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Housing Division Rules – Mobile Home Parks

Posted December 16, 2015

Statutory changes were enacted this year in Act 8 (2015) which affect the mobile home park law. The changes include expanding the Department of Housing & Community Development’s enforcement authority to include administrative penalties, changes to the warranty of habitability specifically concerning park roads, and changes to the eviction process that will require mobile homes to be removed or sold after an eviction.

To implement these changes the Department is amending the Housing Division Rules for Mobile Home Parks and Mobile Home Park Warranty of Habitability. The State rule making process includes four “Filings” with the Interagency Committee on Administrative Rules, The Secretary of State, a Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules, and a final filing of the Adopted Rules. We anticipate the rules will go into effect on approximately April 15, 2016.

To maximize public input, the Department has created a special webpage for the rule making process where you can access the proposed amendments and submit comments or plan to attend a public hearing: http://accd.vermont.gov/strong_communities/housing/rules/housing_division_rulemaking.

The public hearing will be held on Tuesday, January 12, 2016 at 4:30PM at the Department of Housing & Community Development located at 1 National Life Drive, Davis Building, 6th Floor, Montpelier, VT 05620. For more information see the link above or email arthur.hamlin@vermont.gov.

 



North Avenue Co-op gains control of Farrington’s Mobile Home Park

Posted November 23, 2015

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

 



Shelburne Mobile Home Park Now Owned By Residents

Posted October 7, 2015

Great news for residents of the Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park, who successfully formed a cooperative and purchased the property they reside on in Shelburne. Below is more on the story from VPR:

Homeowners at Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park are now also landowners. Residents of the 28-parcel park in Shelburne collectively bought the property on Wednesday.

Residents formed a cooperative and purchased the park from Burlington developer Tony Pomerleau, who bought the property with the intention of selling it to the residents.

Two organizations, Resident Owned Communities USA (ROC USA) and the Cooperative Development Institute, helped the residents form the cooperative and purchase the property. A ROC USA press release states:

For 10 years, Shelburnewood residents have lived in a state of uncertainty about the future of their neighborhood and their homes. In early 2005, residents received notice that the mobile home park was going to be shut down and sold to a developer and that homeowners would be forced to move their homes elsewhere. Ever since, residents have had to organize, first to stop the park closure, and then to find a way to purchase the community and preserve it as affordable housing.

Pomerleau stepped in and purchased the property in 2012.

“The nightmare of worrying about a closure ended when Mr. Pomerleau stepped forward to purchase the land on which our homes reside,” commented co-op Vice President Vicki Carleton. “Mr. Pomerleau let us know right up front that he had no intentions of being a landlord. He got involved to replace the infrastructure throughout the park knowing it was old and beginning to fail and he encouraged and empowered us to form a cooperative.”

Pomerleau said the property’s downtown Shelburne location is an important asset to many park residents.

“They can walk to church, the supermarket, a restaurant and more,” Pomerleau said. “It’s a great location, right downtown, and that’s very valuable to the people who live there.”

According to the press release, Shelburnewood residents worked with the Cooperative Development Institute to establish their co-op and negotiate a deal with Pomerleau, which culminated in residents purchasing the property on Wednesday for $950,000.

ROC USA says Shelburnewood is now the fifth Vermont resident-owned community in its network, and one of 173 such communities nationwide.

For the full article, click here.

 



Farrington Fundraising Goal Lowered

Posted September 8, 2015

The North Avenue Co-op, which is in the process of buying the Farrington Mobile Home Park, is currently trying to raise money to save the 2 1/4 acre green space that surrounds the park. With the help of a new source of financing the co-op now needs to raise $100,000 in order to save the space. To learn more about the project and how you can help click here. For more coverage from the Burlington Free Press click here and here.

 



Evergreen Mobile Home Park In Pownal Set To Close In 2016

Posted August 6, 2015

The Bennington Banner reports that the Evergreen Mobile Home Park is currently up for sale. While the park has been for sale previously, this time the owners say it will close if they do not have a buyer by the end of 2016. Residents of the park have also opted out of making an attempt to purchase the park. Read the article below for more details:

The Evergreen Mobile Home Park is up for sale again, but this time if it doesn’t sell it will close.

