Op/Ed

Opinion: Saying goodbye to Laura at CVOEO

I can hear Laura Mistretta singing as she walks down the hall. Her office is diagonally across from mine. Occasionally, I can hear her on the phone. Her voice is calm. The person on the other end of the line has all her attention. When her door is closed, because of a private conversation, I see her gesticulating to the unseen bringing life to the space around her. Laura is a Resident Organizer and advocate for the Mobile Home Program at CVOEO. 
Vermont has 238 mobile home parks with 7,096 lots. In addition, there are over 15,000 mobile homes sited outside of parks. Mobile homes make up 7.2% of all housing units in Vermont. They are an important, affordable route to homeownership. 
Most mobile home park residents are both owners and renters: they own their homes but rent the land under those homes. CVOEO’s mission is to give mobile home park residents greater control over their housing, through organizing and education, in order to protect and improve their housing rights and living conditions. 
While there are 238 mobile home parks in Vermont, there is only one Laura. New energy-efficient home models and planning within the parks create communities where the well-being of the home owners are linked and in their control. Making that happen is one of the missions of CVOEO’s statewide Mobile Home Program. There are the usual challenges that face mobile home parks and park residents involving water, septic, electric, maintaining roads and trees. But what happens when the park owners decides to sell their land? 
In 2018, six parks went up for sale. Laura is there to help residents consider options for cooperative ownership of the park and the myriad responsibilities that accompany that action. There are the shifted usual challenges listed above in addition to raising and establishing leadership and governance. They are faced with studies and surveys, connecting with loan sources and fees and fees and fees. 
“I had been a renter for many, many, many years and I really wanted to become a member of a community where I could put down some roots and afford it at the same time. It’s been a lot of work, but I’m so glad I did it because I’m part of a community now and I think that’s what this is all about” said one resident. 
“It’s our job to support someone through the tough times so that they know they are not alone. I’ve come from a place of privilege. I’ve had economic stability and education. Now it’s my turn to use those advantages for the benefit of those who don’t have them,” says Laura. And where is Laura right now? She is continuing her advocacy role on behalf of those residents and all our communities by working with a presidential candidate in New Hampshire. We are waiting to see who will be our new Laura. 

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