Many of New York City’s 7,000 co-ops are entering a busy season of annual meetings that were delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. The results of the board elections at those meetings – most conducted virtually – will answer a number of pressing questions, according to a recent survey by The New York Times.
Namely: Will a maintenance increase or assessment be required to balance the budget in the face of lost income from flip taxes, commercial rent and other revenue streams? Should financing rules be eased to improve sales in a slumping market? Should sublet rules be loosened to help shareholders who have temporarily left the city? Should parents be allowed to co-sign or pay toward an adult child’s down payment? Should boards lower the cash down payment required of buyers to 20 or 25% of the sale price, down from 30%, which would make it easier for first-time buyers to qualify?
Meanwhile, relationships are being tested in co-ops across the city, as sellers adjust to downward pressure on pricing that began before the pandemic and has been exacerbated by the virus, says Steven Sladkus, a partner at the law firm Schwartz, Sladkus, Reich, Greenberg, Atlas. “Some people are trying to get out of co-ops at bargain-basement prices, and that’s making the boards apoplectic,” he says, noting that the boards fear that low-ball deals will hurt other apartments’ resale value. (In most co-op sales, the board can reject a purchase offer for reasons that are not always clear to potential buyers, including this desire to preserve values throughout the building.) A pandemic-induced maintenance increase could also make it more difficult for shareholders to sell apartments in a down market.
Apartment sellers aren’t the only ones pressing for change. Thousands of porters, supers and other building staffers kept co-ops safe during the worst days of the pandemic, and now they are pressing for changes. “We’re a union of majority Black and brown workers who live in communities of color, who have obviously experienced inequalities in this pandemic,” says Kyle Bragg, the president of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which says 138 of its members have died from COVID-19, many from the New York area. Bragg says the union is already eyeing changes to its contract, which could include a push for hazard pay for its members. “I certainly hope that when we come to bargain the next contract, which is in April 2022, that the industry doesn’t forget this moment.”
No matter how these and other questions get answered, this annual meeting season is sure to bring significant changes to the city's co-ops.
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