Mobile home park switches to co-op ownership after residential buyout

Weston’s Mobile Home Park is the 12 site in Vermont, USA, to be bought by residents as a co-op

A mobile home park in Vermont, USA, has made the switch to co-operative ownership after residents signed a $2.1m deal to buy it from its owner.

Weston’s Mobile Home Park, in Washington County, is the 12th site in the state to make the transition to co-operative ownership. Residents at the 83-lot site voted unanimously to accept owner Ellery Packard’s offer to sell them the park.

The sale follows a year of intense planning and negotiation. It has seen residents of 50 of the park’s 82 mobile homes purchased $100 shares of the co-operative, making them eligible to participate in decision-making and to serve on the board.

The bylaws crafted by the interim board call for a one-lot-one-vote system.

Leandro “Rusty” Perojo, president of the seven-member board, told local site Barre Montpelier Times Argus: “We have a say in the future of our lives in the park. We have a nice one and we’d like to see it continue.”

The board’s bylaws say the new co-op’s first annual meeting will be held in April.

Most of the $2.3m the co-op borrowed through non-profit support organisation ROC USA was used to finance the purchase of the 26.4-acre park. The balance was used to establish a reserve account and cover initial infrastructure spending, as well as closing costs.

The process was supported by Annik Paul, development specialist for the Cooperative Development Institute, which works in New England and New York. It runs the New England Resident Owned Communities programme to help residents of mobile parks secure land tenure.

She told the Times Argus: ““The resident acquisition has broad support in the community and the benefits of ownership were well communicated through door- to-door discussions, mailings, and resident meetings.”

Related: Celebrations at Dover Point Cooperative as it takes over mobile home site

Welcoming the news, Hanover Co-op Food Stores, which serves the states of Vermont and New Hampshire, said: “Co-operatives enable people to be invested in their local communities not only ideologically, but financially as well. The Vermont Cooperative Census in 2016 found 130 co-op businesses, 21 of which are credit unions, operating in 142 locations across Vermont.

“In keeping with the state’s commitment to local investment and local control, 50% of Vermonters count themselves as members of a credit union.”

It added: “Here in the north-east, food co-ops continue to grow overall, and we are seeing a lot of enthusiasm for startups, which make up about a third of the membership in the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, representing 35 food co-ops across the five New England states and New York, with more than 40,000 member-owners in Vermont alone.

“As we congratulate the 50 resident-owners of the Weston’s Mobile Home Co-operative, we remind everyone that financial security, self-help and growth are hallmarks of co-operation. It is a business model used by people in every corner of New England — by farm families, independent hardware stores, utilities, child-care centers, a ski area, and even the growing craft beer industry. The seven principles of cooperatives can be used to launch any business worth starting. For cooperative workers and members alike, it’s all about opportunity, equity and community.

“To paraphrase the words of Marcus Aurelius: What benefits the hive benefits the bee, too. Just ask the resident-owners of the new Weston’s Mobile Home Cooperative.”

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