Sherwood Village Cooperative Corporation President Audrey Pickering and attorney Richard Kyte cut the cake during a party at the VFW Tuesday night.

COVENTRY — Sherwood Village Mobile Home Park is now officially owned by the residents and more than 170 homeowners that reside there. This week neighbors celebrated the $7.5 million purchase that now makes the village off Hill Farm Road a resident-owned Cooperative Corporation.

Members of the community say the purchase is a step toward greater financial security.

“It was a great feeling of security for those of us who are on a fixed income to know that we will be able to maintain our place,” said Audrey Pickering, President of the new Cooperative Corporation. “Now, we have a slight increase, but we know we can do it."

Pickering said there were struggles working to make this happen, “but we’ve learned an awful lot and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Residents were informed in early 2017 that the park’s previous owner was planning to sell the property and had found a buyer. That’s when they contacted the Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) to talk about options. Because of Rhode Island legislation, they were able to use their 'right of first refusal.'

There are 10 other mobile home parks in Rhode Island that are also resident-owned, but none are Cooperatives like Sherwood.

The community is now cooperatively owned, meaning each household gets one vote on community matters. According to the leadership, the cost of the share for membership is very low, so residents are not being excluded because of financial hardships.

The members plan to elect a Board of Directors to conduct votes on matters pertaining to the neighborhood. They will also have an annual budget vote, by-laws and community rules.

“Resident ownership is a growing trend in New England,” according to Andy Danforth, Director of CDI’s New England Resident Owned Communities (NEROC) Program. “Cooperative ownership of mobile home parks is an invaluable form of preserving affordability, and its a priority for the several national non-profit organizations that formed ROC USA in 2008 to make resident-owned communities viable nationwide.”

Financing was provided by ROC USA Capital and will cover the purchase price, establishment of an escrow account and initial infrastructure spending as well as closing costs. ROC USA is a national financing resource for resident-owned communities throughout the country and is comprised of nine organizations, including CDI.

According to ROC USA Capital Managing Director Michael Sloss, this opportunity helps preserve homes by making them permanently affordable and is unique in that it is unsubsidized, cost efficient and achieves long-term security for homeowners. For someone to live in an affordable housing building it would cost three times the amount per household and “residents of such an apartment may only have the security of a one-year lease and no opportunity to build wealth through homeownership.”

“I’m so happy to see the members take the reins of their neighborhood,” said ROC USA Founding President Paul Bradley. “Local ownership is so often the best ownership and as a co-op, every Member has not just a say in community matters, but the chance to run for a leadership position and serve their neighbors. Their business solves the two fundamental barriers to resident ownership – 1) access to expert technical assistance and 2) financing to help homeowners become buyers when their community is for sale.”

In total ROC USA has helped 213 communities save over 8,000 homes in 15 states. Sherwood Village is the first community in Rhode Island to participate in their network. The CDI is a regional cooperative development center founded in 1994.

Residents say they are looking forward to the opportunity to contribute to their community.

Follow Kendra Lolio on Twitter @kendralolio

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