Camden, Maine – Homeowners in the 52- unit Mountainside Park, a 55 and over manufactured housing community in Camden took a big step toward securing their financial futures when they collectively bought their neighborhood as a resident cooperative this week.
The purchasing process and the formation of a resident owned cooperative has already brought the community closer together. “ This has been an all inclusive process affording us the opportunity to learn and work together towards a common goal. I’m sure it has strengthened us all and we will move into the future with a stronger awareness of our neighbors and a deeper commitment to the success of our community,” said Margaret Jones, Board Vice President of the newly formed cooperative.
John McKay, At Large Board Director, agreed and is delighted that he and his neighbors now have the peace of mind that they can continue living affordably in one of Maine’s most scenic communities. “Living here at Mountainside Park is a delight, with beautiful surrounds, it being extremely private plus having friendly neighbors. The transition from private ownership to cooperative ownership in such a short time is and has been a challenge. It couldn’t have happened without the complete cooperation of all the residents. That is one of the best things about living here — the cooperation of my neighbors.”
Board Treasurer, Phil Amoroso, and his wife Anne agree. “ Mountainside is a wonderful community in a beautiful location. The process of purchasing our community as a co-op has been somewhat challenging – mostly due to the unknown factors. However it has also been an opportunity to get to know other members of the community and to have a say in how things are run. We are hopeful that the purchase will result in positive improvements and an increasing feeling of community. “
Jeanee Wright, Cooperative Housing Specialist with Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) helped navigate the community through the challenging times, and provided acquisition support and technical assistance to the community as they considered converting to a cooperative. She is glad that the residents seized the opportunity to purchase their community and looks forward to working with the resident owners to build their financial security and supporting the community towards long term success.
“The engaged and proud resident homeowners of Mountainside Park saw this as a winning opportunity and worked hard to research the viability of the sale and future business plans for the cooperative. Residents worked collaboratively together to research and identify costs and planning of volunteer committees to ensure a successful transaction and future for Mountainside. Residents are excited to keep the community an attractive and affordable place to live and own a home in Camden,” added Wright.
CDI is a certified technical assistance provider with ROC USA® Network, a national non-profit organization that works to help residents of for-sale manufactured home parks form resident corporations and buy their communities cooperatively. Technical assistance will continue to be provided by CDI to the association for the length of the mortgage — a minimum of 10 years.
The residents of Mountainside Community purchased the community on December 11th for $1,900,000 with financing provided by Camden National Bank, Genesis Community Loan Fund and the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund.
“We are so pleased to be able to help the residents of the Mountainside Community Cooperative become property owners today,” said William Floyd, Executive Director of the Genesis Fund. “For these 52 households of older working adults and retirees, this purchase has secured housing affordability in a high-priced Camden market. For Genesis, it’s also a milestone – the tenth cooperative conversion we’ve financed in the past ten years. We are extremely proud to have helped create these ownership opportunities for so many Maine communities.”
Mountainside Community Cooperative joins nine Maine manufactured housing communities supported by CDI and financed by Genesis, representing 440 homes now under the resident’s control. All are part of the ROC USA Network, which has helped to secure over 15,000 units of affordable housing. In these democratic resident-owned communities (ROCs), homeowners each buy one low-cost membership shares. Each household has one vote on matters of the community. 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, bylaws and community rules.
Joe Cicirelli, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program, said resident ownership is a growing trend in the Northeast, and hopes that more Maine manufactured housing communities see the benefit of becoming resident owned.
“Residents understand the insecurity of owning their home atop rented land, especially in areas like Camden, Maine where development pressure and the price of housing are accelerating, often outpacing household income. When offered the chance to collectively purchase that land, residents are excited to find options to secure it for their families,” Cicerelli said. “For CDI, it’s very rewarding assisting residents who are working hard to bring more economic stability and security to their lives through this process of democratic ownership”.
The residents of Mountainside Community Cooperative join 9 other resident owned communities in Maine, and over 175 in New England. With the addition of Mountainside Community to the Maine network, the Genesis Community Loan Fund and the Cooperative Development Institute have preserved 440 units of affordable housing in Maine.
“We’re proud to provide financing to the residents of the Mountainside Community to secure affordable, quality housing in Camden,” said Steve Matteo, Senior Vice President, Commercial Regional Manager at Camden National Bank. “Investing in the community is at the core of what we do, and it’s been a pleasure working with the Cooperative Development Institute and seeing this project come to life.”
To complete the deal, additional financing for the Mountainside Community conversion to resident ownership was provided by the The Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF), a Boston-based community development financial institution that supports resident- and worker-owned cooperatives nationally. Gerardo Espinoza, Executive Director of LEAF, said, “LEAF is thrilled to support the Mountainside Community Cooperative in taking ownership of their community. This project will preserve long-term affordable housing in an increasingly high-cost market, and aligns with LEAF’s core values of cooperative ownership and self-governance. We are grateful to our partners at CDI and Camden National Bank, the committed residents of the Mountainside Community, and the mission-driven investors who make the financing for this project possible. Congratulations to the new resident-owners.”
They also join a growing national movement lead by ROC USA. The ROC model was pioneered by the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund in the 1980s before it was taken to scale nationally in 2008 with the launch of ROC USA. The growth among the Network has been strong over the last decade, accelerating as the Network has expanded and matured.
“Congratulations to Mountainside Community Members and welcome to the national network of Resident Owned Communities – now numbering 252 in 17 states,” said Paul Bradley, President ROC USA, LLC.
Mountainside Community Cooperative will have a community celebration on January 11th at 1:00 pm in Camden. Members of the media are welcome to attend.