By early fall, five mobile home parks in Garden City will have been sold and closed. For those eager to upscale the city, that’s good news, but for residents of those parks it will be a disaster. With the valley already thousands of affordable homes short, many will have nowhere to go and end up homeless.
At the far end of the Treasure Valley, the opposite is happening. Residents of a small mobile home park in farmland north of Caldwell will soon own the park they live in, after completing an improbable purchase from its owner.
They are pulling this off with incomes half the valley’s average and trailers too ancient to be moved. They’re doing it thanks to a lot of grit and a new organization called Leap ROC, which is part of Leap Charities of Boise. ROC stands for Residents Owned Communities.
By October a newly created cooperative the residents have formed will sign a market-rate loan for $1.4 million, plus 10% to repair a half-ruined septic system and an outdated road. Membership in the Pleasant View Homeowners Cooperative Inc. costs $100. Each member household is entitled to one vote each time the rent or rules change.
The loan comes from the lending subsidiary of a national park ownership advocate called ROC USA that has funded 240 ROCs in 16 states. This is Idaho’s first.
The deal seemed unlikely to me, until I attended three meetings of the co-op’s board of directors.
Here’s who’s at the table: the president Paul Schmelzer, a CPA and tax accountant who managed this park for a previous owner; Angela Green, a quick-smart treasurer who’s not intimidated by big numbers or anything else; and Manny Quezada, the operations manager who often work 60 hours a week for food packager Zoroco yet has taken on the big septic-system upgrade. His motto: “little by little, get it done.”
Secretary Juana Romero, Quezada’s sister, missed just one meeting while having a baby. Lucrecia Ritchie missed one while being treated for cancer. Vice President Margarita Reyes, a longtime resident, brings to the proceedings a reassuring maturity.
When the prospect of buying the park first came up, board members thought it was a scam. Now, however, there’s a resolve about this bunch that is unlike many suit-and-tie boards I’ve known. Brisk one-hour weekly meetings end on time. Tasks are assigned and results posted in English and Spanish on the community bulletin board. Nothing seems to phase or slow them.
The 30 families in Pleasant View Park have, in the main, been those who have planted, harvested and processed Canyon County’s agricultural bounty for decades. Margarita’s family worked for the Nyssa sugar beet factory until it closed. Manny and Juana worked in the fields as kids, as their father still does.
Matt Fast, who launched a half dozen such communities in Washington state before this one, says Pleasant View’s is the best board he’s ever worked with.
He’s looking for other owners willing to sell to their residents, at market rates, to save the 8,000 homes in Ada and Canyon counties that make up the most affordable housing of all.
“We try to keep it simple for sellers,” Fast said. “We pay market rates, and cash at closing.”
Jerry Brady is a former newspaper publisher and a member of Compassionate Boise. email@example.com