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FEMA Denies Aid To Housing Co-Ops after Sandy

According to New York's Office of Housing Recovery Operations, some 120 co-op buildings, with 13,000 apartments, and 368 condominiums, with 7,000 units, sustained flooding and damage after Hurricane Sandy blew through town.

Many now need extensive repairs, but people who live in housing co-ops are considered small businesses under federal law and as such they're ineligible for federal hurricane relief.  Instead of relief, they're being advised to apply for a "small business" loan even though they are essentially nonprofit entities set up by property owners. 

That's what many New Yorkers have been discovering to their surprise, as they've been turned down for FEMA aid. Even though the FEMA assistance is finally coming through, people who live in co-ops just can't get it. And that hits low income co-op households especially hard, according to the executive director of an organization that helps low income New Yorkers turn distressed city properties into co-operatively owned and operated homes. 

"Co-op owners aren't considered home-owners," explains Andy Reicher of Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB).

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Maybe it's time we overhaul our notion of ownership and "home" just as we're updating our notion of "family."

Area lawmakers are trying to change the law. This is certainly no time to be discouraging cooperative home-owning, says Reicher. It's the one sort of home ownership that came out of the mortgage crisis mostly unscathed. Having weathered the financial storm thanks to low rates of foreclosure and arrears, it would be a shame if storm Sandy hurt co-ops now.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders is the award-winning host and executive producer of The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally-syndicated TV and radio program that looks at real-life models of shifting power in the arts, economics and politics. Flanders founded the women’s desk at media watch group Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) and produced and hosted the radio program CounterSpin for a decade. She is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species. Flanders was named Most Valuable Multi-Media Maker of 2018 in The Nation’s Progressive Honor Roll, and was awarded the Izzy Award in 2019 for outstanding achievement in independent media.

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