New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community

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Affordable housing took a blow last week after the state attorney general and the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal gave Southbridge Towers in the Financial District the green light to privatize. The Downtown Express reports that residents of the more than 1,600-unit complex will be able to sell their apartments on the open market starting sometime next year. According to the official appraisal, says the report, Southbridge apartments can go for from $300,000 to more than $1 million. Now it's up to residents to either opt-in and take full ownership rights of their apartments, or stay and be subjected to rent increases under rent stabilization rules. As disappointing as the decision is for opponents of privatization, there is a silver lining for senior citizens who are enrolled in the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program. They will be able to continue living in their apartments, under the program's protection, the Downtown Express added.

Weren't we just talking about the Mitchell-Lama co-ops late last month? We sure were. Only 45,400 limited-equity co-op and rental apartments in 98 buildings remain, compared to 105,000 apartments in 269 buildings in 1955 when the program began. New York State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein (D - 34th District) sponsored legislation in December to build more. Great news for supporters of Mitchell-Lama. But back in the news this week is Southbridge Towers in the Financial District, which voted for privatization just under two months ago. Residents of Southbridge are divided on the issue, reports The New York Times, adding that the "state’s Homes and Community Renewal agency is reviewing the Southbridge vote for accuracy, but has no authority to override a shareholder decision or block privatization." If it goes through, and it's certainly looking like it will, it means the more than 1,600-unit complex would become "the largest Mitchell-Lama co-op in Manhattan to privatize at a time when the city is struggling to hold onto its dwindling stock of affordable housing." And that's bad news for Senator Klein, proponents of Mitchell-Lama and middle- and working-class New Yorkers who are left vying for whatever affordable housing is left.

Updated Oct. 10, 2014 — Another limited-equity Mitchell-Lama co-op has taken its first major step toward converting to market-rate. As reports, a two-thirds majority vote of shareholders at the more than 1,600-unit Southbridge Towers in the Financial District has voted for privatization — meaning a windfall for those who paid paid $10,000 or less for an apartment bought with the understanding that in exchange for that pittance the next hardworking New Yorker needing an affordable home would have one when the current resident left. It's not quite a done deal: Two-thirds of the shareholders still have to sign an "opt-in agreement" to stay as an owner, or else opt-out to become a renter.

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