‘Permanently affordable opportunities for homeownership

  • A real estate sign outside property for sale in Greenfield.

Published: 1/21/2022 2:19:07 PM
Modified: 1/21/2022 2:18:06 PM

Amid New Hampshire’s growing affordable housing crisis, there has been one longstanding effort to address the problem: the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund’s ROC-NH initiative, which has helped create and preserve 1,270 affordable manufactured homes over the past three years while also providing mortgages to hundreds of homebuyers who wouldn’t otherwise qualify.

ROCs, or resident-owned communities, now account for about a third of manufactured-home communities in the Granite State. Most recently the Community Loan Fund’s ROC-NH program helped the homeowners in Evans Mobile Home Park in Epping purchase their 21-home community. Evans Cooperative is the state’s 140th ROC and was the sixth to convert in 2021. All told, the 140 ROCs contain nearly 8,500 permanently affordable homes because the communities are not-for-profit cooperatives. Lot rents (the fee homeowners pay to use the land under their houses) increase only when necessary to pay increased costs of running the community.

Sarah Wrightsman, the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority’s community engagement coordinator and the former executive director of the Workforce Housing Coalition of the Greater Seacoast, says ROCs communities are an important part of the state’s housing picture.

“These communities contribute both to the overall diversity and affordability of our housing,” she says. “They are permanently affordable opportunities for homeownership, adding to an incredibly limited supply of housing — especially affordable housing — in New Hampshire.”

She points out that essential members of our workforce and our communities make their homes in ROCs. They’re people who work in our schools, hospitals and other health care settings, grocery stores and restaurants, farms and municipal services.

Keep money circulating locally

Resident ownership of these communities not only preserves a vital source of affordable and workforce housing says Steve Saltzman, president and CEO of the Community Loan Fund – it also keeps the park’s revenue circulating locally. Increasingly, manufactured-home parks are being bought by equity firms that see large profits in the homes.

“When that happens, money leaves our communities with no commensurate return in services or value,” says Saltzman. “It’s just vacuumed out of these neighborhoods to line investors’ pockets.”

The worst-case scenario is park closure – when an owner wants to change the use of the land. In those cases, park residents who can’t afford the more than $10,000 it takes to physically move their homes, instead abandon them and may become homeless.

State law does give the residents some recourse when corporate ownership is threatened – park owners are required to give a 60-day notice of an impending sale to homeowners in manufactured-home communities must negotiate in good faith to sell to their residents.

‘An excellent option’

“Manufactured homes in resident-owned communities are an excellent option for New Hampshire homebuyers,” says Ignatius MacLellan, managing director of New Hampshire Housing’s Homeownership Division. “Because the market is so competitive, many low- and middle-income people are struggling to find a home to buy. The Community Loan Fund’s efforts to add new homes within existing resident-owned communities is an important initiative.”

Key to this effort is the affordability of manufactured homes. The average monthly cost for new home is less than $1,000, while two-bedroom apartments rent for close to $1,500.

And ROC residents enjoy benefits far beyond affordability. When Brookside Cooperative in Hill purchased its park last April, the co-op’s president, David Kirsch, said he immediately saw a heightened sense of responsibility and more engagement among Brookside’s residents.

“We are making plans for getting all urgent repairs completed and looking to the future to see what else we can do to improve the condition of the park. There is a growing sense of community that I didn’t see before,” he said. “None of this would have been possible had we chose to just let some other private investor buy the park.”

In addition to helping convert parks to ROCs, the Community Loan Fund’s “Welcome Home Loans” help people achieve homeownership who wouldn’t qualify for a conventional mortgage loan.

The loans are customized for homebuyers who have poor or no credit or who want to buy homes built before 1976, when the federal government enacted construction and safety standards for manufactured homes. They include a 5% down payment, of which 2% has to come from the buyer; no limit of the house’s age; no minimum credit score; no requirement for private mortgage insurance; fixed interest rate; and terms up to 30 years.

For borrowers with very low incomes, the program also offers up to $20,000 in down payment and closing cost assistance.

Homes must be located in or moved to a ROC or the homeowner’s land.

Since 2002, Welcome Home Loans has provided nearly $77 million in home financing to 1,470 individuals or families, including more than $550,000 to 165 buyers who needed down payment assistance.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org. 



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