NH Senate panel backs compromise on manufactured home cooperatives

New language a ‘vast improvement,’ say advocates

A compromise has been reached on Senate Bill 210, a measure that housing advocates say could have spelled the end of manufacturing home cooperatives.

Originally, the bill would have required a majority of all tenants to be involved in the decision to buy a manufactured home park, instead of a majority of the members of the cooperative formed to acquire it – an extremely large barrier, said Tara Reardon, vice president of ROC-NH, an affiliate of the NH Community Loan Fund that has fostered 140 such cooperatives in the state over the last 39 years. ROCs, or stands for resident-owned communities, got their start in New Hampshire and have since gone nationwide.

“It’s like getting 51 percent of those who register rather than those who vote” to win an election, she said.

Under a state law enacted in 1980, residents of manufactured home parks have 60 days to match an offer if an owner agrees to sell the property to another buyer – sometimes to a company that wants to keep it going at a profit, but often to those who want to redevelop the land for more profitable purposes, forcing the tenants who pay rent for the lot on which their not-so-mobile homes sit to scramble for housing.

Because of this tight deadline, it is often hard to muster a majority of tenants to attend initial meetings where decisions need to be taken as to whether to purchase the park.

The amendment was unanimously endorsed by the Senate Commerce Committee and is “a vast improvement,” she said.

It backs off the provision of requiring a majority of all tenants, but makes it easier to vote by limiting the fee required join a cooperative to $5 and allowing for absentee ballots. It also limits the monthly rent differential to $25 between those who join the co-op and those who don’t – another complaint of some tenants in the Allenstown cooperative who sparked the bill brought forth by Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro.

At a public hearing on the bill, they complained of a $200 rent differential, which even ROC supporters thought was high.

60-day notice

As part of the compromise, the Commerce Committee amended another bill, SB 324, that initially just dealt with condominium homeowners associations’ dispute resolution boards, to include manufacture home cooperatives as well.

SB 210 would also give the NH Manufactured Housing Association – a trade organization of for-profit park owners – the same 60-day notice of a park owner’s intent to sell, though a co-op would still have the first right of refusal.

The full Senate is scheduled to vote on both bills on Thursday.

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