Cooperative "Mobile Home" Communities: Empowered Homeowners Gain Economic Security and Economic and Social Benefits.
ROC USA makes resident ownership of Manufactured ("Mobile") Home Communities viable and successful.
An Austin, Texas community expressing their deep desire for ROC USA to open an affiliate office in their area to help them buy their community.
Photo of homes in a ROC.
2016 Community Leadership Institute Class
Our 10th anniversary video!
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
We work with a 15-state network of 220 Resident Owned Communities that are home to 14,000 homeowners. Those states include: Wash., Ore., Montana, Utah, Minn., Wisc., Texas, NY, Delaware and all six New England states. A searchable map is available at www.rocusa.org.
Focus Areas (required)
Business & Social Enterprise
Development & Prosperity
Environment & Sustainability
ROC USA was launched on May 6, 2008.
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
On the eve of the 1st Meredith Institute - a national training institute we started to help nonprofits, public sector agencies and homeowners learn about resident ownership in NH - George McCarthy of the Ford Foundation asked me, "What does this look like in 10 years?" The question challenged me. In response, I said, "It will be a bell-shaped curve, with successes and failures. Everyone will need secondary market resources on the commercial and residential finance sides and each region will think they have the best model and system. We will spend countless years negotiating and arguing, and the lowest performer will be begging for admission. Instead, we should plan for scale now and bake in key components like the model from the start."
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
There are 2.7MM owners of manufactured/mobile homes in 45,000 or so Manufactured (Mobile) Home Communities. The vast majority are low-income. Owning a home on rented land subjects homeowners to three basic risks: 1. Excessive rent increases; 2. Unsafe community systems (like water and sewer) and 3. Displacement due to community closure and redevelopment. The MHC industry is very profitable for investors but not always secure for homeowners.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
ROC USA combines training, education and services with financing to make resident ownership viable for low-income homeowners willing to work together with their neighbors to create a co-op. ROC USA has organized a Network of currently 9 nonprofit affiliates that operate training and Technical Assistance services locally. All adhere to ROC USA's standardized model of co-op ownership and set of organizing principles. ROC USA trains and supports its affiliates with a national team including acquisitions, training, documents and systems managers.
ROC USA also operates a Community Dev't Financial Institution (CDFI) subsidiary which finances co-op purchases. Products include due diligence financing that is forgivable if the co-op doesn't buy the MHC. The product ensures co-ops can hire an attorney, engineer and appraiser as a part of their decision to purchase. That's vital to our principled approach community organizing. ROC USA Capital also provides a high LTV first mortgage loan that makes co-op shares very low cost so even the lowest income homeowners can become members.
Our goal is alignment of ownership interests where everyone owns their home and one share in the co-op.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
A recent 99% Invisible podcast, "Immobile Home" tells the story of a Salt Lake MHC that was threatened by closure for more than 5 years. Two different developers bought the MHC with the intent of building apartments on the land. Once they knew, the 56 homeowners got organized fought the redevelopment. Eventually, the second developer agreed to sell to the homeowners. They called ROC USA and UROC, our Utah affiliate. With nearly $5M in financing from the City, State and ROC USA Capital, the Applewood Homeowners Cooperative took ownership in 2/2018. An elderly resident who moved to Applewood when her MHC was closed said, "To me, resident ownership means security."
The all-Latina Board of Pasadena Trails ROC just south of Houston, Texas had prioritized $150,000 in drainage improvements 1 year before Harvey. The Members were unscathed and were able instead to help neighboring communities.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
We are exclusively focused on serving low-income homeowners in MHCs. Due to stigma and no targeted subsidies, few nonprofits serve owners of MH. And, these homeowners could not buy the land under their homes - multi-million dollar commercial assets - without specialized dev't financing of the sort that ROC USA provides. High-income retiree communities can raise equity through large share values, but low-income communities need highly subordinated debt to make ownership of the land possible.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
other (please specify on question 5a)
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
ROC USA and its 9 nonprofit TA affiliates are the only organizations helping low-income homeowners buy the land under their homes. A few lawyers help large share value co-ops with high-income homeowners, a few nonprofits buy MHC, and condo MHC are possible in some places.
However, low-share cost co-ops are viable everywhere and work really well in low-income communities because everyone can become a Member-Owner. Co-op ownership eliminates the profit margin 3rd party landlords charge and provides Member-Owners with control over the future of neighborhood, improvements and operating costs.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Prior to ROC USA, resident ownership by low-income homeowners was viable in only 1 state. Ownership is now a viable option in 14 additional states, and in the last 3 years alone, 48 co-ops have taken ownership.
