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Residents makes progress in their efforts to save Applewood

Nov 01, 2017 05:17PM ● Published by Ruth Hendricks

Shirlene Stoven stands by the fireplace in her manufactured home. (Ruth Hendricks/City Journals)

Shirlene Stoven and other residents are continuing their fight to turn Applewood Mobile Estates into a resident-owned community. 

“We are officially known as Applewood Homeowners Cooperative Inc.,” said Stoven. Stoven is president of the cooperative and Lisa Marquardt is vice president. 

The residents are working to raise enough money to buy the land their homes sit on, located at 150 West 7500 South. Marquardt said that Applewood is a low-income neighborhood. Residents are seniors and most are on a fixed income.

In a September article in The City Journals, it was mistakenly reported that the Applewood group had received donations from Midvale city and from American Express. At that time, the group was working on an application to the city for financial assistance and was in the process of soliciting donations from other sources, but nothing had been finalized.

Residents continue to work with a national non-profit group, ROC USA, which helps mobile home residents to form a resident-owned community (ROC). A ROC is a neighborhood of manufactured homes owned by a cooperative of homeowners who live there as opposed to an outside landlord. Members continue to own their homes individually and an equal share of the land beneath the entire neighborhood.

Under a ROC, the residents wouldn’t have to worry about eviction, extreme rate hikes, or future development. ROC USA will provide some of the money needed to buy the land. Money received from ROC USA is like a mortgage, so the residents will need to pay it back. 

Mark Lundgren is the director of Utah ROC (UROC) and is the representative to the national ROC USA. He is helping the Applewood residents with a purchasing sale agreement for the land, which he anticipates closing in early December.

“This is significant in that the residents themselves have raised approaching $50,000. This is relatively unheard of,” said Lundgren. Normally ROC USA finances the sale of land entirely. But due to the cost of the land and the need to maintain affordability for the senior, low-income residents, financing the whole cost through ROC USA would be prohibitive. That’s why Lundgren and the Applewood residents are cobbling together a mix of funding to keep the mortgage payment affordable.

Marquardt explained that forming a co-op is similar to creating a corporation. “We have filed our articles of incorporation and are working on our bylaws and the community rules.” Residents are also working on an environmental assessment and getting a property conditions report so they know just what they are getting with the land.

Residents of Applewood can choose to join the co-op, which will stabilize their lot rent. Marquardt reported that as of mid-October, 41 of the current 52 residents were members of the co-op. 

Contrary to the September article, Stoven further clarified that House Bill 236, Mobile Home Park Residents’ Rights, did pass this year in the Utah legislature. She was in the governor’s office when he signed the bill. 

The bill states that a mobile home resident may bring a cause of action against a mobile home park owner for damages or injunctive relief arising from a violation, and a court may award reasonable attorney fees and costs to the prevailing party.

“The issue has been that we as homeowners are at the mercy of the owners of the land owner and the management company. They have been able to do what they want with no laws to protect us,” said Stoven. Many residents were afraid to say anything for fear of retaliation, because owners can raise the rent or evict them. House Bill 236 now gives them an opportunity to take action. Many people wanted to take land owners to court but couldn’t due to lack of funds to pay court costs and attorney fees.

Stoven is aware just how “golden” the Applewood property is for developers due to its proximity to TRAX. “However, the new owners who recently bought Applewood from ICO Development (the commercial arm of Ivory Homes) met with us, saw our plight, and are giving us the opportunity to buy the land. This lets us know there are still good people in the world,” said Stoven.

Stoven said they are making progress and obtaining the funds, which is encouraging. “When we buy this land, it will be a huge success story for other mobile park residents to see that it can be done. That’s what I’d love to have people understand.”

“We’ve been working on this for four years,” said Marquardt. She is also grateful for the opportunity to try to buy the land.

“I’ve learned that it’s all about follow-through and reminding people,” said Stoven. “People get busy. You have to stay in contact, and just keep letting people know that you’re still there.”

The group continues to seek donations. Stoven has set up a GoFundMe account which can be found at gf.me/u/3QCY2.

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