New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Is This the Solution to New York's Affordable Housing Crisis?

Cypress Hills, Brooklyn

Co-op conversion, rent-stabilized apartments, Community Land Trusts, Tenant Protection Act, Mitchell-Lama.

In a New York City first, this rent-stabilized apartment building in Brooklyn will be converted to a co-op.

March 19, 2024

In a first, the East New York Community Land Trust has bought a 21-unit, rent-stabilized apartment building and will convert it into an affordable co-op — forever.

It’s the first time a Community Land Trust (CLT) has purchased an apartment building from a private landlord in New York City, Gothamist reports, and it comes as many property owners and investors consider unloading stabilized apartments because, they claim, rising costs and caps on rent hikes are limiting profits and repairs. That squeeze is the result of 2019's Housing Stability and Tenant Protection Act, and it's sure to get even tighter if the state Legislature passes good cause eviction bills now under consideration.

The East New York CLT paid just over $3 million last month for the Arlington Avenue apartment building, located in Cypress Hills. Under its model, residents will own or lease their homes at permanently affordable rates while the nonprofit owns the land below. Co-op shareholders cannot sell their apartments for big gains down the road, which ensures that the units remain affordable for future generations of shareholders.

“We’re making sure that it’s affordable in perpetuity and making sure any fixes that our people need, both emergency and long-term, are getting done and being planned for,” says East New York CLT President Boris Santos. “We see our role as stewards.”

The East New York model is a departure from the popular Mitchell-Lama program from the 1950s, which allows residents in hundreds of co-op complexes to sell their units at any price once affordability requirements expire. This shift to market rate has enriched many cooperators in recent years while draining the city's already short supply of affordable housing. The East New York model eliminates the possibility of going to market rate.

The East New York CLT says it can handle renovations and routine maintenance with low-cost financing. Among the pressing projects is replacing the ancient oil-fired boiler with an electric heat pump. The CLT raised more than $1 million in private donations and is seeking additional funding from government sources. While converting the building to a co-op, the CLT plans to reinvest rent money into the building without taking a cut, the way a typical landlord would, Santos says.

Community land trusts are not a new concept, but they'e had a modest presence in New York City since the early 1990s. Two groups in the city — the Cooper Square Community Land Trust and the East Harlem-El Barrio Community Land Trust — manage about 450 units in buildings they acquired from the city.

“People have been talking about this for a while, and finally we’re doing it,” Santos says. “There's enormous pressure to expand and do more of this.”

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Learn all the basics of NYC co-op and condo management, with straight talk from heavy hitters in the field of co-op or condo apartments

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