Documented outcomes include:
1. Co-op site fees ("lot rents") are being raised on average .82% per year compared to the industry average of 3.00% per year (2017 Colliers, 2017 MHI)
2. On average, co-op site fees are $25 per month lower than market rents after 5 years of ownership (while maintaining reserves for future improvements, meeting lender convenants and completing audits); (2017 Colliers)
3. Homes in co-ops sold for 16% more per square foot than comparable homes in comparable investor-owned communities (2006, UNH)
4. Homes co-ops sold faster (2006, UNH)
5. Homeowners in co-ops reported feeling more secure than those in investor-owned communities (2006, UNH)
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
ROC USA is scaling deep in existing states and scaling out in new geographies through its "franchise-like" Network of affiliated nonprofit Certified TA Providers and targeted source of financing.
ROC USA Network works closely with existing affiliates on business and market development, staff training and systems development to achieve sustainable and strong local services.
ROC USA Network affiliated with Thistle Communities in Boulder, Col. in 2017 to serve the front range of Colorado and is currently working with 3 new possible affiliates, in Texas, Idaho and North Carolina.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Franchising, Licensing, Accreditation
Large Scale Partnerships
Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
ROC USA will achieve operating break-even in 2018. ROC USA generates 95% of its earnings from its loan operation. Interest income over the 10 year loan terms produces reliable residual income and a strong underlying economic model for the social venture. ROC USA secures grant funding to help fund capacity and innovation in Network's affiliated operations and to grow its equity base for lending.
We are also focused helping our affiliates achieve operating sustainability through shared systems.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Senior managers Paul Bradley, Pres., Mary O'Hara, Dir., Network, Michael Sloss, Dir., Capital were in place at the venture's launch in 2008. CFO, David Doyon, joined in 2009.
ROC USA: Communications (2), Staff accountant, and Data/Administrative (1.5)
ROC USA Network: Training Manager, Acquisition Manager, Project Manager, and Systems Director
ROC USA Capital: Loan Officer, Servicing Manager
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community
How did you hear about this challenge?
Ashoka page or contact
ROC USA, LLC; ROC USA Network; ROC USA Capital
Program Design Clarity
We provide both pre- and post-purchase TA and training on-site to democratic groups of homeowners purchasing their MHC as co-ops, including presenting viable opportunities to purchase, org. dev't, due diligence financing, start-up and systems support, and leadership dev't. If desired, Capital provides purchase and improvement financing. The purchase and first year is intensive with well over 150 hours of on-site support by TA Providers.
Approach to financial wellbeing: does your project focus on creating financial wellbeing through innovating on any of the following?
If you marked "Other" in the question above, please specify:
We support ownership of the land under one's home as the foundation on which economic security and wealth are built by low-income people.
Innovation type: Please select which of the following types of innovation best characterize your work
Product innovation (Introduction of a good or service or improvements made to existing products)
Partnerships in detail: tell us about your partnerships that enhance your approach.
9 and soon 11 Network affiliates, nonprofits state-wide and regional that provide on-site services to co-op. Formalized through a Network Agreement on issues of model and principles, IP, brand, revenues and services. Leverage local resources, understand local culture and provide expert staff on-site to complement scaled services by ROC USA. 3 nonprofit LLC Members and a sponsor own ROC USA and provide national expertise to the venture. Our 220 co-ops elect 3 Directors and inform our Strategy.
If you won the Unlocking ₵hange Challenge, how would you invest the prize money of $50,000?
Our Strategic Plan has a significant research agenda aimed at increasing the financial well-being of homeowners, co-ops and co-op members, including documenting the impact of resident ownership and laws that promote it, the cost of community closures, and the experience of home lenders in co-ops.
Awards & Recognitions: What awards or recognitions has the project received?
ROC USA's president Paul Bradley - on behalf of the entire team of partners, co-ops, Board and staff - has received four awards since founding the social venture in 2008, including:
1. Ashoka Fellowship, 2011
2. UNH Carsey Institute, Social Entrepreneur of the Year, 2013
3. Jerry Voorhis Lifetime Achievement Award, National Assoc. of Housing Co-ops, 2014
4. Cooperative Hall of Fame, 2018