After a long struggle, signs of rebirth
From the start, it has been an uphill struggle for Sandy Ridge Estates Cooperative.
In 2003, the 35 families in Pine River Mobile Home Park were nearly homeless. After trying for years to get its owner to replace the park’s substandard water and wastewater systems, the state ordered the park and an adjacent campground closed. The residents got eviction notices and the park was put up for sale.
The families worried that even if a buyer kept the park open, their rents would be jacked up to pay for the improvements. “I guess we figured we were going to be better having it ourselves than having new landlords,” says co-op president Lawrence Shuman.
While residents formed the cooperative and started planning to buy the park, New Hampshire Legal Assistance helped them hold off its closure. But the co-op had to prove that it could afford the repairs.
The Community Loan Fund came through with two loans—one to help the co-op buy the park in April 2004, and one to help finance the construction. Ossipee residents, urged by their police chief, also supported the park residents at town meeting by voting to sponsor a federal grant.
Then the hard work began. The co-op closed the campground, held volunteer cleanup days and had more than 200 tons of refuse—abandoned homes and trailers, broken-down vehicles and other debris—hauled away.
By 2008, Sandy Ridge had new water, electric and septic systems. But the state hadn’t allowed the co-op to fill any lots or rent out any homes until the project was finished. The community shrank to 18 families. With only half as much rent coming in, the co-op couldn’t pay its bills.
The good news was that Sandy Ridge had spaces and services for 40 homes, plus another 10 where the campground had been. The co-op hoped a manufactured-home dealer would install some houses to sell onsite.
The bad news: “The economy went down,” says Shuman. “They didn’t want to tie all that money up.”
This time, the Community Loan Fund’s flexibility was the key. Sandy Ridge’s loans were combined and restructured to adjust to the co-op’s reduced income and allow it to create a capital reserve fund. That fund paid to groom three house lots, including cement slabs and utility connections, to make them more attractive to potential buyers.
In mid-September, Shuman smiled as he nodded toward the corner lot that was soon to be filled by a brand-new doublewide home. It’ll be the first home people see when they drive into the community, a symbol of Sandy Ridge’s rebirth—and a sign of things to come.
This article was originally published in the Community Loan Fund's 2012 Annual Report.