Amanda Mata and her husband, David, wanted to buy a home.

Unfortunately, a poor credit rating in a competitive Rochester housing market made it seem unlikely.

Then, they heard about Zumbro Ridge Estates.

“We read the news of all the things they were trying to do to change the park, and that was really important to me, to have someplace for my kids,” she said.

This week, the couple, their two children and dog became the newest members of the growing neighborhood.

The path to the new neighborhood north of Rochester started when Zumbro Ridge Estates residents decided to form a cooperative in 2017 and purchase the park along North Broadway, which was being sold by the park’s owner.

Last year, the cooperative board set a goal to fill the park’s 117 lots while maintaining lot rents at $375 a month.

Doing so will offer an affordable housing option while providing funds for a variety of repairs and renovations, including new sewer connections and street repairs, said Allie Lachner, who became the board’s volunteer operations manager and ramped up efforts to improve the park earlier this year.

Housing coalition has invested $3 million in 16 months
A new path to affordable housing?

DRAWN TO NEW IDEA

Mata said the co-op status was a key factor in the decision to move into Zumbro Ridge Estates.

“I really, really like how when I pay the rent, that money’s going back into the community, not going into someone’s pocket,” she said. “That was a really big plus for us.”

The couple will pay roughly $1,000 to $1,100 a month for the combined mortgage and lot rent on their new home, which is close to what they were paying to rent a two-bedroom house near Silver Lake.

With a third child on the way, Amanda Mata said the extra bedroom and newer home will be an asset.

The work at Zumbro Ridge Estates also attracted the attention of Coalition for Rochester Area Housing, which is using funding from Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Olmsted County and Rochester Area Foundation to find solutions to the area’s affordable housing crisis.

The coalition provided a $340,000 revolving loan fund to help purchase and install five manufactured homes.

Selling at $67,900 for a three-bedroom, two-bath unit and $64,500 for a three-bedroom, one-bath option, Steve Borchardt, Rochester Area Foundation’s housing coalition director, said the monthly cost will come in at approximately $1,000, but could be lower with a change in banking regulations.

He noted current conditions don’t allow purchases to be paid with 30-year mortgages, so shorter loans increase monthly payments. Part of the regulations stem around the fact that the homeowners don’t own the specific piece of land they occupy.

Amanda Mata said that was a consideration when discussing the purchase, but it doesn’t worry her.

“I know people on a low income or a tighter income are always looking, so if we decide further down the road to sell, I don’t think it will be a problem,” she said, noting modern mobile homes aren’t as movable as their name implies.

Mata’s home isn’t one of the coalition-purchased homes, but it is similar and the purchase faced a process crafted for the other homes.

Amanda Mata said the process through First Alliance Credit Union was smoother than she expected, offering her an opportunity to get a grasp on credit rating and consolidate existing loans.

Borchardt said the first of the five coalition-funded homes has been purchased, while two others are move-in ready and two are being set up.

While the plan is to add homes as others are sold, he said at least one more needs to be sold before a new purchase order is made. With limited warm weather remaining, he said a six-week delay could put new purchases off until spring.

“It’s going to be a balance,” he said.

Still, Lachner, said numbers continue to grow. Homes that were rented in the past have been purchased, along with one of two remaining homes obtained from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

It leaves 23 vacant lots where 30 once stood.

The efforts go beyond selling homes, however.

“We’re seeing good activity out there,” Borchardt said.

WORK CONTINUES

The park recently held a ribbon cutting to celebrate the creation of a new basketball court, which is just the start of a planned playground and picnic area.

The new court was made possible largely with the help of two local businesses: Rochester Asphalt, which did the work for half the cost, and MBT Bank, which helped provide funding through a grant from the Hanson Family Foundation.

Steve Chappell, MBT vice president, said the Hanson Family, which owns the bank, saw the project as a way to instill pride in homeownership and build community.

“We just felt this was a unique idea and great idea, so we wanted to support it,” he said of the park’s conversion to a cooperative.

Kenneth Bush, vice president of business development and community engagement for Rochester Asphalt, also noted the company wanted to be part of the effort to strengthen the community.

Next week, members of the Rochester Area Builders’ 40 Below group of young professionals are expected to start construction of a new bus stop for the park’s children to use when the school year starts.

Amanda Mata said such efforts, which started with donations and volunteer support from a variety of businesses and community groups, helped attract her to Zumbro Ridge, since much of the work has been aimed at supporting families with children.

With $8,000 of the $25,000 Hanson Family Foundation grant spent on the basketball court, Lachner said her next goal is to complete fundraising for the rest of the playground, which is facing an approximately $35,000 shortfall.

She said she hopes to have the equipment ordered this month so the growing number of children in the park can use it before the first snow falls.

Even if the equipment is not in place this year, Lachner said she’s confident Zumbro Ridge Estates will continue to offer improved housing options for the Matas, current residents and those who join them in the coming months.

“Compared to where we were a year ago, it’s amazing,” she said with confidence that improvements will continue.

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Local Government Reporter

Randy is the Post Bulletin's local government reporter, covering the city of Rochester and Olmsted County, as well as Destination Medical Center efforts. He joined the Post Bulletin staff in 2014.