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Small Business Legal Clinic

SBLC Supports Housing Cooperatives Throughout Oregon

June 29, 2020

  • Housing Cooperative Map

For the past nine years, the Small Business Legal Clinic (SBLC) has assisted over 18 manufactured dwelling co-operatives to help create more affordable housing communities in Oregon. Along with our mission to serve low-income businesses and nonprofits, the SBLC is committed to securing safe and affordable housing throughout Oregon. We spoke with SBLC Staff Attorney Brian Dasso to find out more about the process.

 

Q: Please tell us about the clients you currently represent.

 

About 50% of my work is devoted to representing manufactured dwelling co-operative (co-op) clients. While several of our co-op clients are based in the Portland metro area, most are scattered throughout rural Oregon. (Check out the SBLC client map for list and locations.) The co-ops are owned by residents, and the residents also form the co-op’s board of directors. We partner closely with Community and Shelter Assistance Corporation (CASA of Oregon), a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, in working with the co-ops. Generally, CASA of Oregon generally serves as the co-op’s technical advisor and the SBLC is their legal advisor. We also currently represent housing authorities that build traditional affordable housing such as single dwelling homes, townhomes, and apartments.

 

Q: What are some of the legal issues and challenges that manufactured dwelling co-operatives often face?

 

The SBLC helps draft governing documents, by-laws, and community rules, and recently, we helped four co-ops with closing the purchase of their manufactured dwelling parks. After closing, we continue counseling the co-ops with general business and real estate law, such as lease management, landlord-tenant communications, and compliance with Oregon rent control and fair housing laws. One challenge we face in representing co-ops is the high turnover rate of board members, and we continue to work with CASA of Oregon to create a smooth onboarding process for new board members.

 

Q: How has COVID-19 change things for you and your clients?

 

The biggest difference would be not being able to have the initial meetings in-person. Before the pandemic, I would usually meet with clients in-person for the first meeting and communicate via email or phone throughout our representation, but now, everything from intake to closing takes place online. I think it’s important to have the personal interaction with our clients, and I look forward to being back in our office once it is safe for everyone.