In an effort to help people better understand what CDI does – and why our work is so crucial – we turned to the best asset we have. Our staff. The people who work at CDI are, if we may say so ourselves, brilliant at and passionate about what they do. They’re also proud of their work, and we wanted to share their reasons why. Below is the voice of Colleen Preston, a Housing Program Organizer under CDI’s NEROC Program and a Cooperative Development Specialist:
I don’t think there is anything more rewarding in this life than to watch as everyday people take hold of their lives and create a real home for themselves, a real community that thrives and flourishes soley through the singular and extraordinary efforts of its residents. And…lucky me…that’s my job as a Cooperative Development Specialist for CDI. It’s not an easy job, but it’s a dream job. And I would not trade it for anything.
Most of what I do involves helping residents of mobile or manufactured home communities purchase their parks and run them cooperatively, wholly owned and operated by the people themselves. It is an extraordinary journey these folks take, from the first disbelief and shock that such a thing is within their grasp to the gratifying and sometimes teary moment when the papers are passed, the ink is dry and they are in charge of their future for the first time. CDI coaches, advises, and trains them through every step of that journey – and it’s an arduous one – and then stays on for the life of the loan, or longer, to offer whatever help members of the co-op might need as they navigate the sometimes turbulent waters involved in running a significant and serious business. But the effort is worth it. Residents take control of their own destiny. They enjoy stable rents, improved systems and services and, very often, a quick jump in the value of their homes as the community becomes a more desireable place to live.
CDI usually teams up with ROC USA, a national non-profit dedicated to manufactured home park conversions, to arrange financing for these communities and both organizations stay in close touch with each park for all the years of the loan. It is a relationship that has allowed ROC USA affiliated parks, and there are now about 150 of them nationwide, to stay stable and viable. To date, none of them have failed. It is a social experiment that is working and everyone involved in the program is excited by the future of the whole movement.
Watching these communities develop is exhilarating. Watching them shake off an authoritarian governing structure and embrace the essence and power of a true participatory democracy makes my day every time I see it. This is, of course, the spirit of cooperatives everywhere but to see it applied to home-ownership is something special for me. As I said before, I really like my job.