Co-op owners still fighting for FEMA money months after Sandy

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Newly proposed legislation aims to make co-op and condo associations eligible for federal storm recovery grants.

“A storm does not discriminate where it hits, and FEMA should not be discriminating what type of homeowners it helps,” said Congressmember Steve Israel, who penned the bill.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced in March it would allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grant disaster recovery assistance to help with repairs.

But leaders and local co-op presidents said the fix was just temporary.

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, Israel said. But there is no statute that bans co-op owners from being eligible for grants, a privilege given to homeowners.

“It seems clear that FEMA’s policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops and condos in our community,” Israel said. “I am introducing this legislation to allow co-op and condo associations to apply for federal grants from FEMA so we can right this wrong and ensure that these homeowners are eligible to receive the vital assistance they deserve.”

Some Queens co-ops suffered $1 million in damages, including Cryder Point Co-ops, a waterfront community which has to repair its pier.

Glen Oaks Village sustained more than $250,000 in infrastructural damage, according to the co-op’s president Bob Friedrich.

“To deny co-ops the ability to obtain FEMA grant money simply because of the type of housing choices their residents have made is shameful and should not have taken this legislation to correct it,” Friedrich said.

The cost for repairs have fallen “squarely upon the shoulders of middle class owners,” said Warren Schreiber, co-president of Presidents Co-op & Condo Council.

New Yorkers are eligible to receive about $3.5 billion of the total $5.4 billion allocated by HUD earlier this year.

However, leaders said co-op and condo owners will have to battle it out with other retail developments, towns, villages and cities for the competitive grants used to repair common areas in the building like lobbies, boilers and elevators.

The proposed law, slated to be introduced in Congress soon, would better define housing co-ops and condos in the Stafford Act. It would also call for the rulemaking process to determine a new cap on FEMA’s Individual and Households Program.

 

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