OPINION: Schumer says feds must provide Sandy grants to co-op, condo owners

February 14, 2013 Office of U.S. Senator Charles Schumer
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U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer on Wednesday called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to restructure federal aid formulas so that cooperative and condominium owners whose properties were damaged by Superstorm Sandy can receive help. 

Co-op and condominium owners are not currently eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants to cover the cost of repairs to common areas and infrastructure.

Schumer is asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to establish program guidelines for eligible recipients, using Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), to help co-op and condo homeowners repair damage incurred by Sandy.

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“After Sandy, FEMA was able to help many communities. However, due to inflexible bureaucratic rules co-op and condo homeowners were left in the wake,” said Schumer. “While individual homeowners can receive money from FEMA to repair a damaged boiler or electrical system, similar grants are not available for this type of common infrastructure of co-ops and condos.  

“Fortunately, the law we just passed with new aid to rebuild is flexible and I strongly urge HUD to use the CDBG program to fill this clear gap.”

According to FEMA, co-operative and condominium associations are not eligible for grants because, unlike single-family homes, they carry a “master policy” for the complex that is paid through association fees. Common areas of housing cooperatives that suffered damage from Sandy may be eligible for Small Business Administration loans – but only common areas.

Community Development Block Grants are part of a block grant program administered by HUD to provide communities with resources to address community development needs after a federally declared disaster, like Superstorm Sandy. Sandy disaster relief legislation includes $16 billion in CDBG-DR funding.

“It is astonishing to me that residential co-op buildings are not being afforded any financial assistance in the recovery from Super Storm Sandy.  We are homeowners just like those who live in one- and two-family houses, said Dolores Orr, co-op owner and president of Rockaway Beach Civic Association.

“ We just happen to live vertically and cooperatively and share essential services such as boilers, electricity, gas and hot water. Why is it that we are not eligible for FEMA assistance?” she asked. “There are nearly 3,000 Mitchell-Lama co-op units in Rockaway.  Mitchell-Lama co-ops are limited profit and are for modest working-class families, with many senior citizens. It is urgent that HUD recognize co-ops and help us restore essential services to our homes by including us in all assistance program,” she said.
“The only way for most people to own a home in New York City is through a condo or co-op,” said 114 Liberty Street Cooperative president Dave Stanke. “These types of apartments are as vital to the Lower Manhattan community as the single-family home is to the rest of the country.  

“Currently, Superstorm Sandy recovery costs will be borne by the individual shareholders and co-op owners. Community Development Block Grants should be made available to offset the costs of repairs to common areas and equipment not covered by insurance,” he said.

“Our co-op building incurred significant additional costs to remedy impacts caused by Superstorm Sandy, but is not eligible for relief from FEMA due to its existing rules. It is our hope that Community Development Block Grants will be made available to help with our recovery costs and I applaud Senator Schumer for his support, ” said Joel Kopel, vice president of the board for 3 Hanover Square Owners Corporation.

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