Affordable ROC living gives freedom to travel

Leader in new Minnesota ROC excited to see community thrive

ALEXANDRIA, Minn. – Dorian Warner and his wife love to travel. They have visited the beaches of Hawaii, hiked the trails of Glacier National Park, and explored the beauty of Yellowstone National Park, all possible because they live in an affordable home in Emerald Pines Cooperative – a manufactured home community in Alexandria, Minn.

“We choose to live in this community because we want to go other places,” said Warner, Board President at Emerald Pines. “We see our friends and family buy these houses that are so expensive that they can’t ever leave them. They are stuck locally, and for us, this community has allowed us to travel, and it’s my place to do what I can to protect it.”

On Jan. 4, the homeowners of Viking City Mobile Home Park purchased their 42-home manufactured home community for $1.25 million and renamed it Emerald Pines, becoming Minnesota’s 12th ROC and the 318th ROC in 21 states across the country. Emerald Pines sits is in beautiful Alexandria, a small town in western Minnesota. It’s less than two miles from downtown and surrounded by beautiful lakes, resorts and golf courses to which tourists flock in the summer.

This purchase represents a multi-faceted partnership between numerous public, private and non-profit entities. The Minnesota Housing Finance Agency issued the primary mortgage financing for the purchase of the community, in addition to utilizing the Minnesota Legislature-funded Manufactured Home Community Redevelopment Program (MHCR) to grant the community more than $1 million to make needed infrastructure improvements – repairing roads and replacing the water, sewer, and electrical systems.

These funds are critically needed to overhaul the deferred infrastructure of manufactured home communities, many of which were built in the 1960s and 1970s.  Typically, these communities have private infrastructure, as opposed to city or municipally managed streets, water mains and sewer systems. In many communities, the aging infrastructure is failing and in need of critical repairs.

MHCR received $16 million in funding from the Minnesota State Legislature in 2023, the most in the program’s history. Northcountry Cooperative Foundation (NCF) – a ROC USA-certified technical assistance provider – is a Minnesota-based non-profit that aids manufactured homeowners in purchasing their communities and becoming cooperatives successfully advocated at the state legislature for the creation of the program in 2017.

In addition to the financing provided by Minnesota Housing, NCF issued its first loan from the newly created Cooperative Loan Fund (CLF) to provide additional financing to make the purchase a reality.

The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) were strong supporters of the co-op purchase and the HRA will be providing property management services to the co-op. Additionally, Alexandria Homes, a local manufactured home dealer, will be working with the Emerald Pines Cooperative board to bring new homes into the community. 

“The formation of Emerald Pines Cooperative represents one of the most collaborative efforts in the history of our organization,” said Victoria Clark-West, Executive Director at NCF. “Every public, private, and non-profit partner understood the importance of cooperative resident ownership and how it ensures long-term, stable, and affordable homeownership.

“We hope Emerald Pines serves as a model for future cooperatives and how collaboration across public, private, and nonprofit sectors can be transformative for community ownership,” she said.

Warner, who has lived in Emerald Pines for six years, is excited to serve as Board President and help navigate the new chapter of resident ownership.

“Growing up, my mom was a single mom with six kids, and I grew up in a community like this. Everyone deserves to live a decent life that they can afford,” Warner said. “We have something here that can change people’s perspectives and opinions. This is someone’s home where they will raise their kids, and if you look at owning our own community, it might not only be a good opportunity for us to survive but also, for us to thrive.”

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The newly elected board members of Emerald Pines Cooperative proudly display the new name of their community in Alexandria, Minn. (L to R: Brandon Dziubak - Operations, Melissa Quinn - Secretary, Christina Tvrdik - Treasurer, and Dorian Warner - President.)