Wheel Estates Tenants Get Loan to Purchase Park
Tenants hope to rejuvenate the 42-year-old park by buying and repairing it. They have complained that current and previous owners have let the Wheel Estates community detiorate.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It will take one more vote for the residents of Wheel Estates Mobile Home Park to gain control over their futures.
The tenants association at the park was informed on Tuesday that it had qualified for the nearly $4 million loan required to buy the park and make improvements.
"We have to get the shareholders to vote to continue on, to sign the loan and everything," said association President Sandra Overlock on Wednesday.
The outcome of the vote, set this Saturday at 1 p.m. at the recreation hall, is all but guaranteed. Some 105 households, more than half the parks occupied lots, have paid the $100 fee to become shareholders in a newly formed nonprofit corporation — a case of putting their money where their vote is.
The vote is also the culmination of six months of effort and research into the feasibility of taking over the 42-year-old park from Morgan Management LLC, which has been shedding its manufactured housing real estate.
The association has been working with Resident Owned Communities USA (ROC USA) of New Hampshire, a nonprofit that has so far helped more than 100 manufactured housing communities become resident-owned, and Cooperative Development Institute of Shelburne Falls, which provides technical and advisory assistance to startup cooperatives.
After years of complaints over previous owners' failures to maintain the park while raising rents, the residents found themselves facing an unknown future when Morgan Management informed them it had signed a purchase-and-sales agreement with Real Estate Seekers LLC.
The tenants had 45 days to match or better the offer, and a March 27 deadline to get their financing in shape.
There had been talk of buying the park in the past but not enough residents had been interested. This time around, there was strong desire to move forward as indicated by the number of shareholders and the turnout at the last two Mobile Home Rent Control Board hearings.
A number of those in attendance at the hearings had urged the board to allow the necessary rent increase so they could buy the park and make long-awaited improvements — repairs they said Morgan had promised but never delivered.
The financing package — $2.73 million for the park and $1.1 million for infrastructure repairs — is being managed by ROC USA. Overlock said ROC USA President Paul Bradley had notified her Tuesday that the lender had approved the amount.
Once the purchase is finalized, the cooperative will elect a board of directors and hire someone for day-to-day operations. The board will still have to go before the rent control board in a year to defend the rent increase of $45 a month required to meet the mortgage criteria.
Overlock said construction will begin almost immediately after the closing on the roads, water and sewer systems.
"It was a huge undertaking but it was well worth it," she said. "It's the best thing for the residents at this time and age to own it themselves."
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