247-home Mass. community is newest ROC!

Taunton, Mass. – Homeowners in the 247-home Oak Hill Mobile Home Park took a big step toward securing their financial futures when they collectively bought their neighborhood as a resident corporation this week.

The Oak Hill Taunton Residents Association Inc. Board of Directors said the purchase process has already brought the community closer together.

Kathy Zorotheos, president of the Oak Hill Board, has lived in the community for about four years. She said she spent little time interacting with neighbors until she retired two years ago.

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“That’s when I got my sneakers on and started walking. I would wave to people coming and going, but they were heads down with hands on the steering wheel and I was like, ‘Really?’” Zorotheos said. “Now that we’ve gone through the purchase, everyone comes out. We’ve had a Halloween party, St. Patty’s dinner and we’ve got bingo going.”

The resident association is purchasing the community March 31 for $10.08 million with assistance from Cooperative Development Institute. CDI is a certified technical assistance provider with ROC USA® Network, a national non-profit organization that works to help residents of for-sale mobile home parks form resident corporations and buy their communities cooperatively. Technical assistance will continue to be provided by CDI to the association for the length of the mortgage — a minimum of 10 years.

In addition to a first mortgage that covered the purchase price, ROC USA Capital also provided a construction loan of up to $1.49 million to address infrastructure repairs and upgrades.

Oak Hill is the 14th Massachusetts community supported by ROC USA Network. CDI and ROC USA have helped almost 1,500 homeowners purchase those parks since 2010. In these democratic resident-owned communities (ROCs), homeowners each buy one low-cost membership interest. Each household has one vote on matters of the community. The members elect a Board of Directors to act on day-to-day issues and vote as a membership on larger matters like the annual budget, by-laws and community rules.

Andy Danforth, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program, said resident ownership is a growing trend in Massachusetts.

“Residents understand the insecurity of owning their home atop rented land, and when offered the chance to collectively purchase that land, they grab it,” Danforth said. “This is particularly evident in southeastern Massachusetts, with nine ROCs from North Attleborough to Plymouth.”

Financing for the project came from ROC USA Capital. ROC USA Capital is a wholly-owned subsidiary of ROC USA and a U.S. Department of Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution.

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ROC USA Capital Managing Director Michael Sloss pointed to the community’s prime location, with an easy commute to two of New England’s three largest cities, nearby access to public transit, and overwhelming support among residents to purchase.

“Almost 80 percent of homeowners had become association Members before the purchase was even finalized,” said Sloss. “We’re excited that the preservation of the homes in Oak Hill through affordable, fixed-rate community financing will have lasting impact in Taunton.”

Zorotheos echoed the sentiment, saying the best part about Oak Hill is, in fact, the people who live there and care so much about their neighborhood.

“We all came together, and all it took was a bunch of walking, knocking and talking,” she said.

Cooperative ownership of 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 the Ford Foundation, NeighborWorks® America, Capital Impact Partners, the Corporation for Enterprise Development, and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.

ROC USA is a non-profit organization with a national network of eight organizations such as CDI and a national financing source for resident-owned communities. “We solve the two basic barriers to resident ownership – access to expert technical assistance and financing to help homeowners become buyers when their community is for sale,” said Paul Bradley, ROC USA’s founding president.

ROC USA Network has helped 96 communities preserve nearly 6,269 homes in 13 states since its launch in May 2008. www.rocusa.org

The Cooperative Development Institute is a regional cooperative development center, founded in 1994, which has assisted dozens of new and existing cooperatives throughout New England and New York. It is involved in cooperative housing as well as agriculture, consumer, worker-owner, energy, and fishing cooperatives. For rural senior co-op development, CDI received support from the Cooperative Development Foundation. www.cdi.coop

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