The new board of Charter Oaks manufactured housing park in Arundel include, from left, Steve Staples (board member), Shannon Staples (board secretary), Nolan Gauttier (board president), James Lantagne (board vice president) and Ann Lantagne (board member). COURTESY PHOTO/Jeanee Wright

ARUNDEL — Homeowners in the 40-unit Charter Oaks manufactured housing park in Arundel took a big step toward securing their financial futures when they collectively bought their neighborhood as a resident cooperative this week.

Nolan Gauttier , the newly elected president of the Charter Oaks Board, has lived in the community for five years.

“My wife and I moved into the park about five years ago and have a young family,” Gauttier said. “Owning a home after renting previously, allowed us to build some economic security, whereas most young families in our area cannot afford to own a home. We now feel great about owning a home in a secure affordable community where we can invest more money into activities that promote health, development and well-being for our children.”

Residents of the newly formed cooperative are excited and relieved to know that they have taken control of their long term housing needs and the cost of securing them.

“This is an exciting time for everyone in our community. Adding stability and local control to a demographic that generally doesn’t have it, is a powerful and wonderful gift,” said Gauttier.

Securing affordable housing in southern Maine is an escalating challenge as incomes struggle to keep up escalating housing costs. The estimated median household income in 2016 in Arundel was $69,029, and estimated per capita income was $31,772.

As real estate prices have risen out of proportion to income in the area, manufactured home ownership remains one of the only affordable options for low-income residents. Estimated median house or condominium values in 2016 in Arundel were $237,777, a steep increase from $120,400 in 2000 and significantly higher than the statewide average of $184,700. Charter Oaks offers an attractive and affordable option for home ownership.

The purchasing process and the formation of a resident-owned cooperative has already brought the community closer together.

“Becoming a Resident Owned Community has given us a new purpose in our park. We have become more friendly with our neighbors by getting to know and interact with them on a more personal level. We now know that we have a motivated common goal to work together, united to make it a better place for our future generation. We control our land and our future now”,  said James Lantagne, Vice President of Charter Oaks Village.

Jeanee Wright, Cooperative Housing Specialist with Cooperative Development Institute provided acquisition support and technical assistance to the community as they considered converting to a cooperative.

She is glad that the residents seized the opportunity to purchase their community and looks forward to working with the resident owners to build their financial security and supporting the community towards long term success.

“The resident homeowners of Charter Oaks Village saw this opportunity and worked hard, with many residents contributing efforts to make the deal successful. Their primary motivation was long term control over the land and keeping the park affordable long term,” Wright said.

CDI is a certified technical assistance provider with ROC USA® Network, a national nonprofit organization that works to help residents of for-sale manufactured home parks form resident corporations and buy their communities cooperatively. Technical assistance will continue to be provided by CDI to the association for the length of the mortgage — a minimum of 10 years.

The residents of Charter Oaks Village purchased the community on June, 11 for $1,170,000 with financing provided by the Genesis Community Loan Fund.

“Helping a new a new resident-owned community finance the purchase of the park they live in is one of the best ways to preserve affordability into the future. From all of us at the Genesis Fund, congratulations to Charter Oaks Village Cooperative,” said Bill Floyd, Executive Director of the Genesis Community Loan Fund.

Charter Oaks Village joins eight Maine manufactured housing communities supported by CDI and financed by Genesis, representing 358 homes now under the resident’s control. All are part of the ROC USA Network, which has helped to secure over 15,000 units of affordable housing. In these democratic resident-owned communities (ROCs), homeowners each buy one low-cost membership share. Each household has one vote on matters of the community. The members elect a Board of Directors to act on day-to-day issues and vote as a membership on larger matters like the annual budget, bylaws and community rules.

Andy Danforth, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program, said resident ownership is a growing trend in the Northeast, and hopes that more Maine manufactured housing communities see the benefit of becoming resident owned.

“Residents understand the insecurity of owning their home atop rented land, especially in areas like York County where development pressure and the price of housing are accelerating, often outpacing household income. When offered the chance to collectively purchase that land, residents are excited to find options to secure it for their families,” Danforth said. “For CDI, it’s very rewarding assisting residents who are working hard to bring more economic stability and security to their lives through this process of democratic ownership”.

They join eight other resident-owned communities in Maine, and over  175 in New England. With the addition of the Charter Oaks Village to the Maine network, the Genesis Community Loan Fund and the Cooperative Development Institute have preserved 416 units of affordable housing in Maine.

They also join a growing national movement lead by ROC USA. The ROC model was pioneered by the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund in the 1980s before it was taken to scale nationally in 2008 with the launch of ROC USA. The growth among the Network has been strong over the last decade, accelerating as the Network has expanded and matured.

“Congratulations to Charter Oaks Members and welcome to the national network of Resident Owned Communities — now numbering 238 in 16 states,” said Paul Bradley, President ROC USA, LLC.

Charter Oaks Village will have a community celebration at 11 am on Saturday June 22, at New Life Christian Fellowship’s Student Center, located at 551 Alfred St. in Biddeford. Members of the media are welcome to attend.

The Cooperative Development Institute is a regional cooperative development center, founded in 1994, which has assisted dozens of new and existing cooperatives throughout New England and New York. It is involved in cooperative housing as well as agriculture, consumer, worker-owner, energy, and fishing cooperatives. To learn more about CDI, visit, www.cdi.coop, and  to learn more about Maine specific activities, visit the Cooperative Maine Business Alliance website at www.maine.coop.

The Genesis Community Loan Fund was established in 1991 by several MidCoast Maine faith-based organizations as a revolving loan fund to provide financing for affordable housing. The Genesis Community Loan Fund provides innovative financing by soliciting investment loans from individuals, churches, corporations, and foundations, and then re-lending the money at favorable terms to nonprofit organizations developing affordable housing and community facilities for underserved people and communities throughout Maine. More than 27 years later, the Genesis Fund has lent over $45.7 million to more than 240 projects to create affordable housing and vital community facilities.

ROC USA is a nonprofit organization with a national network of nine organizations such as CDI and a national financing source for resident-owned communities. ROC USA Network affiliates such as CDI have helped 238 communities preserve more than 15,500 homes in 16 states since 1984.