Westbury HOA: Where Renters Became Owners
For Gayle Pezzo and her fellow residents at Westbury Homeowners Association, March 6, 2019, marks a major milestone.
That’s the day they became owners of their manufactured-home community in Colchester, Vermont.
Once owned by a single private landlord, Westbury’s property and infrastructure now belong to the co-op’s 250 members – each representing one of the park’s mobile-home lots.
But it took an 18-month journey, helped by outside expertise and financing help, to transform Westbury’s tenants from renters to resident-owners.
In 2018, residents received notice the park was for sale. They quickly realized the beautifully wooded, 183-acre property near Burlington would attract many potential buyers. If a developer didn’t scoop it up, a new owner would – perhaps one who would care less about the park’s upkeep. Residents would have 18 months to relocate if Westbury sold. For residents, some of whom had lived there for 40 years, there had to be a better option.
“We were looking to protect our homes and future from unreasonable rent increases and park closure,” remembered Pezzo, a New York native who moved to Westbury in 2017.
Turning to ROC USA, residents began exploring ways to purchase the park. ROC USA is a nonprofit that helps resident corporations buy their manufactured-home communities from private community owners.
ROC USA recommended residents form a cooperative that could, in turn, seek the financing needed to acquire the site. That opened the door for Cooperative Development Institute (CDI) to step in. CDI is the Northeast’s center for cooperative business development.
CDI helped residents understand how to form a cooperative, which they voted to do. CDI also helped the newly formed co-op apply for financing through ROC USA Capital, a community development financial institution that provides loans exclusively to manufactured-housing cooperatives.
ROC USA Capital turned to National Cooperative Bank to help finance the $12.26 million mortgage. NCB provided $8.9 million of the total loan amount; ROC USA Capital contributed $3.49 million.
“The purchase alleviated our anxiety,” said Pezzo, now Westbury’s board president. “We celebrated with a ‘we own it’ party.”
Today, Westbury HOA is a thriving cooperative whose members have security and stability. Guided by a board of directors elected from the membership, residents control the business of their beloved neighborhood.
“Members have become increasingly familiar with their co-op roles and responsibilities, a process that’s built a strong sense of community,” CDI Housing Program Director Jeremiah Ward said. “It’s been an awesome accomplishment.”
“The park is a beautiful, peaceful and affordable place to live,” noted Pezzo. “The decision we made was best for everyone involved. It’s better than any other scenario that could have occurred.”