Madras mobile home park forms housing co-operative
When Shawn King got a letter in the mail Sept. 15, 2021, that the owners of the mobile home park she lived in was selling the land, she thought the chances of her rent remaining reasonable and remaining at the park were slim to none.
The letter from the owner informed residents they had ten days if they wanted to purchase the park, listed with a $3-million price tag.
"I really thought we would have to move," said now Co-op President Shawn King. "My husband's on disability. I stay home to care for him. We just would not be able to find a place here."
The residents of Rimrock Court got together after they received the letter, and a plan began to form. Resident and now Co-op Treasurer Ana Bueno connected the group with CASA of Oregon, who agreed to help the residents join together to buy the park.
Community and Shelter Assistance Corporation, CASA of Oregon, is an Oregon-based non-profit that works to create affordable housing in underserved communities by supporting the building and renovation of projects. They focus on creating affordable housing for farmworkers, underserved families and those that live in small towns and rural communities.
CASA has had its manufactured housing cooperative development program since 2008, and has provided support for 16 mobile home parks, totaling 990 spaces, across Oregon into resident-owned communities.
CASA works by providing and connecting residents with the necessary resources to form living cooperatives and secure loans to purchase the land. Since the program's inception, they have provided over $3.8 million in park-purchase financing.
"The affordable housing crisis in our state makes victories like this even more needed," said CASA of Oregon's Manufactured Housing and Cooperative Development Center Director, Rose Ojeda. "I am proud to work with our local partners to continue to ensure that they have what they need to thrive and drive change in their community."
A housing cooperative is formed when owners of manufactured homes form a non-profit membership association to purchase their community when it becomes available for sale. Without resident ownership, homeowners risk eviction when a community is sold to a new owner who may convert the land to other uses or impose higher land rents over which the homeowners have no control.
This was exactly the case at Rimrock Court. When King moved into the park in 2017, the rent was $350 a month. Every year since, rent has increased. King says the landlord cited improvements around the park as the reason for the increases, but few improvements were happening.
"We were getting to the high end of the budget," said King. "Another year and we would have been forced out."
Situations like this are common across the county as housing prices skyrocket. Now, the residents that have joined the co-op are locked into their rent rate for the next ten years.
"It's an incredible peace of mind to know we will be able to stay here long-term," said King.
When CASA first presented the residents with the possibility of purchasing the park, many were skeptical. They were wary of the process, and according to King, took some convincing.
"People weren't really sure at first," said King. "We have a significant population whose first language isn't English, who were really skeptical of anyone giving us $3 million without a deposit or a credit check or anything."
Eventually, the group came around. They attended meetings with CASA, met with lenders, and voted to purchase the property as a group. King says the process has really allowed the neighborhood to come together.
"Before, we didn't really talk much. Now, all the neighbors meet and talk, we all know each other," said King. "There's so much more unity as a community now."
Of the 38 homes in the park, 31 decided to join the co-op. These residents have their rent locked for ten years and have voting power in decisions the co-op makes. It costs $100 to join the co-op, and if a resident moves out of the park, they get their money back. The seven residents not in the co-op can join at any time, and as non-members, they will see the standard rent increases year to year, which can be no higher the 7% plus inflation.
CASA worked with Resident Owned Communities, or ROC USA, another non-profit that helps manufactured homeowners become resident owners. Together they provided the funding and guidance that allowed the Rimrock Court Co-op to purchase the 5-acre Madras park for $2.5 million.
The benefits of resident ownership have already begun. CASA helped the group secure funding to fix a number of issues the previous landlord refused to address. During the purchase, major problems with sewer lines, water lines and asphalt in the park were uncovered. An Additional $1.5 million was procured to make the needed changes.
As of April 9, 2022, the Rimrock Court Cooperative officially owns the park. Already, plans to fix the sewer issues, re-pave roads and address other resident issues around the park are underway.
"I can't wait to really be able to make the changes we want to see," said King. "It's going to be a new place. I still can't believe this is real. I tell people all the time 'Pinch me. I must be dreaming.' This really is life changing for everyone that lives here, and I hope others see us and think 'let's do it,' because it is possible."
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