Homeowners at Farrington’s Mobile Home Park are, starting today, managing
their community as a cooperative, taking a bold step toward securing their financial futures and improving their neighborhood.
The 117 lot community was put on the market for $5 million when its owner, Sandra Farrington, died last year. Given this high price tag and the community’s prime location on North Avenue, park residents worried that a developer would purchase the property and force them from their homes. Residents organized and formed North Ave Co-op with the help of the non- profits Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) and Champlain Valley of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) as well as the City of Burlington. CDI helped the residents’ cooperative negotiate a deal with the Farrington Estate to purchase the community for $3.575 million, and it was financed through an innovative, first of its kind municipal bond issued by Vermont State Housing Authority, and purchased by Northfield Savings Bank.
Richard Williams, the Authority’s Executive Director, stated “VSHA is pleased to have had the opportunity to use its resources for such a worthwhile endeavor. This is the first time we have used bond financing for a project of this sort. Our participation in financing the mobile home park purchase fits the Authority’s statutory mission. We look forward to continue working with CDI and the resident cooperative.”
The Vermont Community Loan Fund provided secondary financing to complete the deal. As a part of meeting IRS restrictions, a CDI- affiliated non-profit was the buyer and borrower on the transaction, with the community run by the resident’s cooperative until the purchase loans are paid or refinanced, when the co-op will assume ownership of the land. CDI is a certified technical assistance provider in the ROC USA ™ Network, a nationwide network of non-profits founded to promote and support resident control of manufactured housing communities.
“It’s been a long journey to get here, but it is worth it” said North Avenue Co-op President Rik Fenton.
The Co-op’s Board of Directors has met weekly over the last year to organize residents and to develop a plan for operating the mobile home park. “The process of forming a co-op and buying the park has allowed many park residents to become closer as we have worked towards the important, common goal of saving our homes” added Co-op Secretary Jeanne Lieberman.
Multiple offices of the City of Burlington also assisted the cooperative, led by the office of Miro Weinberger as well as CEDO, Planning and Zoning, DPW and Code Enforcement. In addition, the Housing Trust Fund of the City of Burlington provided grants for due diligence expenses, funds to support the preservation of greenspace in the community, and a future commitment towards infrastructure replacement. The involvement of the City has been and will be key to the improvement of the community.
“Congratulations to the residents of the North Avenue Co-op for succeeding in their difficult, ambitious goal of owning the park and taking responsibility for its future,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger.
“Resident ownership of the park is also a great outcome for Burlington, as it preserves more than 100 affordable homes and will lead to the improvement of the park’s infrastructure and the protection of the neighborhood’s open space. Today’s closing culminates a year of sustained and comprehensive effort by park residents, Co-op board members, City Councilors, City staff, and many local, state, and national non-profit organizations. The City is proud to have played a supportive role in this important effort and congratulates and thanks the many critical partners in this success, including the Cooperative Development Institute of ROC USA, and CVOEO.”
“This is a great day for the North Avenue Co-op residents and for the Burlington community,” said City Councilor Dave Hartnett. “A resident-owned park is the best outcome for our City, and I am grateful for all of the work done to preserve this diverse neighborhood in the New North End.”
In addition to primary lenders, ROC USA Capital and Vermont Housing Conservation Board provided much needed funds for engineering and environmental costs.
North Ave Co-op is the sixth Vermont community converted by CDI, its 27th overall, and one of 171 nationwide in the ROC USA network. In these resident-owned communities, homeowners in the community each buy one low-cost 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, by-laws and community rules.
The Cooperative Development Institute, formed in 1994, is the USDA-designated Northeast Center for Cooperative Business Development. CDI provides training and technical assistance to new and existing cooperatives in all business sectors, from agriculture and housing to employee ownership, throughout New England and New York. www.cdi.coop