Residents of a mobile home park in New Hampshire are celebrating after forming a co-operative and taking ownership of the site.
The co-op signed the mortgage on Polly Ann Park, in Dover Point, on 16 December and switched from renters to owners for the first time since the site opened in 1955.
The change came for the 79 families living in the park last February, when each resident received a letter from owners Frank and Ann Torr. They wanted to sell the park but – more importantly – were keen for the residents to buy it. New Hampshire law requires residents be given the first opportunity to buy but in this case, the Torrs purposefully wanted the long-time residents to become the owners.
By April, the residents had organised themselves into the Dover Point Cooperative, elected a board, and engaged the Resident Owned Communities team (ROC) at the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund (NHCLF) to guide them through the $3.125m purchase.
They were helped by the fact that the Torrs had already approached NHCLF about making the sale to the residents before telling the residents. When park owners do this, it allows for a smooth transaction.
“We can’t thank Frank and Ann Torr enough for coming to us about buying the park,” said Steve Sheehan, park resident and the first president of the co-op’s charter board.
“When we started this process, my wife and I told everyone we would have a cookout when we had a signed purchase and sales agreement.
“The agreement was signed in August and we had that cookout in front of the garage that we are converting to our meeting hall.”
Steve said the residents “all had a great sense of accomplishment” when they finally signed the deal, just before Christmas.
“This was a nine-month process with a lot of ups and downs,” he added. “Knowing that our future is secure is a great feeling. Once we renovate the garage into our meeting hall, we are going to have another celebration for the community.”
Ownership of the land beneath their mobile homes means the 200 residents of the Dover Point Cooperative will see a dramatic change to their economic status – and to guide them through it, NHCLF offers a range of programs to help them effectively save and borrow.
In most American states, residential buyouts are rarely considered by park owners or the residents, and are almost impossible to achieve. But New Hampshire state’s encouragement for such transition of ownership means it has become a pattern – with Dover Point following 120 other mobile home parks to convert from private ownership to a member-owned co-op.
Last year, with the help of NHCLF, residents of six mobile home parks – 351 families in total – made the switch from long-term renters to co-owners.
This means 22% of New Hampshire’s 558 mobile home parks are co-operatively owned, according to figures from NHCLF ROC-NH; this is the highest proportion of any American state.
To put it another way, 6,800 of the state’s 25,968 mobile and manufactured homes – 26% – are now in resident-owned parks. New Hampshire has by far the highest percentage of resident- owned parks of any state in America.
It was not always this easy. In 1984, the 14 members of the Meredith Center Cooperative patched together the funds to be the first residents in New Hampshire to buy their mobile home park. The origins of the NHCLF were tied into that first loan. Today, the role of the NHCLF and ROC is to give the residents of New Hampshire the tools and resources to buy their mobile home park if it comes up for sale.
And thanks to lobbying by NHCLF and mobile home owners, New Hampshire’s laws are the strongest of any state in providing a process for residents to buy their park when they come up for sale; without this, Dover Point Cooperative could never have happened.
Steve Sheehan said: “I know I can speak for everyone on the board in saying we couldn’t thank ROC and the Community Loan Fund enough for all their work and guidance throughout this process. We couldn’t have done this without them.”
David J. Thompson is President of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation which helps to fund residents buying their parks as co-ops. Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation is a long-term investor in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund. Since 2009, TPCF’s dollars invested in NHCLF have helped the renters at 29 parks (serving over 1,900 families) to form co-ops to purchase their parks. To learn more visit www.communityloanfund.org and www.community.coop.