Arthur Hamlin, housing program coordinator for the Department of Housing and Community Development, said his agency received a notice from the park owner in February notifying it of the intent to sell the park.

The park is located off Route 7.

Vermont law requires mobile home park owners to give their tenants 45 days notice whenever they wish to sell the park. This gives the tenants time to organize and investigate purchasing the park themselves, or having a nonprofit do so on their behalf. Within that 45 day period, they can organize and extend the timeframe to 165 days, giving them time to arrange the purchase. During that time the park can not be sold to another buyer. After the time period, the owner can’t sell it for less than it was offered to tenants.

The park is for sale at $110,000.

Hamlin said the Evergreen residents chose not to exercise their rights to try and buy the park. He said his agency will work with residents to help them find other housing.

Vermont law also requires park owners to give residents ample time to find new housing when they choose to close a park. This is not the first time the park has been for sale, but it is the first time the owners have said it will close.

According to documents filed with the state, Evergreen Mobile Home Park will close on Dec. 30, 2016.

The park is owned by the Blake family and managed by Ernest Blake, of Williston. Blake said Thursday that if someone wishes to buy the park before the end of 2016, the family would still be willing to sell.

He said a buyer was looking at the park earlier this year when it was listed for $200,000, but the deal fell through because of the septic system.. Blake said the system, while functional, is old and not up to current state standards.

It’s not likely to happen, Blake said, but it would be helpful if the park were connected to the town wastewater system, which extends as far as the Southern Vermont Energy Park.

There wasn’t much interest in the mobile home park to begin with when it was listed for sale several years ago.

Blake said the park is assessed at $165,000.

The 2.3 acre park has 19 lots and 17 mobile homes, all owned by tenants. Blake said he believes each home has about one person living in it. The lot rent is $195.

To view the entire article on the Bennington Banner website, click here.

 



Farrington Residents to Buy Mobile Home Park as Co-op

Posted July 10, 2015

Yesterday residents of Farrington’s Mobile Home Park in Burlington announced that they had reached a deal to purchase the property from the Farrington family. The following report from Seven Days explains the agreement and what lies ahead:

Residents of Burlington’s only mobile home park have signed a purchase agreement to buy the land on which their houses are parked.

When the Farrington’s Mobile Home Park went on the market for $5 million last November, its inhabitants worried they’d be displaced by a developer looking to capitalize on the prime real estate. Located just off North Avenue, the 11-acre property with 120 lots offers what is widely considered to be the most affordable home-owning option in a city where the cost of housing has escalated.

Residents voted to form a cooperative, with the goal of purchasing the property themselves. Robert Farrington, one of several family members who inherited the New North End park, told Seven Days at the time that he was “100 percent” in support of their effort.

But the looming question for months was: Could the residents — many of whom are on fixed incomes — actually cobble together the money to make it happen?

Theresa Lefebvre, who’s lived in Farrington’s for three decades, is president of the new North Avenue Co-Op. She announced today that the group signed a purchase agreement with the Farringtons on Tuesday. It had help along the way from the city, nonprofits with experience financing cooperative purchases, and strong state laws protecting mobile park tenants.

Citing the complexity of the deal, she said they don’t expect to close on the sale for another four months and aren’t releasing further details about the transaction in the meantime, including the final price.

The co-op may need to sell a swath of green space at the southern end of the park to raise the necessary money, according to Lefebvre. But members are hoping instead to raise $800,000 through donations, which would allow them to preserve the land as a play area for children and to have a place to pile snow in the winter.

To view the full article, click here.

 



New, Long-Term Affordable Mortgages Available for Mobile Home Park Residents

Posted July 2, 2015

The nation’s top rural housing official joined U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy Tuesday to announce the availability of United States Department of Agriculture mortgages for Vermonters who want to purchase a Vermont-made, energy-efficient modular home. The mortgage is the first of its kind for residents of mobile home parks, where home buyers face high interest rates and short loan terms.

