Miracle in Milan

In just 10 days, New Hampshire Community Loan Fund helps
Milan manufactured-home park residents save 18 homes

In early April, a call came into the ROC-NH™ offices of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund from Jeanette Ball. Ball, a resident of Bob’s Mobile Home Park in Milan, said the park was to be sold at a foreclosure auction in two weeks. Could ROC-NH help the residents?

On April 10, ROC-NH staff sat with Ball in her home, learning about the park and about the residents’ precarious situation. The auction was scheduled for April 21, and there is little other affordable housing in the area.

Residents at Deer Estates Cooperative hoist the We Own It bannerDeer Estates Co-op residents took quick action to save their community. From left, co-op treasurer Dan Roy, member Warren Ball, secretary Jeanette Ball, president Kurt Guerin, and vice president Paul Atwood.

Working in the residents’ favor was the Community Loan Fund’s 31-year history of helping other homeowners convert 112 privately owned manufactured-home (also called "mobile-home") parks to resident-owned communities, and its ability to move quickly.

Ten of the park’s 18 families met with the ROC-NH team two days later. “There was a lot of fear in the room,” said ROC-NH cooperative conversion specialist Angela Romeo. “They didn’t know if they had any options.”

Rumors flew

They met again in another two days, having done some research and preliminary financial projections. There were rumors that other potential bidders at auction were unlikely to keep the park open. The park land adjoins an All-Terrain Vehicle trail and is near an airport, making it valuable land in the North Country.

The residents voted to incorporate as Deer Estates Cooperative, Inc., and pursue the possibility of buying the park themselves. The ROC-NH team also contacted the park’s owners, Robert and Jeannette Biggart, who were more than willing to work with the cooperative.

“I wish I’d reached out to the homeowners sooner to sell my park. I didn’t know it was possible, much less that it would be that easy,” Robert Biggart said. “If I’d known earlier, it would have been better for the residents to have that opportunity earlier.”

The cooperative voted unanimously to buy the park and secure their homes, and on the morning of April 21, on the Biggarts’ kitchen table, it closed on the sale and become N.H.’s 113th resident-owned community.

Co-op president "stunned"

Co-op president Kurt Guerin, was “a little stunned at how good your guys (ROC-NH) are and how quick it all happened. I am really excited for the positive future the park can have with this opportunity.” First up: The cooperative plans to research replacing its aging water system.

Along with securing their homes, the homeowners at Deer Estates Co-op are now eligible for products and services, like real mortgages, that are available only to resident-owned communities.

Residents of parks that are not cooperatively owned usually own the building they live in, but not the land beneath it. Because of that, they can miss out on some benefits of homeownership, including conventional mortgage terms, greater appreciation of their home’s value and the availability of equity loans.

The Community Loan Fund helped convert its first park in Meredith in 1984. Since then, its cooperative assistance team has developed a conversion strategy, an annual leadership program, a bi-annual conference and a management guide for cooperatives. Its strategy is now being applied nationally by a spinoff social venture, ROC USA®.

View a full list of resident-owned cooperatives in New Hampshire.