How Resident-Owned Communities Protect Mobile Homeowners from Exploitation

This post is the second in a series of blog posts for National Homeownership Month 2019. Previously, we discussed why homeownership matters for health outcomes. Join us this November in Portland, OR for the I’M HOME Conference, the premier gathering for researchers, practitioners and advocates working to make manufactured housing a solution to America’s affordable housing crisis.  

This year, advocates for manufactured housing in Vermont have celebrated the creation of four new resident-owned communities (ROCs): Lakeview Cooperative in Shelburne, Westbury Park in Colchester, Sunset Lake Cooperative in Hinesburg, and St. George Community Cooperative in St. George have all become resident-owned with the help of the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), a nonprofit that helps small businesses and other groups create cooperatives.  

In a ROC, manufactured homeowners collectively purchase their park to form a cooperative, which is essentially a nonprofit business. Each resident owns the park equally and manages it on their own terms. ROCs are usually governed in democratic fashion by boards and committees made up of the residents themselves. By granting residents more control over their communities, ROCs help safeguard against exploitation.

Manufactured housing parks that are managed by other for-profit entities don’t always enjoy those same protections. Even though residents may own their homes, they typically don’t own the land beneath, leaving residents vulnerable to exploitation through excessive lot rents or short notice of eviction from the land. This is partly because of the widespread idea that if you don’t like the management or cannot afford to keep up with rising lot rent, you can move your mobile home elsewhere. However, the reality is that these homes are not truly “mobile,” because they can cost thousands of dollars to move, if they are able to move at all.

According to the Prosperity Now Scorecard, homeownership continues to be the largest source of wealth for families in America, with 63.9% of households owning their homes. Over 18 million Americans live in manufactured housing, and the median price of a manufactured home is much lower than the general median home price of $217,600. Through the ROC model, manufactured housing residents can take charge to ensure the continued stability and affordability of their communities.

Want to learn about more case studies in manufactured housing like Vermont’s? Sign up for the I’M HOME network!

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