Homeowners purchase Colorado community for $7 million with help from City of Golden, Thistle and ROC USA Capital’s Innovative Funding Pool

Golden Hills Community Cooperative is ROC USA’s 312th resident owned community

GOLDEN, Colo.– If you would have told Golden Hills Community Cooperative Board Treasurer Art Erwin earlier this year that his community would be resident owned, he would not have believed it.

He and his neighbors bought the park on July 11 after three previous attempts to purchase their community. Sticking together is what made this purchase possible, and they know that is what will help this community navigate their future as a resident owned cooperative.

“While we have had several previous attempts to purchase Golden Hills fail,” Erwin said. “It feels great to not have given up and to now say, ‘WE OWN IT!’ I entered this effort to help my neighbors and keep control of our own future.”

Golden Hills Community Cooperative is a 39-site manufactured home community near downtown Golden, Colo, a desirable city in the Denver metro area, located at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Golden Hills has easy access to outdoor activities, universities and is home to Coors – one of the world’s largest breweries.

This deal garnered public support, and the City of Golden supported the residents in several ways, including a $2 million deferred loan. Due diligence also revealed that 11 of the 39 lots have homes encroaching over the property boundary and into the city’s right of way. The city issued an agreement that allowed the homes to exist over the boundary. Usually, the City of Golden grants these agreements for a maximum of six months, but approved an agreement that covers the units for the full 10-year term of the loan.

“This is a really inspiring story of perseverance that has paid off with long-term security for a group of homeowners in a market that has experienced more extreme price pressures,” said ROC USA President Paul Bradley. “This community will serve generations of low-income homeowners in Golden.”

Financing for Golden Hills was provided by ROC USA® Capital, a Treasury-certified Community Development Financial Institution. Golden Hills is another community to utilize a new financing vehicle that brought together nine organizations to create a below-market-rate pool of community acquisition capital for Colorado. Financing includes funds not only to purchase the land, but also to make necessary infrastructure repairs or upgrades.  Capital partnered with Thistle and the following investors to bring $6.56 million to the table: Colorado Housing Finance Agency, Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Trust, Ally Bank, Key Bank, Mercy Community Capital and JPMorgan Chase. ROC USA Capital will also provide a $1.1 million, 2.5 percent interest only construction loan to Golden Hills Community Cooperative.

“ROC USA Capital is extremely pleased to provide this financing package to Golden Hills and to work in partnership with Thistle to enable the Co-op to purchase and substantially improve its community,” said Michael Sloss, managing director of ROC USA Capital. “We’re also pleased to be working with the City of Golden which has made a substantial investment in these homeowners. This public/private partnership is an excellent example of affordable homeownership preservation.”

Prior to purchase, like most manufactured home communities, residents of Golden Hills owned their homes, but not the land beneath them. This arrangement made homeowners vulnerable to rent increases and eviction, a risk that can increase when the properties are put on the market. By purchasing the property, themselves, homeowners are now in control of major decisions like community rules, infrastructure projects, and lot rent.

It is this last piece that has put a spotlight on resident ownership of manufactured home communities as one solution to the affordable housing crisis. On average, resident-owned communities raise site fees minimally compared to the industry average. For homeowners in Golden Hills, this long-term affordability means long-term stability.

“It’s really exciting that our community is becoming resident owned,” said Joyce Tanner, Board President of Golden Hills. “It’s been a long journey to get here, and we are so thankful for the help we’ve had along the way. Knowing we live in a city that is supportive of affordable housing and our neighborhood is very meaningful. The financial assistance from the city and county is crucial in being able to stabilize lot rents and avoiding resident displacement. Our co-op Board and Members have volunteered countless hours over the last two years. Having the support of the city and local nonprofits has helped keep us moving forward. We are truly grateful.”

This purchase was also made possible by Colorado’s opportunity to purchase laws. Passed in 2020, these laws give homeowners in manufactured housing communities the opportunity to purchase the land their community sits on. The residents of Golden Hills also worked with Thistle during the purchase process. Employees from this nonprofit, based in Boulder, Colo., coached them through the purchase process and will continue to provide technical assistance to the co-op for at least the length of the 10-year purchase loan.

“It has been wonderful to support them as they worked through this process,” said Thistle-ROC Program Director Tim Townsend. “Their hard work paid off, and now they can celebrate achieving their goal of maintaining their community as an affordable option for current and future GHCC residents.”

The City of Golden committed up to $1 million in January 2022 to support any transaction which would result in the residents or an affordable housing nonprofit owning and maintaining the park as long-term affordable housing. In February 2023, the co-op board submitted an offer to the current owners – Harmony Communities – to purchase the park, and it was accepted. The residents, city staff and local advocacy group, Golden United, communicated with foundations, and county and state agencies on behalf of the residents, to obtain additional funding.

Jefferson County was able to redirect funds to contribute to the City of Golden’s affordable housing initiatives. Following that action, Golden City Council voted to allocate $2 million dollars in a loan agreement to support the co-op purchase.

“We want to thank the County for being a great partner in our regional efforts to preserve and maintain naturally occurring affordable housing,” said Golden Mayor Laura Weinberg. “This investment in existing housing and land in the city creates needed stability for current and future Golden Hills residents. This kind of collaboration, hard work and love of community across multiple partners is what Golden is all about.”