Mobile Home Park Mastery: Episode 113

The Associated Press Is Waking Up To Reality

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A couple weeks ago, a huge number of articles about mobile home parks were published by the Associated Press focusing on communities in Colorado. They fixated on several facts 1) mobile homes are difficult to move 2) all other forms of housing cost double 3) corporate owners are buying out the moms and pops 4) failure to pay rent or follow rules leads to ultimatums. In this Mobile Home Park Mastery Podcast we’re going to review these concepts and try to figure out how anyone would not know these basic tenets of life and compare these to how the Associated Press itself operates.

Episode Transcript

Mobile home parks move from mom and pop to corporate. That was one of only a few headlines that came out over the last few weeks from the Associated Press. They did a giant barrage of articles regarding the mobile home park industry. There were basically four key points of all of these articles and I thought it would be interesting to show on all four points, not only how the Associated Press got it wrong, but how hypocritical it was for them to even make these points.

The first point they made in all the articles was that mobile homes are difficult to move and their implication was effectively restraint of trade or lack of freedom. Well, that's an interesting idea coming from the Associated Press because if you simply turn to the Wikipedia of the Associated Press, its history will blow your mind. Basically, the Associated Press has been, from virtually day one, accused of those very items all the way back into the 1800s, all kinds of things came up, all kinds of revelations that the Associated Press was basically in violation of many laws and antitrust provisions.

If you look at Wikipedia, for example, they talk about the fact that the Associated Press was accused by a group called the Western Associated Press in Illinois, which went all the way to the Supreme Court of Illinois, which the Supreme Court ruled the Associated Press was a public utility and operated in restraint of trade. And when this was handed down, what did the Associated Press do? Well, they simply moved their headquarters from Chicago to New York city, which did not hold the same laws to be true.

Meanwhile, as Associated Press went on, it was bought up or members became members of all the larger news outlets with a simple way of finding how to make money with the news. In 1945, the Supreme Court of the United States held in the Associated Press versus the United States that the associated Press had been violating the Sherman Antitrust Act by prohibiting member newspapers from selling or providing news to non-member organizations, as well as making it very difficult for non-member newspapers to join the Associated Press. And they're criticizing our industry, Well, that's kind of laughable. Of course, mobile homes are difficult to move. Who ever said they are not?

Think about it for a moment, you're taking a very large object, typically 14, 16, 18 feet wide, frequently 80 feet long and moving that down an American highway or secondary street. Does that sound easy to you? And sure, it's on wheels and comes out a factory, but it's not meant for repeated use. There's something meant for repeated use that's called a recreational vehicle that you can pull behind a car or truck, but mobile homes are not mobile. I didn't choose the word mobile. I don't know who chose the name of mobile. I don't like the name mobile. But I don't think anyone in America really believes these things are mobile. Although, perhaps the Associated Press thought perhaps that they were, maybe because they probably had not been in a mobile home park prior to writing the articles.

And the fact that mobile homes don't move, that's not really a big deal. Can you name any form of housing of that size that does move? I can't. So I don't think it makes that interesting a point that mobile homes are difficult to move nor do I think that that one item leads to a lack of freedom on the part of the consumer. The consumer can still sell that home, they can rent that home, they have the same options as the owner of any other stick-built home or condominium. And I think it's kind of laughable that of all people, the Associated Press should take that direction in an article.

Number two, the Associated Press calls out the fact that all other housing forums costs double what mobile home parks do. In the articles you have consumers complaining again and again, "It ain't fair. I've got nowhere else to go. Everything else costs so much more." Well, that's right, mobile home parks are the last vestige of affordable housing in the United States. How you can turn that to a negative on the part of the AP I really do not understand. Clearly, if everything else costs twice what we do, then we're really, really inexpensive. And just because lot rents are going up, which I've been talking about for years the fact they have to go up, they make no sense, they're ridiculously low. The economics professor at Duke university who wrote the paper found them to be 50% lower if not more. All these things add up to the fact that despite increasing lot rents, it's still a fantastic housing value.

Now, I don't really have a way to tie that point to the Associated Press except to say that, again, if they're talking about freedom of any people to not talk about the inherent need for economic freedom would be the Associated Press because that's exactly what they stand against.

