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Proud New Land Owners: A Mobile Home Park Success Story

More than 100 community members in Burlington who were at risk of losing their homes earlier this fall have found an innovative way to keep them.

The Farrington’s Mobile Home Park was put on the market for $5 million when its owner, Sandra Farrington, died last year. Given the community’s prime location on North Avenue, residents worried a developer would purchase the property and force them from their homes.

Long-time park resident Rik Fenton said when he heard about the property being up for sale at such a high price, “I was angry. The first thing I thought of was: more condos. I’ve been there for 42 years and I wasn’t about to give up and lose my home that easy.”

Fenton says residents held a meeting to discuss various options, and the idea of forming a co-operative resented most strongly with everyone.

 “The co-op [idea] took off like there was no other choice. The thought of owning it ourselves and running it ourselves is what did it.”

So Fenton and other residents formed the North Ave Co-op, and with some help, negotiated a deal with the Farrington Estate to purchase the community using a first of its kind municipal bond issued by the Vermont State Housing Authority.

Fenton says the park worked with the Cooperative Development Institute to form the co-op and help with the financing.

“It was a complete surprise, and we’re so ever thankful to everybody that helped us.”

The cooperative purchased the property for about $3.6 million, significantly less than the $5 million asking price. Fenton says this was in part because the Farrington family wanted the land kept as a mobile home park.

Also he says tenants get first bid on the property, and then if the landowners choose to instead sell to a developer they couldn’t sell it for more than 10 percent about the tenant’s bid.

Fenton says the mobile home park is home for new families to folks like himself who have been there for more than four decades.

“With our incomes, let’s face it, where are you going to live when you only get $600, $700 a month income?” says Fenton.

Fenton says the community is also working on improvements, including bringing in more modern mobile homes. Fenton says that if other trailer park communities have the opportunity to purchase the land they live on,  they should jump on it.

“If you get a chance to make a co-op, do it. There’s nothing better than the feeling of knowing that your landlord is yourself.”

A graduate of NYU with a Master's Degree in journalism, Mitch has more than 20 years experience in radio news. He got his start as news director at NYU's college station, and moved on to a news director (and part-time DJ position) for commercial radio station WMVY on Martha's Vineyard. But public radio was where Mitch wanted to be and he eventually moved on to Boston where he worked for six years in a number of different capacities at member station a Senior Producer, Editor, and fill-in co-host of the nationally distributed Here and Now. Mitch has been a guest host of the national NPR sports program "Only A Game". He's also worked as an editor and producer for international news coverage with Monitor Radio in Boston.
Kathleen Masterson as VPR's New England News Collaborative reporter. She covered energy, environment, infrastructure and labor issues for VPR and the collaborative. Kathleen came to Vermont having worked as a producer for NPR’s science desk and as a beat reporter covering agriculture and the environment.
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