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How residents kept their mobile home park from closing - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

How residents kept their mobile home park from closing

Windsor, Vermont - July 26, 2011

Bunker Hill residents cut a ribbon Tuesday to the entrance of their mobile home park; fourteen families celebrating a happy end to a close call. They are now the new owners of the park. The previous owner, the Rockingham Area Community Land Trust, said it might close the park because costs were too high.

"We have elderly people and people on fixed incomes so it wasn't an option for them," said Dave Furman, the president of the Bunker Hill Community Cooperative.

So the Mobile Home Project, run by the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, stepped in. The group helped form a cooperative where residents buy in and run the park.

"It's a big undertaking," explained Shaun Gilpin of the Mobile Home Project. "It's not something that is right for every community. But it was clear that this group of residents had such strong social cohesion that it seemed like a good opportunity for them to take over the management."

Road maintenance, water and sewer lines, and electricity are now the responsibility of the tenants. It's added work but also more control over where they live.

"Somebody could have bought this and raised the rent to whatever they wanted. There wasn't that much control over it. This way they can control their facilities, they can control their land, they can control their rent," said Andrew Danforth of the Cooperative Development Institute.

However, residents now will also be forced to deal with issues that are out of their control, like flooding. The park sits in a flood zone.

"One thing you have to realize is that these people already own their homes. They are already living in a flood zone. So if their homes got flooded out today, they would lose everything," Danforth said.

"Sixty years later and they haven't floated away yet, so it is not really a concern for us," Furman said.

A community-owned neighborhood that residents say is here to stay.

"It's amazing," Furman said. "It brought this community together like a family."

This is the first cooperative like this formed in Vermont in over 18 years and those who helped make it happen say the model can be used for other communities considering doing the same.

Adam Sullivan - WCAX News

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