ROC USA®, Thistle celebrate first year
of innovative financing pool
DENVER – On a cool Wednesday evening on the rooftop of the Carla Madison Recreation Center overlooking the bright lights of downtown Denver, a group of Colorado ROC homeowners leaned against the balcony, standing shoulder-to-shoulder for a group picture. It was the perfect culmination of a day full of connection, collaboration and celebration of the one-year anniversary of the innovative financing strategy that has so far helped two resident groups purchase the land beneath their homes.
“We were the very first group in Colorado to receive money from the state pool,” Kelly Jensen, Board President for Paradise Village Cooperative in Johnstown, Colo., told a crowd of about 50. “I feel like we couldn’t have done this without all your help. We have to keep going and get more ROCs involved.”
ROC USA® Capital and Thistle Community Housing collaborated with seven banks and nonprofits last year to secure a $55 million capital pool that positions homeowners in Colorado in manufactured home communities to successfully purchase their neighborhoods when they come up for sale. State law gives Colorado homeowners a short window to organize and secure financing to match a competing offer when their communities are for sale. The other investors include: Colorado Housing Finance Agency, Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Trust, Ally Bank, Key Bank, Mercy Community Capital and JPMorgan Chase.
Paradise Village and Golden Hills Community Cooperative in Golden, Colo., both received funding from this pool. On Nov. 15, homeowners from Paradise Village and Golden Hills along with homeowners of Animas View in Durango, Colo., joined ROC USA®, Thistle and contributors to the pool to celebrate the success of the funding.
“Residents have the most important voice,” said Rachel Arndt, a manufactured home advocate at Boulder County. “This legislation wouldn’t have happened without your voice. I’m thrilled to see the legislation in action and all this success. It’s a dream come true.”
In 2020, the Colorado Legislature passed an Opportunity to Purchase law, which allows homeowners groups there to match offers from third-party private investor-developers when their manufactured home communities go up for sale. (There are currently nine additional states across the country with a version of OTP legislation on the books – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and New York).
However, the initial legislation required homeowner groups to secure financing commitments within 90 days of the required notice of sale. Thistle and ROC USA Capital worked with two homeowner groups in Boulder County (Sans Souci Cooperative) and Durango (Animas View MHC Cooperative) during the first half of 2021 to buy their MHCs using this law. At that time, $21 million was assembled from seven different sources of private, public and philanthropic capital, but it took more than 90 days to do so, leaving the homeowners, Thistle and ROC USA Capital with all the risk on the 90th day.
Rob Riker is the former grants, finance and compliance manager for The Colorado Trust and was instrumental in helping to assemble the financing pool.
“For us, we couldn’t respond to every community that wanted to buy in 90 days and we could see communities being bought up,” Riker said. “Centralizing a fund made sense to us because it could help us support people in this space. Our timing was so important, and our participation pushed others to join.”
“Colorado is setting the example for other states to do the same thing,” said Kathleen Costello, Board Vice President for Animas View. “We are telling them the story and they are listening. When community members take control of their own property and futures, investors say let’s get behind that.”
Michael Sloss, managing director of ROC USA Capital, expressed gratitude for the support of Thistle, the ROC USA affiliate in Colorado, throughout the last year.
“We can’t lend to your communities without the technical assistance that comes with it and that leads to great work,” Sloss said. “I want to thank all of the people who made the $55 million capital pool possible.”
Art Erwin is the Board Treasurer for Golden Hills, whose homeowners purchased in July. He said the experience has brought the community closer together.
“This is what it’s all about. We control our own future and keep rents down for everyone and we know each other better,” Erwin said. “Before I got involved, I knew half my neighbors. Now I know 80 percent of them.”
While Erwin celebrated getting to know his neighbors, he also met other homeowners from manufactured home communities across Colorado and these friendships will continue to thrive despite the distance and that connection is what it’s all about, said Tim Townsend, Thistle ROC Program Director.
“Having all the partners together in one room to celebrate their great work accomplished in support of resident ownership in Colorado was really something special,” Townsend said. “Being able to thank them for their efforts and support has been important to us on our team at Thistle. It was wonderful having not only the partners who have been supported by the funding directly. Hearing their stories and words of thanks reminds us of the importance of resident ownership and its impact here in our state.”