Mayfield Green Housing Cooperative
Mayfield Green is a pleasant place to live. It has a playground, large swimming pool, exercise room, computer lab and a large expanse of green space. Its 344 townhouses sit on 37 acres. The crime rate is low. Its community center provides everything from ESL classes to health fairs. A visitor finds a vital and well-kept housing complex.
What’s different about Mayfield Green is that it is neither a for-profit apartment complex nor a form of subsidized housing. It’s a housing cooperative in which the residents actually own a share of the entire property. As owners, they elect the board of directors which sets all policies, establishes rules and determines how money is spent. Residents thus have a say in the decisions that affect their lives. Residents pay a monthly “carrying charge” rather than rent. This income covers all the expenses of the complex.
There are advantages to this arrangement. Since there is no landlord or business which makes a profit from the residents, the cost of living here is lower than at most apartment complexes. The monthly carrying charge, which provides utilities, all maintenance and appliances, provides a much better deal than usually is found. Additionally, residents are more apt to be invested in Mayfield Green since they own a piece of it.
Ms. Frankie Morton is the Board President and is in charge of the cooperative’s operations. “Miss Frankie” is known to everyone here and provides vibrant leadership. She grew up in the community and was a resident long before she came to be its board president and she continues to live in Mayfield Green. She is also a minister and graduate of Christian Theological School. This ministry causes her to constantly find ways to serve the community and she says her daily prayer is, ‘How can I make Mayfield Green better?” She also leads a prison ministry quite apart from her work as Board President.
Miss Frankie seeks to serve the surrounding community as well. She hires local youth to be pool monitors in the summer, as well as other jobs when they arise. Neighbors from adjoining areas are invited to participate in the many classes and special presentations.
Energy conservation is another emphasis of Mayfield Green. A recycling program was begun 7-8 years ago. More recently, education programs have been undertaken to encourage and assist residents to use less energy. The result is a lot of low-flow shower heads, energy efficient light bulbs, and improved insulation around windows.
Like most places, Mayfield Green residents must meet minimum income requirements. Quite unlike most other places, residents must also be under a maximum income. Earn too much money and you can’t become a resident. The intent of this requirement is to prevent it from being a place composed of upper income people. Residents must be re-certified annually and pay a surcharge if their income exceeds the upper limit.
Managing a housing cooperative has many challenges. Miss Frankie says she has to work constantly to remind residents that Mayfield Green belongs to them and they need to participate. Getting people to attend their meetings has proved difficult and most still think of their housing as an apartment complex. But some residents have what she calls a “passion for community,” and these are the ones that serve on the Board of Directors and make Mayfield Green work.
Cooperative housing is a model that is well-suited to a sustainable future. The increased sense of ownership encourages pride in the property and extra effort to make a livable place. Most importantly, the purpose is not to make a profit but to provide a great place to live.
-Submitted by Richard Clough