“Easy doesn’t pay well.”
– John Bostick, Sunshine Homes
“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else? All of us together, in and out of government, must bear the burden. The solutions we seek must be equitable, with no one group singled out to pay a higher price.”
– Ronald Reagan, Presidential Inaugural Address, Jan 20,1981.
“The Oak Hill Mobile Home Park in Iowa had been in Mark Ogden´s family for four decades before it ran into trouble with city authorities, who tried to have it shut it down, citing zoning violations,” said the Thomson Reuters Foundation to the Daily Business News via a news release dated July 5, 2018.
The long struggle with city officials began in 2014.
“That set up a legal battle between Ogden and the city of Des Moines that finally reached the Iowa supreme court, where in March, seven judges unanimously found in his favor.”
“This case placed gentrification on trial for the first time,” said Ogden’s attorney James E. Nervig.
“The Ogden decision is the first time to my knowledge that an appellate court invalidated a governmental plan to use a sham safety purpose as a means to further gentrification by elimination of an entire neighborhood of unsightly homes,” stated Ogden’s attorney Nervig, per Reuters’ charitable arm, in a column by Carey L. Biron, with editing by Claire Cozens.
“Des Moines city attorney Jeffrey D. Lester expressed disappointment over the ruling,”stated Biron, “but rejected the charge the city took action with the aim of shutting down Oak Hill to make way for new development as “absurd and without any foundation.”
Illicit War on Private Property, and on Affordable Housing?
“Court documents show the ruling was based on the zoning legalities of the park and did not take broader planning issues in account,” stated Biron.
“Nonetheless, Ogden said it had been met with relief from other park1 [sic] owners who feared they could be the next target of city authorities,” read their release, which had a number of regrettably common terminology errors, such as the improper use of the word “trailer.”
“He said there were 30 families living on the site when the city first ordered its closure in 2014, all on low incomes and with nowhere else to go in a city with long waiting lists for government-subsidized affordable housing.”
“Mobile homes, or trailers,1 have grown in popularity in the United States in recent years due to a shortage of affordable housing, but have so far received little government support,” stated Biron.
“Indeed, the industry accuses authorities of using zoning laws to try to shut down unsightly trailer parks1 to make room for new housing developments – a charge they deny,” Biron wrote.
Original photo, Thompson Reuters Foundation. comments from MHProNews.com. To see full size photo, click here.
Brion’s theme, while marked by numerous nomenclature mistakes1, is an important one to manufactured home professionals, and for affordable housing advocates. It echoes several aspects of years of reports by MHLivingNews or MHProNews.
A possible recent example that could be offered is the case in Schofield, WI, linked above. But there are several variations of this troubling trend. Others in the industry who are facing such scenarios, in the light of the Ogden ruling, may find some useful insights. The linked articles can be read later for increased understanding.
“They (local authorities) are just trying to get rid of all the old and want all the new,” Ogden’s attorney said.
Court Document Downloads
A download of the court document on this highly charged issue are linked below. It is from court documents that the “unconstitutional taking” quote in the headline is found.
Click here or the image above to get the download of the ruling.
Burton’s report weaves three outside groups into the Reuter’s narrative.
• Prosperity Now, citing Doug Ryan,
• ROC USA, naming Paul Bradley, and
• the Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), with no specified person quoted.
Ryan and Bradley are quoted extensively, but MHI is limited to the following; “The Manufactured Housing Institute (MHI), an industry group, says there is a growing trend of municipalities trying to use zoning and other land use regulations “to restrict or eliminate manufactured housing in their jurisdiction,” wrote Biron.
While MHI is recently making some attempt at influencing the legal battle over such local issues, they have debatably eschewed perhaps their best option.
That possible approach? Consistently arguing the issues with HUD and local jurisdictions, and asking HUD to intervene on the basis of laws such as the enhanced preemption found in the Manufactured Housing Improvement Act of 2000 (MHIA).
In the recent Washington Post report on HUD, it was revealed that MHI’s Vice President Lesli Gooch admitted that they took no position on having Pam Danner removed as administrator over the manufactured housing program office. That admission by Gooch is a wake-up call for independent retailers and communities nationally, who’ve complained for years about HUDs overreach, as well as their failures to enforce enhanced preemption. Gooch/MHI and MHARR quotes by the Washington Post are found in the article linked below.
Those issues about home placement and zoning are largely post-production issues, and would normally fall to a trade group. Trade associations would normally be arguing on behalf of their industry members. But as prominent MHI member Frank Rolfe observed, MHI is often silent on issues good or bad for the industry. Why?
MHI award winner Marty Lavin told MHProNews that they only work on behalf of the “big boy” members.
Sam Zell, who’s Equity LifeStyle Properties (ELS) is a giant in the MH community sector, made the common sense observation last year that heavy regulatory burdens leads to consolidations.
Larger firms are better able to deal with heavy burdens. That helps explain why Warren Buffet, who is chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has favored candidates like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. President Obama and Secretary Clinton both supported heavy regulatory regimes, that harmed the interests smaller companies, as well as consumers.
The pattern of failing to successfully advance the interests of community owners is precisely why two state level communities associations broke with MHI last year. They are now launching a new national communities post-production association this year.
MHARR – the Manufactured Housing Association for Regulatory Reform, which represents the interests of the independent producers of HUD Code manufactured homes – has for years promoted the need for more effective post-production representation.
MHARR was revealed by the Washington Post as the industry’s unsung hero in having Pam Danner removed at HUD from her role as the administrator of the Office of Manufactured Housing Programs (OMHP).
