Evergreen Village, a manufactured-home community in Upper Mount Bethel Township, has been sold for $12 million.
The buyers are not out-of-area investors or developers. In this case, the people who lived at Evergreen are now the owners, assisted by a not-for-profit group known as ROC USA. The ROC stands for “resident owned community.”
Residents of a ROC do not have to worry about a new owner coming in, or a change of land use. They control their future.
“Our mission here is to help the homeowners form co-ops to buy the communities so they own the land and their homes at the end of it,” Mike Bullard, vice president of communications for ROC, said Tuesday.
ROC arranges financing and provides support after the sale to help the owners manage the property. Residents continue to pay rent on their lot, but it goes to the co-op, not a landlord or investor group. The co-op then takes care of expenses such as landscaping, snow plowing, lighting and maintenance of community buildings.
What is now the Evergreen Village Cooperative has 158 homes over 80 acres on the northern edge of Northampton County. It’s a 55-and-up community.
ROC USA, based in Concord, New Hampshire, received startup capital from the Ford Foundation in 2007, and the organization has since worked with 304 communities.
Each ROC becomes its own little democracy. Bullard said each household member has a vote. Members elect a board and vote on big decisions, such as changing rules or the rent.
If a home owner sells their home, the potential buyer goes through a membership review.
“What the co-op provides is security and stability,” Bullard said. The residents do not have to worry about the land being sold out from under them, and they have a say in how their community is running.
Manufactured-home co-ops are run much the same as condominium associations, Bullard said.
Becoming an ROC is a big step, Bullard said, and ROC USA helps homeowners make an independent decision.
“We will give them what’s called a forgivable pre-development loan,” he said. That loan pays for independent engineering, appraisal and legal services, professionals who work for the residents, not ROC USA, to review the idea.
“If they move forward and buy the community, that loan will be folded into the acquisition loan,” Bullard said. “If they don’t move ahead with it, they don’t have to pay it back.”
That’s a gamble for ROC USA, but Bullard said more than 90% of residents who consider buying their community move forward with the idea.
“We are here to help them take control of their community,” he said. “That’s our mission.”
Evergreen Village is west of North Delaware Drive in Upper Mount Bethel Township, just north of the Village of Stone Church. It offers community amenities including a clubhouse, pool, and paved streets.
The community was built in 1980.