New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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How to Secure a Low-Interest Loan for Historic Buildings

New York City

Landmarks Conservancy, co-op loans, National Register of Historic Places, Landmarks Preservation Commission.
April 10, 2020

The nonprofit Landmarks Conservancy was created in 1973 to provide technical and financial assistance to owners of historic buildings. In 1982, the Historic Properties Fund became part of the conservancy after the federal government sold the massive Archive Building in Greenwich Village. Since then, the fund has provided more than $29 million in low-interest loans to 260 properties throughout the five boroughs.

If your co-op board wants to apply for a loan, remember one thing: size matters. The conservancy lends to small co-ops, one- to four-family homes, rental buildings, religious organizations and nonprofits. “Generally, most of the co-ops we lend to are between 5 and 20 units,” says James Mahoney, project and accounting manager for the conservancy. “We usually lend to co-ops in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, and our loans top out at about $400,000. The term is usually 10 years.”

To start the loan application process, call the Landmarks Conservancy at 212-995-5260. A staff member will determine if the building meets the eligibility requirements – it must be in a designated New York City Historic District or in a neighborhood that has been deemed eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Such buildings account for about 5 percent of the city’s building stock.

If the building is eligible, fund staff members will arrange a visit to review the scope of work and estimate a budget. The co-op board will fill out a loan application with the assistance of fund staff, and the application will then be presented to the fund’s board of directors. If the loan is approved, the fund will issue a commitment letter. 

Once the loan is closed, the fund’s staff will recommend architects that the board can interview and obtain proposals for services. The chosen architect will prepare plans and specifications; if the building is in a historic district, the architect will obtain a permit from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. If necessary, the architect will also obtain a permit from the Department of Buildings. The architect and the fund staff will create a bid list of potential contractors. Once the co-op board hires a contractor and all permits are secured, the work begins and requisitions for payment are submitted by the contractor. They’re certified for payment by the project architect and reviewed by fund staff.

“Our involvement is kind of unusual,” says Mahoney. “Most banks just hand over the money.”

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