Just before Thanksgiving and a bout of COVID 19, I was in Denver for a staff retreat and time with ROC USA’s affiliate in Colorado, the Thistle-ROC team.
We also celebrated with the lenders that ROC USA® Capital organized in the $55 million low-interest financing pool for new ROCs in the state. Thanks to those lenders*, ROC USA Capital is lending in Colorado with loans with interest rates below 5 percent when the going market-rate is over 7 percent. Not only does this financing – which ROC USA Capital deploys and services – save ROC Members significant sums of money through lower mortgage payments and lower site-fees every month, frankly, it makes resident ownership possible. Colorado’s population has grown at nearly twice the rate as the rest of the country over the last decade, and that growth has created one of the worst affordable housing crises in the country. Homeowners are reeling from it.
Everyone wants to live in Colorado! (OK, that’s an exaggeration but I know several people who have moved there and no one who’s moved out.)
While our team, the Thistle-ROC team, and the lenders made the trip extremely important – and believe me, I really enjoyed seeing and talking with people in person for a change – it was the six co-op leaders who spoke that sent me home beaming with pride.
These leaders came to Denver from across the state to speak with our teams, the lenders and guests about their personal experience leading their communities through the purchase and managing them as ROCs. It’s so important for us to hear directly from them. We’re here to serve them after all.
Each community leader had well-thought-through ideas and experiences to share. Hearing each one of them made my skin tingle.
LaVern Schafer from La Luna Community Cooperative in Lafayette was clear and direct in his remarks. He said, “I have lived in my community for 37 years. I am a retired school custodian. My neighbors work at Walmart and are school custodians.”
He went on to say, “I am so proud of my city, county and state for helping us become landowners.”
“Colorado is setting the example for other states to do the same thing,” said Kathleen Costello, Board Vice President at Animas View MHP Cooperative in Durango. “We are telling the story, and they are listening. When community members take control of their own property and futures, investors say, ‘Let’s get behind that.’”
Kelly Jensen, Board President for Paradise Village in Johnstown, said to a group of investors and policymakers, “We were the very first group in Colorado to receive money from the state pool. I feel like we couldn’t have done this without all your help.”
I don’t know about you, but I most often hear public officials taking it from all sides and too few people appreciating their efforts. I was so happy to hear LaVern and Kathleen reflect so positively on their experience with public officials on every level of government in Colorado.
I heard other leaders talk about the value of the technical Assistance provider and quality of the financing. Some expressed gratitude for the online training and networking available on ROCKET.
“We work with amazing folks,” said Joyce Tanner, Board President at Golden Hills. “Having the ear and attention of Tim (Townsend) and other Thistle folks has been such an asset.”
Some remarked on the challenges of being a Co-op leader and balancing work, family, and the Co-op. And yet, here they were, driving to Denver to meet with us and share their stories. Co-op leaders are so impressive to me; they always have been. The dedication they demonstrate to their neighborhoods is inspiring to me, and it is why I say, “We will work as hard for you as you are willing to work for your community.”
Thank you to the Colorado ROC leaders and Thistle-ROC staff. It’s great to be in the state with you – and don’t worry – all but two of our team left the state for other states afterward. (We do have two employees in Colorado though.)
*The lenders include the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, Colorado Health Foundation, Colorado Trust, Ally Bank, KeyBank, JPMorgan Chase and Mercy Community Capital. We wish you could join us in every other state in the country! Thank you for your confidence and continued support for resident ownership in Colorado.