Co-ops and condos damaged by Sandy are now eligible for federal housing grants.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it will allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grants Disaster Recovery grants to help with repairs.
“We have finally cleared a bureaucratic hurdle that prevented thousands of homeowners in New York City and Long Island from getting the help they needed,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “We have always said that condos and co-ops should be eligible for the same assistance as single family homes, and now they are.”
But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix is just a temporary one. The root of the problem, they said, is still not addressed.
“This is a good first step. There’s no question about it. But it’s a band-aid fix,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village Owners. “This still discriminates against families of co-op apartments.”
Co-op and condo owners currently cannot receive Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for Sandy-inflicted damages because they are categorized as “business associations.” The title makes them eligible for federal loans but not grants.
The Stafford Act, which governs how FEMA responds to major disasters, does not include the word “co-op” in the law, according to Congressmember Steve Israel. But there is no statute that purposefully bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.
“What we need is a permanent fix to how FEMA classifies co-ops and condos,” Israel said. “This is an interim solution that allows co-ops to access certain federal grants. But until FEMA changes the definition of co-ops, disaster assistance won’t be a sure thing.”
Co-op and condo owners will now have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grant, leaders said.
HUD allocated $5.4 billion to the recovery program last month. New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of that total. The funds can be used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.
Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.
More than half of the total buildings in Glen Oaks Village endured “moderate to severe shingle loss,” Friedrich said. The co-op will have to shell out close to $300,000 for infrastructural damage.