New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021

HABITAT

NEW YORK CITY

I’ve fallen in love with this fabulous, light-filled apartment, but my attorney is concerned about the building’s finances. Why should I care?
 

HABITAT SAYS: Buying an apartment is more than the home you hope to live in, it’s an investment in a vertical city. And like most cities, it has an operating budget that must cover its expenses. If your attorney is concerned about the building’s finances, you should ask the following questions.

In Brick Underground’s "Buy Curious" column, Mike Malul of City Connections offers strategies for keeping your monthly co-op maintenance or condo common charges to a minimum. The most obvious? Make sure the building you’re buying into is financially sound. He tells you how and offers four less-readily apparent ideas there as well.

Almost all condominium bylaws allow boards to exercise their rights of first refusal. That typically means the condo board must call a unit-owners' meeting and get approval from a majority of within a fairly short period of time. Following that, the board can purchase an apartment on the same terms and conditions offered to the purchaser. It is not an easy procedure; nor is it often used.But many bylaws also allow the board's "designee" to exercise the board's right of first refusal, i.e., to purchase. How does that work? And what's in it for the board?

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio's new initiatives, Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) Commissioner Vicki Been has announced that one goal for a more economically diverse New York City is to build 80,000 new units of affordable housing — placing apartments for low-income households in middle-class neighborhoods and moderate-income housing in poorer areas. The Daily News reports that exact locations have yet to be chosen, and that de Blasio has increased HPD's budget from $1.2 billion to $3.1 billion to help fund this large-scale project.

An annual rite of spring in New York City has been the often-contentious debate over the setting of the rate homeowners, including co-op and condo buildings, will pay for the city's water and sewer system in the coming fiscal year. Rising costs have led the Water Board to increase the water and sewer rate every year since 1995, sometimes in excess of 10 percent. Over the past decade, the rate has increased by 135 percent — with the current rate of $9.27 per 100 cubic feet of water working out to 1.2 cents per gallon used.

Mayor Bill de Blasio's Administration recently made its first water-rate proposal, calling for an increase of 3.35 percent. This rise to $9.58 per 100 cubic feet averages out to an annual cost of $666 per co-op or condo unit, up from $644. Beginning next week, the Water Board will hold a series of public hearings on this year's rate proposal. What points should co-op and condominium board members attending these hearings bring up?

The practice of turning apartments into hotel rooms or bed-and-breakfasts has become so common that it has attracted the attention of legislators, the State's bar association and the State attorney general. Co-op and condo board members, as well as apartment-owners concerned about non-vetted, non-background-checked strangers roaming halls and stairwells, should know what's going on, in order to keep the pressure on elected representatives.

Following the agreement last month between union leaders and representatives for New York City building-owners, including cooperatives and condominium associations, the new contract for the city's 30,000 union doormen, superintendents, handymen and porters has been formally ratified. It provides a cumulative 11.3 percent raise over the next four years, and keeps intact pension benefits and family health care fully paid by the employer.

Brick Underground’s Ask the Expert column has posed a Biblical question: “Can I be my brother’s keeper?” Or, more specifically, my father is threatening to throw my brother and me out, but I own half the co-op. What can he actually do?

The National Cooperative Bank (NCB) has announced it originated $18.6 million in new loans in April, with co-ops in Manhattan accounting for more than 50 percent of the bank’s financing activity in the region, according to Edward Howe III, Managing Director of the NCB New York office. Howe personally arranged the largest loan of the month, a $3.6 million first mortgage and a $750,000 line of credit for a co-op in Forest Hills, Queens. 

A five-member panel comprised of a condo-board president, a management-company executive and representatives of Con Edison, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the New York City Mayor's Office last week warned co-ops, condos and other residential buildings that incentives for green upgrading have limited lifespans, and that boards intending to participate in any particular program should do so before that incentive expires.

Ask the Experts

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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

Professionals in some of the key fields of co-op and condo board governance and building management answer common questions in their areas of expertise

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