For Immediate Release
February 16, 2018
Windy Hollow MHC
Residents purchase 44-home park in Rutland County; become 215th nationally networked resident-owned community
Robin Crowningshield, President, Windy Hollow Mobile Home Cooperative Board of Directors
Andy Danforth, Housing Program Director, CDI (401) 439-9795
Sarah Martin, Cooperative Development Specialist, CDI (518) 534-2654
Paul Bradley, President, ROC USA, LLC (603) 513-2818
CASTLETON, VT – Homeowners in the 44-home Windy Hollow Mobile Home Park have a reason to celebrate. Today they have successfully purchased of their community, and with it, have entered a new phase of greater financial security. Resident ownership also gives them the security of knowing that their long-term housing will remain affordable and under their governance. “In the 30 years I lived here, I never once thought I’d own the place”, said Board Secretary Don Celik.
The $1.04 million purchase makes Windy Hollow a resident-owned cooperative corporation. Members overcame several significant obstacles to arrive at this point, but their perseverance prevailed. The board is feeling relief that many of their neighbors who are on fixed incomes are no longer in danger of needing to move and search for new and adequate housing. They also no longer have to worry if the park will close, which would have displaced all 44 families. The low vacancy rates in Vermont — 5.2 percent as of 2017 — demonstrate the pressing need for preserving affordable neighborhoods and the importance of maintaining a community such as Windy Hollow. There are only 23 available lots in Rutland County. Furthermore, most of the units at Windy Hollow are double-wide homes, which most communities do not have the space for, and cost substantially more to relocate.
“This means a lot to us. Three years ago we were faced with having to move or lose our homes, and here we are today as cooperative owners of our park. It was a long haul. A lot of the people here are retirees on fixed incomes, and it would have been hard to find new places to live”, said Robin Crowningshield, President of the Board.
After forming the association in spring of 2015, the board underwent two property conditions studies and in July 2016 discovered that the purchase would not be able to go through without expending significant financial resources to address their well-worn infrastructure. Established in 1966, the community’s water infrastructure was long overdue for repairs. However, the projected expense required to address the infrastructure repairs threatened to prevent the sale to the residents.
Perseverance and community collaboration prevailed. With guidance from the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity’s (CVOEO) Mobile Home Program and the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). These groups suggested that the Windy Hollow Mobile Home Park Cooperative work with the Cooperative Development Institute to apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Vermont Community Development Program. With assistance from the Cooperative Development Institute, and the help Diane Meyerhoff of Third Sector Associates, the residents of the Windy Hollow applied for the grant in November 2016 and received notice in late February 2017 that they would be awarded a grant for $364,000 to cover the costs of upgrading the water distribution system as well as repair drainage, roads and install flushing hydrants.
Jonathan Bond of CVOEO commented that, “our Mobile Home Program is very pleased to have been able to help the residents of Windy Hollow to become the owners of their community. Having overcome several difficulties the residents are well prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”
In early 2015, after the owner of the community issued a sales notice, the ACCD and CVOEO’s Mobile Home Program invited CDI to meet with the community to walk through some of their options. Thanks to legislation in Vermont, the residents of mobile home communities have the right of first refusal, giving them 45 days to explore their options and an additional 120 days to perform their due diligence. The residents of Windy Hollow decided early on that they wanted to explore the cooperative route. Their motivation was escalated knowing that the sale notice was due to a potential closure. Eventually, the residents prevailed.
Now that the community is cooperatively owned, each household has one vote on matters of the community. The cost of the share for membership is very low at a one time buy in of one hundred dollars, so that no residents are excluded due to financial hardships. 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. Residents are looking forward to having more of an opportunity to contribute to the social well being and vibrancy of their community.
The Board members have been meeting with representatives of the CDI team one to three times per month throughout 2017, and will continue to work with CDI to review trainings and best practices for managing and operating their community.
Andy Danforth, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program said, “Resident cooperatives buy most of the mobile home parks that come up for sale in New England. These cooperatives have proven to preserve the quality of the communities and the affordability of homeownership for thousands of families here, and nationwide.”
Financing for the $1.04 million conversion, provided by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) and the Cooperative Fund of New England (CFNE), covers the purchase price, establishes a reserve escrow account and initial infrastructure spending, and covers closing costs.
CDI is one of nine certified technical assistance providers with ROC USAⓇ Network. ROC USA serves as a national financing and training source for resident-owned communities.
“I’m so happy to see the Members take the reins of their neighborhood. Local ownership is so often the best ownership and as a co-op, every Member has not just a say in community matters, but the chance to run for a leadership position and serve their neighbors. Their business solves the two fundamental barriers to resident ownership – 1) access to expert technical assistance and 2) financing to help homeowners become buyers when their community is for sale,” said Paul Bradley, ROC USA’s founding president.
ROC USA Network affiliates have helped 215 communities preserve nearly 14,000 homes in 15 states. www.rocusa.org Windy Hollow is now the ninth community in Vermont to participate in the ROC USA Network and the 35th new community CDI has assisted.
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. www.cdi.coop