SherriLynn Karam walks with her daughter Jennie, 6, after picking her up at the bus stop outside of Lazy Pines Mobile Home Park in Loudon on Tuesday, September 4, 2013. To avoid potentially having someone buy the property and force them to move, the residents of the Lazy Pines community in Loudon formed a cooperative and bought it from the previous owner. Now they're trying to figure out what they need to do to keep their community humming without raising the rent too much.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Ed Belisle mows his lawn on Tuesday, September 3, 2013 outside his home at the Lazy Pines Mobile Home Park in Loudon. To avoid potentially having someone buy the property and force them to move, the residents of the Lazy Pines community formed a cooperative and bought it from the previous owner. Now they're trying to figure out what they need to do to keep their community humming without raising the rent too much.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Residents of Loudon’s Lazy Pines Mobile Home Park officially became owners of the land they live on last week, joining more than 100 mobile and manufactured home parks across the state that are run as cooperatives.
“The best part is eventually I’m going to own this little piece of land,” said SherriLynn Karam, who has been living in the park with her two children for about a year.
When longtime owner Ray Cowan started thinking about selling the park last year, the residents banded together and decided to buy the park, which would insure new owners wouldn’t come in and raise the rent or sell the property. After voting to form a cooperative, the residents made a deal to buy the park from Cowan for $1.9 million. They closed on that deal Friday with a mortgage from the New Hampshire Community Loan fund, which has financed 106 other such cooperatives across the state since 1984.
Similar cooperatives exist in Concord, Pembroke, Allenstown, Epsom, Tilton, Hopkinton, Weare and Boscawen.
“We got into this because people were in danger of losing their homes (if) the park owner decided to convert land to another use or sell it to another owner, who then might raise the rent,” said Steve Varnum of the Community Loan Fund. “We realized that this kind of housing was really insecure.”
There are 54 units in Lazy Pines, which will soon change its name to Presidential Pines Cooperative. Each resident had to chip in an initial $25 to commit to the purchase, followed by a $500 membership fee, which can be paid over time. All of the monthly rent will now go into the cooperative, either to help pay the mortgage or provide services. The residents also elected a president and other officers to help manage the transition. In addition to loaning money, the Community Loan Fund provides workshops and annual leadership training on how to run the park.
As the residents are learning, there are still a lot of details to work out. For example, their rent to Cowan included trash and recycling pickup, snow plowing and other services. Now, the residents have to decide whether keeping those services is worth the money, and they have already decided it isn’t worth it for trash and recycling. Karam, however, said while driving to the dump down the street works for her, she worries about some of the park’s elderly residents who may have limited mobility and don’t drive.
Rent also went up by about $40 a month, some residents said, but proponents of forming a cooperative say a slight increase to buy the park prevents a potentially bigger increase if someone else had purchased it.
Ray Payment served on the cooperative committee for several months but recently stepped down. He said he hopes all of the park’s residents realize the effort it will take to maintain the cooperative.
“It’s a matter of getting people in the park to be a part of everything that needs to be done,” he said.
Some positives of owning the park include potentially renovating the small playground and turning one home into a community building, Payment said.
Resident Ed Belisle, who has lived in the park for eight years, said he didn’t support forming a cooperative. He isn’t happy that rent already went up and said forming a cooperative will bring unnecessary politics. But he said he and his wife will pay their rent and more or less keep to themselves.
“Either way, I pay rent,” he said.
Rick Langis, who has lived in Lazy Pines with his wife, Brenda, for about 20 years, said he thinks owning the park is going to be a good thing for the residents. They bought their first trailer in the park in 1992 and upgraded to a larger one in 2002. Even though he’s been there for 20 years, he said he didn’t know many of the neighbors until the meetings about becoming a cooperative started.
“We probably know more people now than we ever did,” he said.