Flurry of Vt. Resident Purchases Doubles State ROC Population, eclipses major national milestone
When Gayle Pezzo’s daughter moved to Jericho, Vt., she said the choice of where she herself was going to live next was easy.
“I said, ‘I guess I’m moving to Vermont,’” she recalled.
She quickly found an affordable option nearby at Westbury Park in Colchester. The home was in a quiet, wooded neighborhood and fit what she was looking for.
“This is just an absolutely beautiful neighborhood,” Pezzo said. “It’s beautiful here.”
And when she learned that the community was for sale and that the residents could own the land themselves, Pezzo said she signed on to the idea right away.
“With all the choices we had, I’m glad this is what was voted for,” said Pezzo, who serves as Treasurer for the Board of Directors in Westbury Home Owners Association. “It definitely has brought this community together.”
In two months, four Vermont communities became resident owned: Lakeview Cooperative in Shelburne, Westbury, Sunset Lake Cooperative in Hinesburg, and St. George Community Cooperative in St. George.
With these four conversions come two major milestones as well: the number of homes in resident-owned communities in Vermont has more than doubled and preserved the 15,000th homes in the national network.
Sean Moran, President of the Lakeview Cooperative Board of Directors, said in the weeks following the purchase, he noticed his neighbors’ increased pride in their homes and community.
“I think that’s a huge difference,” he said. “We own it. We’re very happy to be a part of the family that sustains affordable housing.”
The Vermont ROCs are a part of the 237 total ROCs in 16 states. The ROC model was pioneered by the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund in the 1980s before it was taken to scale nationally in 2008 with the launch of ROC USA®. The growth among the Network has been strong over the last decade, accelerating as the Network has expanded and matured.
Homeowners are able to buy one low-cost Member interest in these democratic ROCs. An elected Board of Directors acts on day-to-day issues. Members vote on larger matters, such as the annual budget, bylaws and community rules.
“It feels good to be secure and know that nobody can take it from us,” said Mike Pelkey, President of the Westbury HOA’s Board of Directors.
Cooperative ownership of manufactured (aka “mobile”) home parks as a way of preserving affordable communities is a priority for several national non-profit organizations that in 2008 formed ROC USA to make resident-owned communities viable nationwide. ROC USA is sponsored by NeighborWorks® America, Capital Impact Partners, Prosperity Now, and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.
Being a part of the national Network with thousands of peers across the country doing the same work as the leaders in Vermont is a biggest benefits of becoming resident owned.
“I’m glad we’re here,” said Lori Ring, President of the St. George Cooperative’s Board of Directors. “It’s great for the smallest town in Vermont to be a part of it.”
Annik Paul, a Cooperative Development Specialist with the Cooperative Development Institute, was one of the team members who helped residents achieve resident ownership.
“I’m especially proud of the residents and Boards of these communities for their tenacity and commitment to becoming resident-owned communities,” Paul said. “And for taking control of their future by securing affordable housing for themselves and their families.”
Along with 13 Vermont ROCs, CDI also works with communities in Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York. Of the 237 ROCs, 45 of them work with CDI. This accounts for more than 4,000 homeowners in the network.
“These cooperatives have proven over the last 35 years that they preserve the quality of the communities, the affordability of home ownership, and the control of homeowners over their homesteads and lifestyle,” said Andy Danforth, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program.
“With housing costs escalating in the greater Burlington region, it was very important to us to assist the residents of these four communities in preserving affordable housing in the area. I’m also very proud of CDI’s NEROC team and partners, ROC USA and Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) for helping to make this possible.”
Having TA providers to support and coach the leaders in the community is the key to success for the ROC movement, said ROC USA President Paul Bradley.
“This work really relies on local people,” he said. “We greatly appreciate them being here and working hand in hand with you.”
“We’ve always wanted to own it.” Moran said. “We couldn’t be in better hands.”
Lakeview residents purchased their community Feb. 22 for $1.8 million. Westbury residents purchased their neighborhood March 6 for $11.2 million. Sunset Lake residents purchased their community March 22 for $1.4 million. St. George residents purchased their neighborhood April 22 for $4.6 million.
In all, 490 homes were preserved, bringing the statewide total of homes in resident owned communities in the state up to 926.
ROC USA Network affiliates such as CDI have helped 237 communities preserve more than 5,500 homes in 16 states since 1984.