Third, they talk about corporate owners buying out moms and pops. Now, how is that a bad thing for a corporate owner, which I define as a professional investor, to buy out a mom and pop, which most people think of as an owner operator who is not running at peak efficiency? I don't mean economic efficiency. I mean property condition, resident quality of life. I think where the AP gets it wrong is that the average consumer, and more than the average, 95% of everyone in a mobile home park wants to have high quality of life. They want to have solid roads without potholes, working water and sewer and trash service, reasonable common areas and an attractive entry and most importantly, professional management. They don't want mom and pop, they don't want a mom and pop who doesn't put the money back in to the property to keep the infrastructure and all other features in good working condition and they're willing to pay more to have a corporate professional owner operator who can manage that in a manner that gives them the highest quality of life.

And again, it's awkward for the Associated Press of all people, who have been since the 1800s trying to force out smaller operators by offering this larger set of services strictly to the larger media outfits, for them to talk about the problems of mom and pops converting to corporate ownership is basically laughable.

Finally, they talk about the failure to pay rent or follow rules leads to ultimatums. Well, that's an interesting topic for the Associated Press to take on because if you go to Wikipedia and put it in the Associated Press, you'll find an endless array of lawsuits, but they all have the same theme. Let's just look for a moment.

Christopher Newton, Washington DC Bureau reporter was fired by the Associated Press because he was accused of fabricating sources since 2000. Sounds to me like that was the case of someone not behaving properly and being removed from the Associated Press. And you see that same theme over and over. Their FBI impersonation case, their various controversies or copyright intellectual property lawsuits. A guy named Shepard Fairey, an illegal immigrant news hoax, a thing called the hoax tweet, the flash crash to the justice department subpoena of phone records. All of these things add up to the same idea, if people don't behave by the rules, then you cannot have them live peaceably in your community or obviously in your business.

In the AP articles, they talk as though the idea of collecting rent and asking residents to follow the community rules is somehow a horrifying idea. Certainly this can't be fair, right? Making people actually pay their rent once a month, making them follow rules that are for the good of the community, but that's what they imply. They interview people who complain over and over again that it's not fair because they can't live in the mobile home park and not pay rent, they can't live in the mobile home park and have large dangerous dogs or a refrigerator in the yard or non-running vehicle. And we, the readers, are supposed to read that apparently and believe, "Yes, that's right, that's not freedom, people should be able to live in any condition they want no matter what the damage is to the neighbor and shouldn't really have to pay rent, but maybe just occasionally and even then, only if they want to. Only if it's kind of an elective feature." That's just not how things work.

And I'm not really sure why the Associated Press would try and convince you or anyone to the contrary because they certainly don't abide by it. I wonder how many people who are subscribers to the Associated Press, papers like The New York Times, how long they would be allowed to share in those services of news, photographs and video if they didn't pay in their monthly or annual fee to be members of the Associated Press. I'm kind of betting they wouldn't last very long, but we should probably ask how many of the Associated Press members haven't paid their dues, or whatever they call it, and yet continued to receive the services of the AP? I don't know, but I'm willing to bet, none. Maybe they'd give someone a month or two of Slack. They surely wouldn't begot year over year as some mom and pops do. And to make any allegation that they would is of course, frivolous and makes no sense.

And on the topic of rules, I seriously question the Associated Press, anyone who works there, will be willing to live next door to somebody who was not following the minimum requirements of that city, of that subdivision, of that community. It's very, very hypocritical on their part. I would in fact like to see if the reporter or reporters who worked on the project will be willing to move the residents they interviewed, who said, "I don't want to follow the rules yet I still want to live here," would like them to move in next door. Would they not complain? Would they not try and say, "Hey, help me here, this person is not following the common rules of society, hurting my quality of life, making it unpleasant to live here." Well, I think they probably would.

This is Frank Rolfe, the Mobile Home Park Mastery podcast, wanted to bring in a little information and overview, a little insight into the barrage of what I believe were thought to be negative articles in the mobile home park industry by the Associated Press over the last few weeks. Personally, I didn't actually find the articles even negative. I found them to be positive. They pretty much portrayed the truth, our industry is growing from mom and pop into an actual mainstream sector of real estate. I'm proud of that fact. I think the residents are too. I think people like living in places that are well managed, where everyone is fairly required to pay monthly rent, everyone's required to follow the rules of the community to provide good quality of life for all residents. So I think the articles are getting it wrong.