Homeowner and co-op member Claudia Caswell chats with a neighbor at Freedom Village Cooperative in Concord.
New homes, healthy community
Freedom Village Co-op keeps its budget strong while adding affordable housing
“This is what a new home looks like,” said Claudia Caswell, laughing as she opened a door to a room piled with moving boxes and crates.
Claudia had been in her brand-new manufactured home just a week, not nearly enough time to unpack and organize, but long enough time to envision a shed in the backyard.
Hers was Freedom Village Cooperative’s second new home this summer, a result of a multi-year plan to fill its community with rent-paying houses.
Watch a video about Claudia Caswell
and Freedom Village Cooperative
Two Octobers ago, the resident-owned community (ROC) had two empty lots and four abandoned homes, depriving it of more than $34,000 of revenue annually from lot rents (the fee homeowners pay to occupy the land under their homes). Because lot rents are ROCs’ only income source, putting homes on those lots became a top priority of Freedom Village’s volunteer board.
The co-op contracted with a construction company to remove its abandoned houses, handle all the permits,
upgrade infrastructure if needed, and sell and install at least two new homes a year.
The arrangement puts the work in the hands of a professional, saves the co-op time and money, and, home-by-home, increases Concord’s affordable housing stock.
Because empty lots are such a persistent challenge among NH’s co-ops, ROC-NH has a team member dedicated to helping them find creative solutions, such as Freedom Village’s.
It’s a great housing solution for Claudia, who is retired and wanted to live in the Concord area, closer to her children, shopping, and services. With apartment prices soaring, she appreciated the value of a new manufactured home.
She also likes the quiet of Freedom Village, where homeowners are age 55 and over, and likes living in a cooperative, where people are friendly, have pride in their homes, and can participate in improving their neighborhoods.
“You feel like you belong,” Claudia says. “I like everything about cooperatives.”
Another solution: Renovating homes
Resident-owned communities have few options for dealing with abandoned, dilapidated homes. Towns and cities have different rules covering how and when a cooperative can take ownership of a home whose owner has vanished or passed away with no heirs. When the co-op ﬁnally takes possession, it must decide whether to renovate the (ofter blighted) home or tear it down.
Freedom Village Cooperative worked with Habitat for Humanity to renovate and sell one such house, which provided a permanent home for Patricia Castango.
After ending a relationship, Patricia had been without a home of her own for almost 10 years. She stayed with family, church members, and even rented a hotel room for several weeks before being selected by Habitat to buy the home it rehabilitated in Freedom Village.
Patricia works full-time at a department store and qualiﬁed for a Welcome Home Loan from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. The loans, designed for people buying manufactured homes, can have special terms for buyers with low incomes, such as assistance with down payment and closing costs.
She moved in at the end of June. Having a home that’s hers, that she can paint and decorate any way she wants, has been like a dream, she says. “It’s been a long time coming.”
This article was published in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s 2022 annual report.