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.