DERRY — John Regal finally owns the land his home sits on.
Regal, 55, is vice president of the newly formed Foxy Terrace Cooperative, which just bought the Big W Mobile Home Park on Bypass 28 for $2.2 million.
Residents bought the property earlier this month, becoming the 100th mobile home community in the state owned by a co-op group of residents.
Residents contacted the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund five years ago, he said, because they wanted to buy the property and improve their living conditions.
"The rent was constantly escalating and nothing was really put back into the community," he said. "The money was going back into the landlord's pockets. We got in contact with the loan fund and they helped us over the years with a purchase and sales agreement to submit to the landlord."
For five years, the tenants and the landlord negotiated and finally came to an agreement on Feb. 10.
"I'm proud to be the 100th cooperative and I'm proud of the people in this park that didn't want to give up," Regal said. "The benefits are that the people that live here have a say in what goes on. They get to vote. They know their rent won't be increased unless they OK it."
There are about 450 manufactured housing parks in New Hampshire and those parks house more than 25,000 people, according to Steve Varnum, spokesman for the loan fund. He said the 54-unit Foxy Terrace is the third resident-owned community in Derry, along with Frost Residents Cooperative and Running Brook Cooperative.
Varnum's organization has a specific goal to help low- and moderate-income families and communities build wealth, in this case, through home ownership in the co-op.
"The self-determination is really important," he said. "We help communities of people who are renters become owners. Instead of living by somebody else's rules, they're setting the rules. And instead of their rents becoming somebody's profit, their rents can be turned right back into their community. And, over time, their rents can and do become lower."
Regal said now the co-op is learning how to run the community. Russell Brooks, 60, is the president of the co-op. He said the residents are excited to decide where and when to spend money in the neighborhood.
"Now we can make the improvements that need to be made," he said. "Instead of the landlord making a profit, we'll be able to take the profits and improve things we think need to be improved."
In the future, Brooks said, the roads will be repaved, electricity will be upgraded, septic systems replaced and more.
Resident Bonnie Schofield, 62, said she thought it was very important to be part of the co-op.
"It's a big relief after all that time to own it," she said. "We were worried somebody might buy it and keep raising the rent, or sell the property and make us move our mobile homes off the property. A lot of things could have happened."
The co-op will soon change its name from Foxy Terrace in honor of their newfound ownership.
"Because we're the 100th, the new name of the community will be Centennial," Regal said. "Whether it will be Estates or Acres, I don't know, but we all love it."
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