solution: resident-owned communities

Problem: Manufactured (mobile) home parks are the least stable form of home ownership.

Solution: Help resident cooperatives buy and run their parks.

Most of the 3.5-million residents of manufactured-home (mobile-home) parks in the United States own their houses, but they neither own nor control the land beneath them.

As a result, they can be trapped in parks with failing water or wastewater systems, rising rents (for use of the land under their homes), and the threat of eviction for high-end development. These homeowners have no easy choices: Moving their homes is expensive and impractical.

In 1984 we began creating a new strategy—cooperative ownership of those parks by residents. It differed from manufactured-home cooperatives elsewhere in the U.S. in that homeowners in parks here formed limited-equity cooperatives to purchase and manage their communities.

We arrange financing that aims to keep homeownership in the co-ops affordable by preventing the homeowners from having to come up with a huge down payment . We also provide ongoing and customized training and technical assistance to help the cooperatives take root and succeed.

In the program’s early years, many observers viewed our work in manufactured housing as a risky investment into a hopeless and disgraced housing stock. At the time, no lenders would finance a resident co-op’s purchase of their park. And state law afforded these at-risk homeowners few protections.

Now, resident-owned communities (ROCs) are embraced as an innovative retooling of a sector that can provide a long-term source of affordable and decent rural housing to millions of Americans. Banks routinely lend with us on park purchases. Along with resident groups, we successfully advocated for sale-notification and right-of-refusal state laws for park residents.

And in 2008, we spun off ROC USA®, a social venture committed to spreading our strategy nationwide.

Today more than 130 manufactured-home communities in N.H. are resident-owned, housing more than 8.000 families, the vast majority of which have low incomes and/or are seniors.

Sociologist Esther Sullivan says that many Americans, without even being aware of it, regularly drive past one of the most important responses to our affordable housing crisis.

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