ERIN TIERNEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO

Filbert co-op residents Lanny and Debra Martin and granddaughter Ruby Nye, 11, of Thurston, celebrate becoming a “resident-owned park” this past Saturday.

SPRINGFIELD – Sayonara, Patrician Park; welcome to Filbert Grove Cooperative, a 55-plus manufactured home park, now a “resident-owned community.” 

After two years of dreading an eventual mass eviction, residents, policymakers, community leaders and advocates celebrated success on July 17, after residents purchased the land on July 15.  

In many manufactured home communities, residents own their homes but not the land beneath them. This makes homeowners vulnerable to rent increases and eviction, especially when ownership of the land changes, which is exactly what happened to the Patrician. 

In 2019, when discussions of rezoning and redevelopment of the land at 3530 E. Game Farm Road became public, park residents, through letters and in-person testimony to Springfield’s Planning Commission and City Council, advocated against the proposals. 

“We packed the courthouse time and again for over seven months trying to save our homes with determination. We won the Planning Commission, but we lost City Council,” said Jo Manning, resident and vice president for the Filbert Grove Cooperative board. 

Despite residents’ best efforts, the land underneath their homes was rezoned, and the elderly homeowners were left knowing they would soon have to move. They would be given $8,000 for their homes. 

“We had to start searching for other places to live in an area with an extreme housing shortage. It was devastating,” Manning said.

In an unexpected twist, in February 2021, all park residents received a letter in the mail.

“It said that the owner received an offer on the park,” Manning said. “Legally, he had to give us a chance to buy it, and we had 10 days to respond,” Manning said. 

They immediately began working with Community And Shelter Assistance (CASA) of Oregon, a certified technical assistance provider, to help the residents incorporate and make an offer. 

Residents ended up purchasing the park and its infrastructure last week for $12 million, and renamed Patrician Park to Filbert Grove Cooperative. 

“We knew that the Patrician was a particularly important park to preserve and frankly the financial risks were daunting. Nevertheless, we took a calculated risk and went forward, and we succeeded,” said Rose Ojeda, the manufactured housing and cooperative development center project manager for CASA. 

Financing for the resident owned community was provided by Network of Oregon Affordable Housing (NOAH) and CASA of Oregon. CASA coached the residents of Filbert Grove through the purchase process and will continue to provide technical assistance to the co-op for at least the length of the purchase loan.

By purchasing the property, homeowners have the authority to make major decisions as a unified community, and on average, resident-owned communities raise site fees less than 25% of the industry average, according to Manning. 

“The era of (these residents) living in anxiety and fear of the unknown in a housing market that is getting more insane with literally nowhere to go, is over,” said Lane County Commissioner Joe Berney (D-2 Springfield), who voted against the rezoning of the park on the Springfield Planning Commission in 2019. 

ERIN TIERNEY/THE CHRONICLE

Above, the newly minted Filbert Grove Cooperative welcomes residents and guests into the mobile home park. Below, people attend Saturday’s ceremony and celebration.

“Over 1% of all Oregonians live in manufactured homes that were built in 1976 or before; think about that,” Berney said. “We have sustainable communities here if we just start structuring it properly. The next thing I really believe we should do is change zoning laws so that manufactured home park zoning is permanent, not temporary.” 

The leaders of the new co-op have spent the purchase process focused on learning more about their neighborhood and skills to manage the multi-million-dollar business moving forward, said Shawn Rodine, CASA real estate and cooperative development technical assistance manager.

In a resident-owned community, homeowners each buy one low-cost share and become members of the co-op, with one vote per household on matters of the community. They elect a board of directors to act on day-to-day issues and vote on larger matters like the annual budget, bylaws and community rules. 

Filbert Grove Cooperative is the 278th resident-owned community nationwide, and is 20th in the state of Oregon.