by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
BRUNSWICK — A mobile home community in Brunswick has taken a big step in securing their financial future by purchasing their own trailer park.
The Brunswick Bay Mobile Home Cooperative, a corporation formed by and made up entirely of the members of the Brunswick Bay Mobile Home community, has received funding from Bangor Saving Bank and other investors to purchase their own community from the out of state owner.
The purchase comes at a crucial time for the community, which was facing the possibility of seeing a new owner.
“It is common when parks are put up for sale, you don’t know who is going to buy them, you don’t know what the rent is going to be once it is sold,” said Rob Brown, the Maine housing program organizer for the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI), which works with Resident Owned Communities USA to help communities secure their own mobile home parks.
Now that they own it, that uncertainty is largely gone.
“It’s affordable rent. It’s rent that we’ll be able to control,” said Meme Vye, a resident of the park and the secretary for the Brunswick Bay Mobile Home Cooperative.
According to Vye, the majority of the residents are in favor of the move, with only a few still unsure about whether or not the purchase was the right move for the community. However, according to Vye, the process has brought everyone closer.
“Most of us have gotten a chance to really know our neighbors,” said Vye. “We’re learning to work together as a team.”
Vye, who has been a resident of the park for five years, believes that the purchase will enable them to eventually lower their rent and maintain a higher standard of living for the park.
The purchase itself is a fairly straightforward procedure. The residents of the community form a limited equity affordable housing corporation, which each resident becomes a stakeholder in. Then this corporation receives capital from a bank – in this case, Bangor Savings Bank – and goes about purchasing the park in much the same way any other commercial real estate sale would take place. The end result is a community that controls itself.
“The shareholders of the co-op are the residents of the community,” said Brown. Each resident gets a say in how things are run, what the rent has to be, and what the money that isn’t sent to pay off the park’s purchase will go toward.
“[The sale] prevented it from being sold to someone who was just going to raise our rent every year,” said Vye of the purchase. “We know that our rent is going to affordable.”
For the Brunswick Bay Mobile Home Cooperative, the financial backing was about $1,375,000. This amount will be paid off like any other loan, using the rent from the tenants of the park. Any money that does not go toward directly paying off the loan will go back into the park, for things such as road and sewage maintenance, and community enrichment.
With this purchase, the community becomes the third park in the state to be owned by its residents. The state is home to over 500 mobile home parks, which makes it the largest source of unsubsidized affordable housing in the state, according to Brown. With the help of organizations and investors, more parks could end up controlling their own future and providing low-cost housing to residents, without any government subsidies.
“This is not a government program,” said Brown. “They are doing it for themselves. If an owner is interested in selling, this is an option for them to consider.”