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Huge Mobile Home Park Co-op Deal Puts Residents in Charge

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Friday, October 20, 2017   

HALIFAX, Mass. – In a deal that is the largest of its kind, this week a group of 700 Halifax residents bought the mobile-home park where they live for $27 million - and they'll turn it into a co-op run by a nine-person board. The deal at Halifax Estates was facilitated by specialists at the Cooperative Development Institute, a nonprofit that helped the residents get a loan and form their co-op board.

Thomas Choate, a cooperative housing specialist at the CDI says the board collects rents on the mobile-home spaces and decides how to put the money to good use.

"With the surplus that they have in any particular year, they have agency to point that surplus where they would like in that community," he says. "And also, rather than an investor having the profits to themselves, the homeowners often can keep their rents lower."

The homeowners, many of whom are seniors, don't have to put up any money, although they are collectively liable for the loan. The rent on the spaces tends to be at or below market rate, since the profit motive has been removed. In addition, the co-op board screens new residents. In this way, Choate says many lower-income communities have been able to stamp out persistent problems with drug and crime.

Mike Bullard is the communications and marketing manager at ROC USA, a nonprofit that arranges financing for this type of resident-owned community. He says the movement started in New Hampshire, then spread to Massachusetts. Both are states where mobile-home park residents have the right of first refusal when a park goes on the market.

"It's certainly a growing trend," he notes. "So all told now, there are 206 across the country in 14 states, and it's about 12,800 homes in those communities."

CDI and ROC USA also help the co-op boards get the property assessed, do engineering studies to determine plans for capital improvements, and give ongoing assistance for ten years after the purchase.


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