While on paper both MHI and MHARR supported Vic DeRose for that OMHP administrator role, it was reportedly an MHI staffer that gave Danner the assist at getting her in at OMHP.
MHI’s own President, Richard “Dick” Jennison made that admission to select industry members about an MHI VP that helped get Danner her role. Some of those sources so informed MHProNews, and which this publication confirmed at that time with Jennison.
But Jennison was told then by the ‘powers that be’ to “stand down,” per Daily Business News sources, from taking any action about that MHI VP who assisted at getting Danner in at HUD.
Whatever Jennison’s bosses motivations may have been, the net result is that MHI has years of history as posturing one thing, but often tacitly allowing or doing something entirely different. That comes from numerous industry sources, including those who are or were part of MHI, some of whom held division board member roles.
Let’s make the point about MHI simply.
- Where are the amicus briefs by MHI in cases like Ogden?
- Why is it only after the Daily Business News exposed the fact multiple times that MHI had failed to contact the CFPB after Mick Mulvaney took the helm there, that MHI finally began asking their members a few weeks ago to write for regulatory relief?
While Prosperity Now has years of a mixed pro-MH, but often anti-community owners agenda, at least Doug Ryan and their organization are consistent.
MHI’s own prior president, Chris Stinebert used his exiting article to politely take the Arlington, VA based trade group to task for failing to take necessary steps on lending and other key issues. Troubling evidence like this makes it difficult for MHi to deny their own history.
These are the sorts of ‘inside baseball’ insights that mainstream reports are unlikely to know, absent input from a consistent source, such as MHARR.
Even the steps that MHI has taken in recent months on the communities front have only occurred after years of pressure from communities owners, professionals, including this trade publication. The balance of MHVille’s trade media, while they may present useful insights on specific topics, routinely fail to hold MHI accountable for their repeated patterns of arguably problematic behavior.
Instead, in just the past two weeks, a long-time industry blogger took MHARR to task for pressing for more post-production efforts. Where’s the logic or consistency in that source, which has waffled for years between praising and condemning MHI?
George Allen, has a modest following today, which once used to be a large following. As a former client of his told MHProNews, with George “It’s AAA, All About Allen.” If someone is doing good, and Allen’s not somehow in the mix, sources say it is not uncommon for Allen to attempt to undermine that source. Allen has done some noteworthy things, and is an example of why a wheat and chaff approach is needed by MH industry professionals. In the 3 quotes from his blog shown above, Allen, without mentioning MHARR, is parroting their position, while attacking MHI’s. Allen has privately thanked MHARR, per an email circulated to a few of his followers, and forwarded by one to MHProNews. But publicly, Allen is said to “play the game” of seeking to undermine MHARR’s important efforts. MHARR is a producer’s trade boy, and thus focuses on protecting their interests from within the industry and from outside parties too. Much of what MHARR does, such as the removal of Danner, benefits the industry at large. The best they can practically do is more of the same, while encouraging the creation of new, post production trade bodies.
Isn’t that calling the kettle black, when Allen and Roane are also defending community owner Tom Lackey, who generated significant negative media for the industry? Isn’t that especially troubling, when Lackey still sits on the SECO board today, per their website?
Allenites and Roane supporters are quick to say that they’ve both done good things. No doubt. But shouldn’t Allen and Roane clean up their own mess, before he taunts MHARR for de facto doing good for Allen and Roane’s own followers?
Where was Allen and Roane’s amicus briefs in the Ogden case? Don’t they claim to have a quasi-associations?
Talk can be cheap.
In the wake of challenges and scandals, a MHI member leader recently reminded MHProNews of the importance of accurate, vs weaponized reporting and analysis. He did so in a note of thanks. So while some jeers come this way, often from those closely aligned with MHI or Allen, the fact that more thank MHProNews, and read MHProNews than all others combined should speak volumes.
The MHC and Industry Takeaways from the Ogden Case?
Ogden exemplifies the truths that the quote at the top from President Ronald Reagan and Sunshine Homes’ John Bostick respectively said.
Des Moines is but one of hundreds of local jurisdictions that fail to respect and appreciate the value of manufactured homes, and the work that thousands of land-lease communities that provide affordable unsubsidized living for millions of Americans.
Based upon local reports, Ogden also is a cautionary tale. When a community fails to maintain standards of appearance or safety, it opens itself up to the kinds of actions that Des Moines undertook. That observation doesn’t justify that Iowa city’s posture and tactics, nor that of numerous others like Des Moines have taken from coast to coast.
But it is a practical reminder that savvy standards in a MH community’s “guidelines for living” ought to be prudently established and enforced. That would likely have made Ogden’s travails easier.
The case also reminds us that government at all levels – local, state, and federal – requires routine engagement. When professionals say, they hate politics or economic issues, and they cede the field to others, the outcome is often detrimental to thousands of members of our industry.
The words of President Reagan at the top should be a plaque in every office in America.
There is an ongoing need for a new, post-production association that supplants what MHI does for small-to-mid-sized operations if or only when pressed, per several of their own past or present members.
Reality checks on the Ogden case could be mined for years of useful, practical lessons. It is no doubt useful for Iowa community owners, but it also provides helpful insights for those in all other states too. “We Provide, You Decide.” © ## (News, analysis, and commentary.)
(Third party images are provided under fair use guidelines.) Footnote: 1 Terminology error is in the original.
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Tony is the multiple award-winning managing member of LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC, the parent company to MHProNews, and MHLivingNews.com.
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