The New Hampshire Community Loan Fund is a statewide nonprofit that describes its mission in one word: opportunity.

The Concord-based loan fund helps provide opportunity by connecting low-income people who lack access to credit with institutions and individuals willing to help.

Its latest success story is the Big W Mobile Home Park in Derry.

With help from the loan fund, the residents of the 54-unit mobile home park on Bypass 28 formed a co-op and purchased the property for $2,2 million earlier this month. Their Foxy Terrace Cooperative now owns the land on which the residents' mobile and modular homes sit.

The purchase was a milestone not just for the residents but also for the state. The mobile home park was the 100th to be purchased by a residents' co-op in New Hampshire.

The process began five years ago when residents who were concerned about rising rents and the prospect that the property might be sold out from under them decided to try to buy it themselves. They approached the Community Loan Fund for help with the financing.

John Regal, the vice president of the co-op, said rent was constantly rising and none of it was being invested in the community,

"The money was going back into the landlord's pockets," he said. (See story on page 3.)

The Big W — soon to be renamed the Centennial in honor of its new owners' milestone achievement — is the third resident-owned co-op in Derry, after the Frost Residents Cooperative and Running Brook Cooperative.

Thanks to their own initiative and the help of the loan fund, the mobile home park residents will have a better chance to participate in New Hampshire's economy.

As owners, rather than renters, they will have a bigger stake in their homes and more control over their own destiny. Property owners are far more likely to put down roots, maintain their property and play a role in the life of the community. That's good for the community as well as for the residents.

Steve Varnum, a spokesman for the loan fund, said the self-determination that comes with ownership is key to helping low- and moderate-income residents get ahead.

"Instead of living by somebody else's rules, they're setting the rules," Varnum said. "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."

Investing in their own neighborhood is exactly what the residents plan to do, said co-op president Russell Brooks.

Roads will be repaved, the electricity upgraded and septic systems replaced, he said.

"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."

We wish them well and hope their success becomes a model for others in New Hampshire.

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