Thirty years ago, when N.Y. Habitat was evolving from the Loft Letter, cooperative conversions of rental properties were kicking into high gear, thanks in large part to legislation that year that made non-eviction conversions possible. A few years earlier, the Council of West Side Cooperatives had evolved into the Council of New York Cooperatives, and condominium housing was still a rarity. What will the next 30 years bring to our community?
Ownership, 2042 – Will Lines Be Blurred?
From their inception, housing cooperatives have had procedures for screening – and interviewing – prospective shareholders, to ensure that they would be able to meet their financial obligations to the cooperative and that they understood and would meet their responsibilities to the community: to be good neighbors and to take part in the running of their cooperative. Provided that the co-op board doesn’t discriminate against protected categories, it has the right to reject a prospective purchaser. This process helps populate a cooperative with individuals committed to participation and cooperation.
However, the admissions process can be intimidating and stressful. To avoid it, many people seek ownership in condominiums where there are fewer restrictions and the sale is a simple transaction between seller and purchaser. Although a condominium board can request full information on prospective unit-owners as background for the exercise of its right of first refusal, exercising this right means meeting the price of the purchaser whom the condominium board would prefer to exclude.
The future might see a blurring of the lines between these forms of homeownership, with each adopting some of the advantages of the other. Many condominiums, recognizing the benefit of learning about prospective purchasers, might formalize an application process to protect their income stream and to try to bring in unit-owners who will serve on the board. On the other hand, some cooperatives may initiate more relaxed admissions policies, focusing on financial standards only.
People often purchase condominiums for the additional freedom to rent their unit without being subject to board restrictions. Cooperatives often have strict limitations on subletting, with occasional exceptions made in challenging economic times. Will these distinctions continue or will we see dramatic changes by 2042? Will the lure of the city and the growing value of apartments lead to cooperatives and condominiums whose owners rent their units and no longer live there, but continue to be active in the operation of the building as a cooperatively owned commercial venture?
By 2042, electronic communication will facilitate the operation of most cooperatives and condominiums. Boards and supers will be able to keep shareholders or unit-owners advised of policy changes, meeting notices, and water shutdowns; requests and work orders will be entered electronically, with an easy file system to keep track of repairs, recurring leaks, charges for materials, etc. Boards may hold fewer face-to-face meetings, but will communicate through secure channels on general board business. “Paper” documentation for the city will be entirely paperless, with systems for streamlined distribution of window guard notices, fire safety plans, etc., and for tabulating necessary responses.
Webinars and online discussion groups will enable new board members to receive training in the basic responsibilities of their new offices and to ask questions or suggest article topics for Habitat’s general publication and its “members only” special sections. The Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums will hold its 62nd annual Housing Conference in 2042 with as many online participants in each of the 75 workshops and seminars as on-site participants in the classrooms. Although individuals present in the room will be allowed to ask brief questions of clarification, all content questions will be presented in electronic form with topics listed so that the speaker can address them in the designated question period.
But the one thing that will remain the same is board members’ dedication to their roles as guardians of their homes in what will undoubtedly still be a thankless job, but also a rewarding one.
Mary Ann Rothman is the executive director of the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums.