Founder and President, ROC USA
As a teen, Paul Bradley overheard an agent say, “Oh, Penacook, you don’t want to buy there.” Hearing those words about his hometown in New Hampshire would later set Bradley on his career path – empowering owners of “mobile” homes to achieve financial security by purchasing the land under their homes as cooperatives. He was stung by the prejudice against his hometown and the good people who called it home. But Bradley found that prejudice ten-fold in “mobile home parks” and was deeply inspired by the homeowner leaders with whom he worked.
In 1988, armed with an economics degree from the University of New Hampshire, and already committed to the idea of cooperative ownership as a source of community and personal security, Bradley joined the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, a pioneering Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) with a mission to build economic opportunity for low-income and financially underserved communities. The Community Loan Fund was implementing an innovative program to help owners of manufactured homes buy their communities and gain economic security. Bradley recognized that community ownership gave cooperative members the kind of financial security people in mobile homes rarely enjoy.
Over the course of his 18-year tenure at the Community Loan Fund, Bradley expanded the program to a full-fledged sector-change strategy, adding home financing and new development in the early 2000s. Through relentless building, 12 cooperative communities became 80, and now exceed 120, representing 27 percent market share.
In 2008, Bradley turned 18 years’ experience in resident-owned community (ROC) development into a market-based social venture called ROC USA®. Implementing the business model he developed through NeighborWorks® America’s Achieving Excellence program at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, Bradley began scaling cooperative ownership nationally. The social venture develops co-ops now in 15 states through a Network of affiliated nonprofits and a national CDFI called ROC USA Capital.
In its first nine years, ROC USA has helped convert 119 communities in 14 states, keeping 8,400 families in their homes. With legacy co-ops, ROC USA now represents over 210 co-ops and 13,400 homeowners. No co-op that purchased with ROC USA’s assistance has ever failed or reverted to commercial ownership. Key to that track record is the integrated financing and technical assistance model pioneered by ROC USA.
Bradley’s commitment to the co-op principles is demonstrated by the make-up of ROC USA’s Board of Directors, which consists of the four nonprofit LLC Members and investors as well as three co-op members who are elected by client co-ops.
Bradley’s enthusiasm for the co-op model is infectious. “His vision of cooperative living has become mine,” said ROC Association leader Natividad Seefeld. “And I have passed it along to so many others.”