1)Who, What and Where: (Your name and your formal title at New York Housing).
Nancy Geer, Executive Director at New York Housing Association 19 years, on staff 25 years.
Note to readers, this is a flashback interview, and other than this red text, it is as originally published
2)Background: (Educational/Professional snapshot before entering the factory-built housing arena.).
Graduated from Ilion High School, attended Mohawk Valley Community College and University College of Syracuse University.
3) When and How: (when and how you began in MH and then how you came to be at New York Housing Association).
My first job in the industry was working for a multi-lot retailer in Central New York in the early 1980’s. In the mid-80’s Green Tree Credit Corp. established a regional office in Syracuse, covering all of the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. I joined Green Tree as a loan processor and when Green Tree opened an office in New Hampshire to cover New England I became the sales representative for New York State.
As I traveled the state, I first became aware of the Association and when the opportunity came, I was elected to the Board of Directors representing the Finance Division. Another job opportunity arrived when I left Green Tree to work for a retailer/community owner in the Glens Falls, NY area. I remained on the Board of Directors as a representative of that region of New York. In 1988, I joined the staff of the New York Manufactured Housing Association. In 1994, I became the Executive Director of the Association.
4) What are your personal interests or hobbies? How do you like to spend non-work time?
I enjoy my Fitness Walking Club and classes at the Gym that I belong to. I also enjoy remodeling my 105 year old home and taking care of the landscaping. Most of all I love spending time with my 7 year old triplet grandchildren; Maggie, Eddie and Caroline.
5) What are the key issues that face manufactured housing in New York? What are the issues that specifically face retailers? Communities? Other industry segments? What are the challenges to modular housing in your state?
New York is a home rule state that allows local municipalities to establish their own zoning laws.
Often times local zoning regulations limit or prohibit manufactured homes which in turn place burdens on consumers who wish to place MH on private lots and limit retail sales. In some cases these local laws prohibit development of land lease communities as well.
Retailers and Communities face regulations on many levels, from the Federal to State to County to Local Government. Each year Communities face potential anti-landlord legislation in the State Assembly including Rent Control and Right of First Refusal.
In New York, modular homes are built to the NYS Uniform Building Code and are considered the same as site-built. New York leads the nation in the placement of residential and commercial modular structures.
New York Housing did a project earlier this year that was dubbed, The House on the Hill. Tell us how that project came to be, its goals and how you measured the impact.
For 5 years, 1996-2000, we placed a home in downtown Albany just outside the Capitol Building. We have observed negative legislation returning each year for about the last 7 years and much turnover in elected officials and regulatory staff, many from the New York City area that lack even basic knowledge about the factory-built housing industry.
We had not had a Lobby Day in several years, so the Board decided to combine our successful Spring Symposium with a Legislative Summit and bring in a manufactured home for the lawmakers and regulators to tour.
The primary goal was to educate as many of those lawmakers and regulators by visiting the home and by members calling on their respective elected state officials on Lobby Day.
The secondary goal was to educate the public and thousands of state workers who work in downtown Albany. Every key committee Chairman and many of their staff came through the house during the 3 days of the Summit and hundreds and hundreds of state workers and public came through during the 5 days that the home was open.
Some of your membership are resident groups, correct? Give is a snapshot of the dynamic there and how that works.
The New York Housing Association allows Resident Associations to become members. This has been policy for about 15 years. The Board welcomes the residents for several reasons. First, they are not the enemy. Owners should listen and understand the residents issues and concerns. Trying to find common ground and working towards the same end is always more successful.
Second, when there are regulatory changes, it is important that all parties understand and work together.
Third, when there are differences in legislative efforts it is good to have dialog to try to resolve those differences. New York has a large number of community cooperatives and when the residents become land owners they have to follow the same regulations as private owners and need to know the rules.
8) When we at MHProNews go to an event like the Louisville or Tunica manufactured home shows, we met professionals who are not in an industry trade association. What do you tell someone who is not in an association what the value proposition is for them?
We are the only organization that represents them before the state legislature and all of the regulatory agencies. We negotiate on their behalf before these various bodies and they need to be a part of the process that will affect their business now and in the future. If they are not a member they are out of the loop and not informed. They need to be part of the process.
Usually one of the hottest topics in manufactured housing revolves around financing. You and other association leaders are in the thick of the efforts to reform Dodd-Frank through HR 1779 and the companion bill that will be filed in the Senate. For those readers who have not yet picked up the phone, sent an email, fax or letter to the Congressman or Senators about this issue, please tell us why grass roots action is essential. What does passage of this 'fix' for the unintended consequences of Dodd-Frank mean to the typical retailer or community operator? What does it mean to a transporter, installer, insurance, lender or other service provider?
