BECU Rescues Manufactured Home Community

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BECU has come to the rescue of owners in a manufactured housing community in nearby Mill Creek, Wash., who have had difficulty selling their homes or refinancing to take advantage of recent low mortgage rates.

The credit union, which until last year was known as Boeing Employees Credit Union, had been in discussions with many community groups in recent years regarding the creation of affordable housing in the greater Seattle area. Todd Pietzsch, BECU's public relations manager, said the Housing Authority of Snohomish County in 2004 contacted BECU through HomeSight, a non-profit corporation in Seattle.

"Only in the last three years have we served all residents in the state of Washington. Formerly, we served Boeing employees and their families," he said. "The Housing Authority approached us because funding for manufactured homes is very expensive when the homeowners do not own the land. No bank was interested in the project."

The community, known as Thomas Place, had been a trailer park before the Housing Authority of Snohomish County bought and developed it. According to Ann Schroeder Osterberg, the agency's director of development, construction and maintenance, the owner of the trailer park was given notice in the mid-1990s that he would be required to repair a septic system or connect the park to the main sewer line. Because the owner did not wish to invest additional money, he instead issued one-year eviction notices.

When the Housing Authority was told many elderly and low-income residents were losing their homes and had no place to go, it purchased the site in 1996, she said.

"We hooked up the sewer line, and we developed a modern, double-wide community of nice, manufactured homes at affordable prices."

When Thomas Place celebrated its grand opening in 1998, the Housing Authority still had not located a lender, Schroeder Osterberg recalled. It created a pool of funds by raising bonds. Homeowners were able to obtain 30-year mortgages from the Housing Authority at 7%, which was considered a good rate seven years ago.

"When rates dipped, our homeowners were paying rates higher than the market," she said. "We are not in the business of single-family mortgages. We wanted a lender for first mortgages that could provide a rate comparable to what a person could get for a stick-built home."

"BECU came along and said it wanted to partner with us," Schroeder Osterberg continued. "With BECU as a partner, we have a long-term solution and can assure buyers they have access to competitive financing."

Pietzsch said the credit union has refinanced the loans for 15 of the 44 existing Thomas Place homes. Eventually, the park will consist of 50 homes, and BECU will offer competitive mortgages to all owners.

"When we launched the program last year, we help an open house for all residents. We also have sent letters, and the Housing Authority has sent notices," he said.

BECU offers residents a mortgage loan with no title insurance, recording fees, escrow fees or tax service fees, Pietzsch reported.

The current rate is approximately 5.75%, and closing costs are rolled into the loan so owners do not have to pay out of pocket.

Schroeder Osterberg was unequivocal in her feelings for the credit union: "We love BECU," she said.

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