New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine October 2020 free digital issue

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ARCHIVE ARTICLE

Evolution: Conversions

Out of nearly 8,000 co-op and condo offering plans that hit the market over the last 20 years, roughly 85 percent of the activity occurred from 1980 to 1990. The last decade's new offerings have mainly come from newly constructed condominiums.

The history of these apartment plans is one in which time lags ruled. Offering plans would be submitted to the state attorney general for review, and then accepted 12 to 18 months later. After that, apartments could begin selling. For landlords, the time lag meant everything. The interest rate climate was different, the competition was greater, and the economy often had worsened.

But looking back over 20 years, it's clear that the conversion of New York's rental stock to co-op or condo ownership was fairly steady despite the economic climate. Most who bought an apartment during the boom decade (1980-1990), when most of the co-ops and condos were created, have seen their investments soar. Whether a plan was eviction or non-eviction, tenants did well when they bought from landlords who were trying to get out of the burdens of rent control.

Today, much of the housing stock that a building owner would want to convert has been converted. The last decade has seen new condo construction take the lead, with 746 offering plans from newly constructed condominiums coming to market from 1991 through 2001. This is in sharp contrast to only 60 co-op plans being accepted by the attorney general's office.

So, in which borough will you find the most cooperatives or condominiums? Manhattan leads, followed by Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. The newly constructed condominiums also follow this pattern.

The creation of the largest co-op market in the United States happened here. With banks that figured out how to make mortgage-like loans to shareholders, and rent regulation acting as an incentive to landlords to convert their buildings, New York's experience is a success story in turning vertical housing into apartments that are well-maintained, sound investments. No city planner, mayor, or banker can take credit for this success. Instead, the credit should go to the gumption, risk, and commitment of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people who bought into the co-op and condo system and have spent hundreds of millions of dollars and energy making it work.

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