Frank Lovece in Board Operations on March 8, 2013
March 8, 2013 — In a major shift welcomed by co-ops and condos battered by superstorm Sandy, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will now allow residential cooperatives and condominium associations to use disaster-relief funds to repair buildings' physical plants. Previously, condo and co-op boards were ineligible for grants but could obtain low-interest repair loans from the Small Business Administration.
While HUD has not formally announced the change, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that the department will allow money from its Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program to cover the cost of repairs to common areas and infrastructure. Schumer last month had requested that HUD establish eligibility requirements to help co-op and condo boards fund repairs to damage incurred by Sandy.
Contrary to some misleading reports, co-op shareholders and condo unit-owners themselves have always been covered under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Many such homeowners have received grants of up to $31,900 for emergency housing not covered by insurance, in the form of assistance for a temporary rental or minimal repairs to one's own home, as well as for essential personal items.
However, because FEMA's primary mandate is providing shelter for displaced homeowners, it does not cover repair to lobbies, boiler rooms or other common areas where no one physically lives. Under federal guidelines, cooperatives and condominium associations are business entities.
"This welcome decision to allow federal aid for storm-damaged condos and co-ops will provide much-needed relief to the thousands of families and seniors who live in these buildings" Schumer said in a statement. "It will save these victimized homeowners from unfairly shouldering the massive capital expenditures to repair common areas and infrastructure. Co-op and condo owners deserved the same relief that private homeowners received, and this decision helps accomplish that basic fairness."
Newsday reported that for co-op and condo associations to be eligible, they must be included in an action plan New York State must draft, according to a HUD the spokesperson. A representative for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo told the newspaper that the administration would do so. The State has 90 days to submit a plan, though the governor's spokesperson said it would do so more "in the very near future." HUD then has 45 days to approve or reject the plan.
HUD said on February 6 that it was releasing approximately $1.7 billion in a first round of CDBG-DR funding to the State of New York. This was in addition to the approximately $1.8 billion already allocated directly to New York City.
"We still do not have the details on the program or dollar amounts that will be available," said Bob Friedrich, president of Queens' Glen Oaks Village co-op and co-president of the Presidents Co-op and Condo Council, an advocacy group, but added he was hopeful that Schumer and other local politicians would be able to provide that information shortly.
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