Resident-Owned & Operated Mobile Home Park Cooperatives: A Way To Preserve Affordable Living While Dodging An Eventual Boot
Part 1 focuses on what happens when mobile home park owners/landlords fail to take care of their communities. Part 2 looks at what happens when residents are able to take ownership over their community.
An excerpt from Part 2:
- Park Plaza is a mobile home park, or what industry calls a manufactured housing community. Five years ago, the residents banded together, formed a nonprofit co-op and bought their entire neighborhood from the company that owned it. Today, these residents exert democratic control over almost 9 acres of prime suburbs, with 80 manufactured houses sited on them.
***[T]he residents were stunned one day almost seven years ago when a letter showed up in their mailboxes from the park's owner, saying that he was considering selling Park Plaza. [...R]esidents say they had never seen the owner. Now he was about to turn their world upside down.
That letter spotlights the main legal and financial drawback to living in most manufactured housing communities. When you buy a home there, you own the walls, roof and floor, but a private company or investor owns all the land under and around the house. Homeowners pay rent to keep their homes there. The company can sell the land and kick out the residents and their houses whenever it wants, except in a few states that have given residents legal rights to resist.
Typically, the companies that own mobile home parks also own the infrastructure, and the less money they spend maintaining it, the more profit they can make. Housing specialists say that's one of the main reasons why many manufactured home parks look worn down and scruffy — like Park Plaza did before they formed a co-op.
***Then one week later, the residents received another letter inviting them to a meeting to learn how they could save their community. About 70 residents attended, sitting nervously in a room with thin carpets and bright fluorescent lights at the Fridley public library.
Kevin Walker, a community development specialist from the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation, stood up front and gave them surprising news: If they wanted, his organization would help them buy Park Plaza and run it democratically, for the good of the residents.
The foundation, based in Minneapolis, collaborates with ROC USA, a national network of development specialists.(1) Since the late 1980s, ROC has led a legal and financial campaign to help residents take over almost 200 mobile home parks across the nation. As the meeting unfolded, Walker displayed a series of posters showing how the residents of Park Plaza could pull it off.
***Walker told the residents that his foundation and ROC USA could likely help them get the huge loan they would need. After all, the federal government requires banks to invest in low-income housing.
For Part 1, see Mobile Home Park Owners Can Spoil An Affordable American Dream.