In New York, we were always successful in keeping chattel lending out of the real estate realm until Congress brought us into it. In fact, the New York State Banking Department does not have authority over chattel loans. Members who have become MLO’s are classified in an exempt category at the Banking Department.
That will change as the Banking Department is in the process of researching the industry and proposing legislation to regulate chattel home loans.
I am unsure how long that will take and how the Banking Department will adopt all of the recommendations coming from the CFPB. We are concerned that lenders will become scarcer if HR 1779 and other corrections to Dodd-Frank fail. It could severely limit available loans for the average MH consumer. That in turn would affect all segments of the industry. We are launching a “Stop by the District Office Campaign” in August for members to personally visit their Congress member rather than a mailing campaign. We feel that will be more effective.
For those who cannot visit, personal letters would be recommended.
Problem solving and team building are two of the keys that make for a successful association. What sort of process do you use in your leadership role and why? How does an organization like MHEC benefit association leaders nationally?
I have the best Board of Directors who have confidence in my abilities as Executive Director. They establish the priorities and I am responsible to accomplish the goals they have projected. We have committees for various projects who usually meet via conference call.
We make sure that each and every person involved on a committee has input.
MHEC is a very big benefit for any Association Executive in the Industry. Not only do we share news and activities that are occurring in each state, we discuss national issues from a grass roots perspective. We represent all facets of the industry on a local and state level, and as you know, all politics boil down to the local level.
You personally know Sam Landy, who in an interview with MHProNews said that given the need for affordable housing in the U.S., he can see manufactured housing return to shipment levels of 300,000 to 400,000 a year. Others inside our industry think we ought to be happy to return to shipments in the 60,000, 70,000 or 100,000 annual shipment levels. Tim Williams from 21st Mortgage said in another interview that if federal subsidies to conventional housing went away, we could see shipments return to 300,000. What say you? Why?
Realistically I am not sure that we will again reach 300,000 to 400,000 new homes annually. While there is a true need for affordable housing, the regulatory barriers the industry has to overcome are daunting.
It is not just the federal issues such as Dodd Frank & the CFPB or HUD’s lack of resolving issues through a new Administrator or the MHCC or new Energy Regulations from the DOE; it is State and local regulatory burdens such as fire sprinklers and the idea that all new construction must be Green.
I have been working with our Division of Homes & Community Renewal on an RFP (Request For Proposal) to include manufactured and modular homes to replace homes damaged by Super Storm Sandy. While they are making every effort to include us the latest draft version of the RFP that I saw requires all proposals to be of Green technology. There are standards for modular Green homes however the manufactured housing industry may not be able to compete.
I am concerned that as states adopt more consistent versions of the International Residential Code the IRC will become the national building code, making a national code for modular homes. Will we have two national codes? How will that impact manufactured homes that do not address some of the new technologies that will be coming?
Industry veteran and Green Courte Partners Chairman, Randy Rowe, called for a 5 point plan for industry recovery. It included the following: A) Better Warranties and Customer Service, B) Dealing effectively with Chattel Financing Issues, C) Economic Security for Our Customers, D) A Multiple Listing Service(s) (remarketing system for individuals, lenders) and E) A National Marketing (Image) Effort. You've also commented on related needs, such as the launch for an image building effort with ManufacturedHomeLivingNews.com. What would you say about Randy Rowe's 5 point plan? Do you think that other possible ideas, like more "best practices" and professional sales training - which Tim Williams from 21st said is a 'great idea - are also needed? What say you on the keys for manufactured housing in general moving ahead?
I agree with Randy’s 5 point plan and that the industry needs to attract more qualified consumers. We need to aggressively market and educate consumers about the quality of our homes not always the affordability. We know they are affordable; however we need to have potential home buyers include us as a viable option right from the beginning.
That future home buyer must have a great experience all the way through the process. Best practices, professional sales training and “rewards” for retailers that do a great job will help improve the home buyer’s experience. We know a happy and contented home buyer is the best marketing that will bring more referrals and more customers back to the retailers.
Closing thoughts or comments, ma'am?
I truly believe in this industry and we need to do a better job of getting our message out there. There are television programs on HGTV and other cable networks about RV’s, about home renovations, about first time homebuyers, about almost anything except manufactured and modular housing.
Six or seven years ago several state association’s went in together to produce “Behind the Scenes” which is now all over YouTube. We need to explore on a national level more social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.
Some individual companies are doing that on an excellent level. We need to look ahead at new technologies just around the corner when potential buyers do not have a television or computer and everyone uses cell phone or iPads to communicate and be entertained. If we do think ahead we will be ahead and sell more homes. ##