“Often, the most accessible affordable housing option for a rural family is a manufactured home,” said USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez. “However, limited financing options, aging manufactured housing stock, and heating costs can make owning a manufactured home challenging. This demonstration program will prove that today’s new energy efficient manufactured and modular homes are a lower risk for lenders, a safe and affordable option for rural families, and are better for the environment.”

“Living in an energy efficient home or one with healthy air quality should not primarily be an affordability issue,” said Leahy. “That is why I am proud to stand with Administrator Hernandez, our housing and energy leaders, and philanthropic partners to announce a new financing opportunity for Vermont’s mobile home owners. The USDA Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Program is one way in which our state can help support middle-class homeowners who still need relief, and working families who dream of affording and owning their own homes.”

During a news conference at the Shelburnewood Mobile Home Park Tuesday, Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and Leahy toured an energy-efficient modular home eligible for the new loan program. The home, manufactured by Vermod of Wilder, Vermont, is owned by Cathedral Square Corporation, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating housing and communities for seniors and people with disabilities. The organization is using the home as a model and plans to sell it to an eligible borrower next year.

The Net Zero Energy Capable Vermod, made in Wilder, Vermont, is a high-performance modular home and was designed as part of the Manufactured Housing Innovation Project (MHIP), a collaboration between the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Efficiency Vermont, the University of Vermont, and the High Meadows Fund. The organizations aimed to design a more resilient manufactured home that could withstand severe weather events such as Tropical Storm Irene (2011). More than 15 percent of the homes damaged during Irene were manufactured homes, despite the fact that they make up only 7 percent of Vermont’s housing stock.

Under the USDA Energy Efficiency Manufactured Home Pilot Program, a low income home-buyer interested in purchasing a high-performance modular home, like the one on display in Shelburne, and placing it in a mobile home park would be eligible for a 30-year mortgage at a 3.25 percent rate. Very low income home buyers may be eligible for an interest subsidy down to 1 percent.

The monthly mortgage payment on such a home (after the owner applies for and receives incentives from Efficiency Vermont and a deferred payment loan from the Champlain Housing Trust) could be as low as $387 a month for low-income qualifying home buyers.

According to Efficiency Vermont, that monthly payment would be only slightly more than many manufactured home owners currently pay each month for heat and electricity. Efficiency Vermont estimates that an owner of a manufactured home made prior to 1976, when new construction and safety standards were put in place, pays approximately $3,800 a year for heat and electricity. Efficiency Vermont estimates that a high-performance modular home, like the Vermod equipped with solar panels, would cost a homeowner approximately $180 a year for heat and electricity.

The Net Zero Energy Capable Vermod currently sells for about $131,000, which includes the cost of the home, site work, foundation, set up costs and all appliances. Efficiency Vermont’s incentives and Champlain Housing Trust’s deferred loan can reduce the total USDA mortgage of the Net Zero Energy Capable Vermod to as low as $89,000.

USDA, through its RD mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $210 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural areas.

For more information on Rural Development or to inquire about the Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Program, visit rd.usda.gov/vt or call (802) 828-6000.

To read about Administrator Herandez’s visit to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency visit their blog here.

 



USDA RD Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Project Conference Call July 8th

Posted June 23, 2015

USDA Rural Development invites you to learn more about their new new Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Project. The Energy Efficient Manufactured Home Pilot Project allows USDA Rural Development to finance the purchase of energy efficiency manufactured and modular homes in mobile home parks across Vermont and New Hampshire. Homebuyers will be able to purchase approved Energy Star compliant manufactured homes with no money down and favorable rates and terms (30 year fixed interest loans as low as 1 percent interest rates).

On Wednesday, July 8, at 2:00pm USDA Rural Development will host an hour-long conference call to explain the benefits of the program in detail and answer any questions you might have. Call-in instructions can be found below. While RSVPs are not required, space is limited and we plan to share additional information before the meeting. To RSVP, send an email to benjamin.doyle@vt.usda.gov with the names and contact information of people in your party.

Call-in Instructions: At the designated time, call 888-844-9904. When prompted, enter the access code: 8785230.

