foreign oil dependence,
and low cost energy is good for business,
the working poor, everyone.

Infographic found on the Huffington Post website.


Housing is another major engine that drives economic growth and ‘good jobs’ creation.

In an era were incomes are down, rental rates are rising and there exists affordable housing shorterages in many markets, manufactured housing and modular home building must be key elements supported – or at least not impeded – by public policies! The case can be made that subsidizing rents is far more costly for federal, state and local budgets than supporting the ownership of quality, appealing, safe, energy saving and durable manufactured homes.



Energy independence would fuel more domestic manufacturing, creating
more direct and indirect higher paying jobs. This would reduce social welfare
program spending. It also reduces dependance on oil from foreign nations.


We may never eliminate the need for some entitlements, but by creating more
high pay jobs, while reducing energy costs which harm the poor disproportionally,
the U.S. could rapidly move back to the kinds of surplus budgets enjoyed during the
bi-partisan efforts created by Gingrich-Clinton and others in the booming 1990s.




Source National Association of Manufacturers study
on economic impact and costs of regulations.

Let’s point to some commentary from Ron D’Ambra, who has said in an earlier column, that HUD regulations can and do benefit the industry, and then emphasize that what our goals should be in fair, common sense regulations

  • that protects the consumer,

  • does not needless drive up costs,

  • does not fall too heavily on independent producers,

  • and gives the consumer more confidence in our homes, knowing these quality standards exist!

Will HUD’s program under Pam Danner’s leadership advance – or at least, not harm – the cause of manufactured housing?

The CFPB may have the power to choke off potentially tens of thousands of MH loans, but only while harming millions of MH home owner values, especially those under $25,000. But do they understand that by troubling our industry and home owners, they are creating negative ripples that will cost federal, state and local budgets far more?


Why are we playing federal wack-a-mole? We hit one problem, another pops up! Instead of repeating the same mistakes, lets look at how the game is played!

Let’s get to the root causes, and correct them. That’s what the charts above point to, that our economy could be roaring ahead, and we could be reducing debts and heading back to budget surpluses if we had smarter government. That requires elected and appointed leaders willing to make these a priority, knowing it rapidly benefits everyone mid to long term.


Applying the right principles is more important than party labels. Not only in MH, but other industries and professions, are essentially begging bureaucrats we pay with taxes and borrowed dollars to allow us to legally do today what was legal before! Hello?

Solidarity means to stand with others, and in unity to achieve good goals.

Subsidiarity means to make government and decision making as local as possible.

Anarchy is the opposite of big government – both are extremes!!

When we restore the private/public balance in the middle and follow smart policies, we’ll see a robust economy return. That will help manufactured housing, our customers and the nation as a whole.

Against that backdrop, here are the links to articles and commentary referenced in the headline above. We do have to keep working on these linked issues and others, but let’s not lose sight of the root causes of our problems! As these charts and graphics demonstrated, we can regrow our economy, benefiting virtually all Americans and businesses in the process. ##


Real Estate Agents and MH, “…it doesn’t work.”

August 6th, 2014 No comments

Here’s the paraphrase. “Tony, there are two kinds of real estate agents. Those who do a lot of deals, and those who only do a few every year. We can’t get those upper tier real estate agents to work with us. We’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.”

First of all, let’s admit there IS a challenge, more than one, to getting real estate agents to work with MH. Successfully addressing those hurdles in a “mutual victories” fashion could benefit untold numbers of MH homeowners, lenders, producers, other businesses…indeed all involved. Healthy resales – more akin to how conventional real estate works – would significantly increase the understanding and appeal of manufactured homes, likewise boosting lending and investments.

Those in turn would lead to more new homes sold. The rewards are many. No less a figure than Warren Buffett said to Clayton’s president, “Kevin, it seems to me that the problem with your industry is resale.”


Photo credit: WikiCommons.

Two RE-MH Projects

I’ve been professionally involved in two projects that utilized real estate agencies as part of the marketing and sales mix. One did okay, the other worked amazingly well.

We already know real estate agents selling MH works in higher-end markets, such as CA.

So long as we have examples of how it can work, there ought to be confidence in establishing a similarly successful dynamic in other markets.

Associations or Corporate Campaigns

Certainly associations could play a role in this effort. So too should forward thinking corporations. But an educated, motivated independent could make it happen too. I know, because that was the case with one project your Masthead scribe did. It was an independent with a game plan committed to success who made it happen.


RV MH Hall of Fame 2014 Inductees. Read more:

RV/MH Class of 2014 Inducted at Record-breaking Ceremony


The secrets are motivation – incentives to earn and serve more – and the right education.

We can’t expect anyone, including real estate agents, to know our MH business like we do without some education. Real estate agents must clearly benefit, or they won’t come.

Doubling your sales force?

Some site builders use real estate agents to sell their new homes. It can double or more their sales force. Imagine having informed, motivated professionals who are already marketing to attract buyers, working for you on a commission basis.

Education takes time and money. In the more successful of the two cases, we spent 2 months laying the ground work, and that effort cost thousands of dollars. But here was the payoff. In the 8 days after Christmas, when we ‘threw the switch on’ for using those agents, 16 deals were closed at a location, which previously averaged some 2.5 sales monthly for the three years. In the next 30 days, 40 total closings took place. That MHC went from dozen of homes in excess inventory, to “sold out.”

Was it worth it? Yes. FYI, the other company’s location that didn’t have the same degree of success, didn’t invest a similar time/money commitment to the education and ramp up process. Less invested up front, no surprise there was a more modest result.

Other Options too, but…

Certainly there are other options – including existing ones online – to using real estate agents, but those too requires a commitment of time, money and education for them to reach their potential.

Imagine if only 1% of the 1 million real estate agents in the U.S. become involved in selling MH. Let’s further say they would each average 4 deals a year, or only 1 per quarter. That’s still 40,000 sales a year the MH Industry may not otherwise get.

Investing in Education Pays

We often hear that “our people are our most important asset.” If that’s true, more companies should invest more in their people!

Investing in an outreach to other housing professionals – including realtors – could yield long term, transformational results for MH.

Respectfully, when one person doesn’t get the result they wanted the first or second time, that isn’t the signal that it “doesn’t work.” Michael Jordan was a “failure” at first in basketball. Years of practice changed that perception. He later said,

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Michael Jordan


Photo credit, WikiCommons.

One failure, or even many, doesn’t have to mean permanent failure. That’s the lesson of trailblazing legends like Thomas Edison, who failed 10,000 times before succeeding with the incandescent light.

The value of creating a robust resale market in MH – the value of synergizing with real estate agents – is too great an opportunity to miss.

The recent GAO, IBHS hurricane wind study and CBS news reports should all be parts of the arsenal of insights leading more housing professionals to embrace modern manufactured homes.

So long as we communicate that well and often, it will inexorability lead to the mutual victories home owners and all housing pros seek. ##

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