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Democracy is tested at mobile home co-op

November 21, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

GILFORD – The complaints and allegations at Lakes Region Mobile Home Village Cooperative in Gilford have all the intrigue of a mystery or soap opera, with allegations of bullying, infighting,

GILFORD – The complaints and allegations at Lakes Region Mobile Home Village Cooperative in Gilford have all the intrigue of a mystery or soap opera, with allegations of bullying, infighting, polarized neighbors, and questions about finances. Some residents say they’re called troublemakers and vigilantes when they challenge the board, request copies of financial statements, or raise questions about computer records. Some say they even miss the old days before they became a resident-owned community, which happened in 2010, thanks to loans and coaching from the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund and ROC-NH.

Now everyone is stabbing everyone in the back,” said Sylvia Dion, 78, a LRMHVC resident for 34 years, who served as a co-op board member in 2018-19.

O’Riordan said that, according to ROC-NH, which helped LRMVHC become resident-owned, “it’s nothing unusual compared to what happens at other parks. ”It’s an example of how democratic self-rule can come undone when discord, power struggles and resentment boil over among people in small groups – including housing co-operatives, clubs, or civic associations – who are tasked with governing each other. According to Dion and some of her fellow co-op members:Checks were signed by a former board member who didn’t have authority to write them. A $50,000 loan was taken out to buy a $25,000 mobile home for use as an office, which remains locked to co-op members. Rent for members of the 100-unit co-op on Old Lake Shore Road hasn’t risen in eight years.

A message left at the attorney’s Bedford office was not immediately returned. Jane Sharp, the president of the co-op board, declined to comment on any of the issues raised by unhappy residents. Everybody’s an amateurThe problem is “everybody’s an amateur,” said Carlee Nichols, a resident and past board member at LRMHVC.

In small, self-contained communities such as mobile home co-ops, the pool of volunteers with relevant experience to choose from is a small one. “How many people in a mobile home park have ever managed a $5 to $15 million dollar business as a volunteer?” said Steve Varnum, communications director for the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which has financed more than 132 mobile home co-ops statewide in 36 years.

The park is now independently owned and governed without ties to ROC-NH. The situation at Lakes Region Mobile Home Village Cooperative is not unheard of at mobile home parks that have become resident-owned and operated, according to members at local mobile home co-ops. “It’s neighbors governing neighbors, that’s got to be tough,” said Karen Soucy, executive director of the New Hampshire Manufactured Housing Association, which represents mobile home parks owned and operated by landlords.

Some also say ROC-NH hasn’t provided the degree of ongoing support they expected and thought they paid for. “They’re more concerned with their money than helping the parks,” said Rick Dubois, a 27-year resident and past board member of Old Lake Shore Cooperative, a 52-unit mobile home park – also in Gilford – that refinanced a $1. 1 million mortgage from Citizens Bank and the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund this summer. After the park became a co-op 16 years ago, technical assistance from ROC-NH was hard to find, DuBois said.

She said she was recently denied copies of financial statements by the board president for “being rude. ” Dion said she has written four letters requesting financial information, but not gotten any response. ‘A little microcosm’LRMHVC pays $200 monthly to ROC-NH for technical assistance, which amounts mainly to trainers coming to co-op meetings once or twice a year, Dion said.

"They're not in your back pocket, but as long as they get paid, if you have a question, they answer your question. "Dion and other co-op residents say, considering its resources and mission, ROC-NH could do more to help the co-ops thrive. “It’s more like a finance company that is helping communities do things on their own,” said DuBois.

"We tried to get a lawyer, but no one wanted to deal with it. ”A hand-lettered sign in her street-facing window reads: "A CO-OP IS A DEMOCRATIC ORGANIZATION CONTROLLED BY ALL MEMBERS – NOT JUST A FEW. ”"People don’t want to talk because they have to live here,” said Deb Richardson, who served on the board with Dion last year.

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