 



Gov. Shumlin Signs Two Housing Protection Bills into Law

Posted April 17, 2015

Yesterday Gov. Peter Shumlin marked the anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act by signing two housing protection bills into law and declaring April Fair Housing Month. The first bill, H.123, ensures mobile home parks are safely maintained and abandoned mobile homes can be dealt with fairly and expeditiously. Also enacted today was H.256, which corrects and confirms protections against retaliation for exercising fair housing rights.

“It is integral that we protect the right of Vermonters to live in safe and healthy communities, and these bills will do just that,” said Gov. Shumlin.

Each April, Governor Shumlin and governors before him set aside time to remember the great step in Civil Rights taken through the signing of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which protects the right to housing choice regardless of color, race or national origin. Since then Vermont has made greater progress, ensuring that housing choice is not limited by someone’s age, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or because they receive public assistance.

“Barriers to safe, decent and affordable housing are not always financial. Sadly, discrimination and disrepair sometimes prevent Vermonters from finding a home or being safe in the one they have.” said Jennifer Hollar, Deputy Commissioner of Housing and Community Development. “Today and every day, we must work together to lower these barriers. This legislation gives us more practical tools for ensuring homes are safe and their doors are open to all.”

H.123 recognizes that a safe, healthy community should not be dependent upon the type of housing one chooses. This bill makes certain that residents of a mobile home park have access to emergency response services and will not be needlessly subjected to blighted and abandoned homes in their communities. It also gives the Department of Housing and Community Development the ability to ensure habitability standards are maintained and that leases governing these communities are not discriminatory.

H.256 contains a technical correction to Fair Housing protections that ensures Vermont continues its role in maintaining and surpassing Federal standards regarding the ability of citizens to ensure they are treated fairly in their housing. It also brings additional clarity to property rights in a residential rental agreement to encourage a functional rental market.

The Governor thanked Rep. Bill Botzow (D-Pownal) for his sponsorship and longstanding support of mobile home park residents. He also acknowledged the leadership of House General, Housing and Military Affairs Committee Chairwoman Helen Head (D-South Burlington), Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Sears (D-Bennington), and Senate Economic, Housing and General Affairs Committee Chairman Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland), in guiding the legislation through their committees and chambers.

 



Mobile Home Parks Go Up for Auction

Posted April 1, 2015

Five mobile home parks in central Vermont are scheduled to be auctioned later this month. Below is an excerpt from a recent article in the Times Argus that details the sale:

Five 50-year-old mobile home parks that collectively account for nearly 25 percent of the lots that can be leased in Washington County will be the subject of a court-ordered auction next month.

The auction, which is set for 10 a.m. on April 17 at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier, will cap a protracted legal battle that began in 2002 when park owner R&G Properties defaulted on a $2.15 million loan it obtained two years earlier.

Nearly 13 years, one complicated bankruptcy and at least two trips to the Vermont Supreme Court later, R&G Properties is on the verge of losing the five mobile home parks that it hasn’t had much to do with for nearly a decade.

The mobile home parks — four in Berlin and one in Northfield Falls — have been managed by a court-appointed “receiver” since 2006 while the foreclosure case was working its way through the court system. That arrangement lasted for longer than John Wilking, of Neville Companies Inc. in South Burlington, expected when the court assigned him the responsibility of managing the mobile home parks that will soon be sold to the highest bidder, or bidders.

“It’s been a while,” said Wilking, who noted he recently ran into the former employee who he assigned to manage the properties back in 2006.

“I didn’t recognize him,” he said. “It’s been that long.”

Though Neville Companies has become familiar with the parks and its tenants over the years, Wilking said he would consider it a conflict of interest to bid on any of them. If they all sell — he expects most will, though there will likely be multiple buyers — Wilking said he could be two months away from shedding an assignment that he accepted nearly nine years ago.

“We’re expecting that by the end May we’ll be done with our duties,” he said.

If one or more of the parks don’t sell that could change, according to Wilking, who acknowledged some of the properties are more attractive investments than others, but all have sparked interest as word of their looming availability became public.

The parks collectively account for nearly 150 of the 607 mobile home lots in Washington County, including 51 in the Northfield Falls Mobile Home Park on Route 12.

To read the full article, click here.

 



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