Bipartisan program could deliver millions in infrastructure and acquisition funding to resident owned communities
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A $225 million new program to invest in manufactured home communities across the country has been approved by Congress and is on its way to the President’s desk for his signature thanks in part to conversations occurring across the aisle in Washington, D.C., and across the picnic tables at a Burlington, Vt., ROC.
The Preservation and Reinvestment Initiative for Community Enhancement (Price Fund) sets aside $225 million to preserve and improve manufactured home communities. PRICE is named for retiring U.S. Rep. David E. Price (D-NC), Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee. The bill also had crucial support from the subcommittee’s Ranking Member, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and the full committee’s Chairman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT). In the Senate, Appropriations Committee Chairman U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senate THUD subcommittee Chairman Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Ranking Member U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) showed strong interest in PRICE and worked hard to ensure its passage. Countless other members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and across the country pledged their support by introducing legislation, voicing their support to appropriators, touring local manufactured home communities and meeting with homeowners over the last three years.
PRICE is the first programmatic community-level investment by the federal government in resident owned communities – communities whose homeowner leaders helped to secure its passage.
On a cool, fall Wednesday in early October, ROC leaders from North Avenue Cooperative sat around their community picnic tables to discuss the future of their neighborhood with a group of federal policy makers. The group had just finished a two-hour tour of the community, researching the then-proposed PRICE Fund and access to existing federal resources for ROCs.
North Avenue Cooperative purchased those tables shortly after they bought their community in 2015, and the shared space has been a place for homeowners to gather, connect and celebrate. They sit on the benches around the tables when they celebrate children’s birthdays – chatting and catching up while their kids jump on bouncy houses nearby. They grill there, enjoying a barbecue together, sharing meals around the tables. And one time, they even hosted U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) – who lives around the corner.
It was the perfect place to gather after showing staffers the critical deferred maintenance needs the ROC inherited when homeowners purchased the community more than seven years ago, including a $5.5 million overhaul of the community’s water, wastewater and sewerage system, said North Avenue Cooperative Board President Stephen Hamlin.
“After the tour, we all sat at these picnic tables in this green space, and we talked. We discussed what they saw,” Hamlin said. “It was great to sit there with them. They understood what we needed. I felt like they really took the time to hear us.”
During October and November, policy makers and Congressional staff members toured ROCs in Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island to see what impact PRICE could have on manufactured home communities. And the tours were a success.
“The resident-ownership model is such a common-sense solution, and that’s been proved by this bi-partisan support for what more and more people are coming to acknowledge is permanent housing,” said ROC USA® President Paul Bradley. “PRICE can really help transform communities that have witnessed decades of deferred maintenance and prepare them for a resilient and secure future.”
Cooperative Development Institute, the ROC USA® Network affiliate in Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut, was instrumental in coordinating tours with congressional staffers and ROC leaders to show Congress why this funding is so important to manufactured home communities.
“We are unbelievably honored to walk beside the incredible ROC leaders in New England who were at the forefront of this advocacy effort every step of the way,” said Aliza Levine, cooperative development specialist with CDI. “They met with Congresspeople and Senators, contributed key strategies, wrote op-eds, took congressional staff on tours of their communities and more. This is their win, and we are so grateful for the ROC leaders who stepped up and will continue to uplift ROCs across the country.”
Marjory Gilsrud, ROC Association Director and Board President at Madelia Mobile Village Cooperative in Madelia, Minn., said she’s excited for the impact PRICE can make. She’s eager to see current and future ROCs be able to leverage funding to fix deferred infrastructure issues that will enable them to keep rent low for all homeowners.
“Sometimes issues like deferred maintenance for sewer and water systems can drive up the amount homeowners have to borrow when they buy their communities,” said Gilsrud, who, with her Association Director colleagues, visited Congressional staffers at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., this fall to share firsthand details of how the funding could transform communities. “So instead of paying $400 per month for rent, it could go up to $525 per month because of the costly infrastructure project. I’m hopeful that PRICE will help offset some of these costly projects.”
Carol Hodgkins, Board President at Wardtown Mobile Home Cooperative in Freeport, Maine, hosted a tour for congressional staff on a rainy day in November, and she was excited about its impact.
“I am so excited that PRICE is moving ahead,” Hodgkins said. “This just goes to show that when one single voice joins a bunch of other single voices things can get done. We are better together.”