Picture a trailer park. What do you see? Mobile homes resting lazily on cinder blocks? Unkempt lawns crowded by an assortment of rundown property?
Fair enough; that's an accurate image of some of the 50,000 trailer parks around the United States, but that's not what Ashoka Fellow Paul Bradley sees—he sees hope for the American dream, as founder of ROC USA, the New Hampshire-based nonprofit dedicated to turning mobile home tenants into homeowners.
Bradley has always seen things a bit differently than most1; for Bradley, trailer parks are an untapped resource for advancing the nation's affordable housing stock.
See, nearly three million Americans own their mobile homes but rent the land underneath, making it nearly impossible to build equity. And so Bradley and ROC USA, in addition to providing technical training and networking support, help citizens, many of whom lack credit and live in fear of losing their living spaces, organize to make resident ownership a reality.
“What Bradley's group does is help people form a co-op when a park comes up for sale,” explained Dan Gorenstein on NPR's “All Things Considered.”
“If the co-op's bid is accepted, ROC USA finances the deal, and just like that, tenants are transformed into homeowners with control over the land beneath their feet.”
Bradley's model works. Amazingly, over the last 30 years, more than $200 million in co-op loans have been disbursed by ROC USA, New Hampshire banks, federal agencies, and commercial lenders—and every dollar has been repaid.
"Since we launched in 2008, ROC USA has helped 2,200 homeowners in 35 communities purchase their parks and gain economic security," Bradley says, adding that ROC USA's work will double—and perhaps even triple—its 2011 figures. "We are dead serious about scaling our impact. I want resident ownership to be available to every homeowner group in the country that wants to buy their community.”
Want to learn more? Listen to the story of how Ashoka Fellow Paul Bradley is helping “second-class” citizens like Judy Stoddard, 71, and Gary Thulin, 70, achieve financial stability and peace of mind, courtesy of NPR:
"A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind,” reads a framed quote in Bradley's office.