Dreams bloom into reality for Montana homeowners

Stan’s Dream Takes Root: Belgrade Village Blossoms into Stan’s Garden as Community Achieves Homeownership

BELGRADE, Mont. – Stanley Baker’s dream was for the homeowners of Belgrade Village to own the land beneath their neighborhood. He talked about it with his two daughters, Sarah and Lydia, and with friends and neighbors while he grew food for the community in the front yard of Sarah’s home. While he passed away on May 26, 2023, and never got to see his dream fulfilled, on Jan. 31, the residents of Belgrade Village, purchased their community for $5.25 million and named it Stan’s Garden, after the man with big dreams and an even bigger heart.

“Stan was Sarah’s dad, and she is our treasurer,” said Daiea Suman, Board President at Stan’s Garden. “Lydia, who is our Vice President is also his daughter. Stan turned Sarah’s front yard into this big garden and would grow fruits and vegetables for the entire neighborhood and he had this dream a long time ago that one day we would own our own land. No one would buy it and we wouldn’t have to worry about being told that we had to leave. For us to own this, it’s very full circle for us.”

Stan’s Garden sits in Belgrade, Mont., about 10 miles north of Bozeman and home to Yellowstone International Airport, and contains 39 homes. Suman’s children love to watch the airplanes take off and land at the airport.

“The residents of Stan’s Garden (formerly Belgrade Village) are excited to become Montana’s 20th Resident Owned Community,” said Adam Poeschel, ROC Acquisition Specialist at NeighborWorks® Montana. “This resident purchase will preserve 39 units of affordable manufactured housing in one of the most expensive housing markets in the state. Stan’s Garden enjoys direct access to an adjacent public park and beautiful views of the Bridger Mountains. NeighborWorks Montana is looking forward to helping Stan’s Garden with infrastructure improvements and some neighborhood beautification projects.”

NeighborWorks Montana, a ROC USA Certified Technical Assistance Provider, guided the homeowners through the purchase process and will continue to support them as they build the skills and leadership to manage their community. In most manufactured home communities, homeowners own their own homes and pay lot rent to the community owner for the use of the land. In ROCs, the let rent goes to the resident cooperative and is managed to meet community needs, maintain affordability, and foster a sense of unity among the residents. After the purchase, the lot rent increased 22 percent, from $645 to $790. The City of BelgradeGallatin CountyProspera Business Network, USDA, and the Montana Board of Housing, through affordable financing and grants, supported the purchase of Stan’s Garden.

Homeowners at Stan’s Garden, the 321st ROC to work with ROC USA in 21 states, are excited about their future as a cooperative and the stability resident ownership provides.

“We definitely have more of an understanding of each other,” Suman said. “We all see each other now as more than just neighbors. I think the community, being a community, has definitely brought the community closer together. We all have the same common goals and interests.”

And Stan’s legacy will continue to thrive through his daughter and the garden he built in her yard.

“We want to build an area for our community to gather with built-in barbecues and picnic tables,” said Sarah Baker, Board Treasurer at Stan’s Garden. “And we want to build a community garden where we can grow flowers and veggies. It was Stan’s dream for the residents to buy this land and plant gardens, and now we are making that dream come true.”