Discussion Forum Topic:

A Look Ahead: Guidance for Essential Workers
Original Comment:
As we plan for our third week of working from home, the team here at MHBA wanted to share a few notes about what the upcoming week has in store.

Last week, we notified you that Pennsylvania factories can remain open as essential services. However, given that many had already closed, it may take several weeks before many are functional. Two days ago, the Department of Homeland Security issued its own guidance on “ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKFORCE.” The guidance includes “workers performing housing construction related activities to ensure additional units can be made available to combat the nation’s existing housing supply shortage.” The guidance also notes that “This list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered, a federal directive or standard.” While this guidance helps clarify essential worker status, again it will take some time to bring our modular factories back online.

We are taking advantage of more people being home, and likely online, by running several Facebook posts that highlight the advantages of modular homes over site-built homes. One post reached over 95,000 people with 2,500 visiting our website to read the full story. As a result, our overall website traffic is up 159% during the past two weeks versus the prior-year period.

But we need your help! We need more content from you. Send us your floor plans and consider submitting a project for our Home of the Month contest. The link to submit can be found on the home page under the Home of the Month tab. Our goal is to further educate visitors to our site, then steer them to you through the online directory, request a quote feature, or the links to your website from our member listing and floor plan pages.

Not to be lost with all the talk of Covid-19 is the fact that the deadline for submitting comments to HUD for their proposed changes is March 31st. MHBA plans to submit comments expressing our concerns that HUD code manufacturers will have a nation-wide, blanket exemption for two story homes and attachments that previously required additional underwriting. We also formally requested that HUD delay the deadline for sixty days because of the COVID crisis. As of today, we have not heard back on the request to delay and will be prepared to submit comments by the deadline.

We also reached out to Fannie Mae, who is in the process of finalizing their lenders guide for modular projects. We requested that additional language be included in their guide to clarify that a HUD code home built under a certain (and confusing) trademark name is not in fact a modular home. The MHBA board considered the possibility of filing a claim with the Federal Trade Commission to fight the use of that misleading HUD product name. But ultimately the board felt the legal fees required to fight that battle (approximately $25,000) would be better utilized on a positive marketing effort to promote the advantages of modular homes over site-built homes.

No doubt, COVID news will continue to dominate the airwaves. It seems from the passage of the new CARES Act, that the government response will be more of a decentralized approach to addressing the crisis, with a majority of funding pushed to the state level, instead of a top down approach. We are assessing those construction and funding opportunities and reaching out directly to state officials to encourage a modular solution when possible.

If your company has an inspiring story about helping during this crisis, please share that with us so we can promote your good works. Also feel free to reach out to anyone on our team with questions, comments, or suggestions. While we are working remotely, email is the best way to reach us.

Thank you and stay safe!
Started on March 30, 2020 by Tom Hardiman
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Additional Comments:
Tom,

Thank you for the good information.

We are pleased that factory-built housing, as a segment of construction, is considered vital by many states and the DHS. For our company's situation, with plants in multiple states, we need to adopt to local requirements. In those states where we are allowed to operate, we are evaluating the best balance between the safety of our employees, the reliable delivery of materials, and the business needs of our customers. Everyone along that value chain has a unique set of circumstances, and we are evaluating this multiple times each day. For our three Pennsylvania plants, that led to closing their production again this week, even though we are legally allowed to reopen. We are communicating regularly with our employees, suppliers, and builders, and that shared conversation is helping us drive our decisions.

We view MHBA as an important conduit to sharing information, both for the temporary decisions created by the coronavirus, but also for the long-term support and messaging of the outstanding value of modular construction. Thank you for what you do, and hope all companies associated with this type of construction support MHBA so you can continue your good work.

Bob Bender
COO
The Commodore Corporation
Updated on March 30, 2020 by Bob Bender

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