FEMA Funds Do Not Help Co-op Owners

The following excerpt is from a letter written to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FEMA Administrator William Fugate, Congressman Eliot Engel and Senator Charles Schumer:

The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives and Condominiums (ARC), which represents many tens of thousands of individual property owners in the Bronx, New York applauds your efforts in aiding the recovery of so many who suffered catastrophic hardship from Hurricane Sandy. Almost all of the homeowners who suffered damages to their homes will benefit from your aid in a time of great need. Unfortunately, the particular nature of housing cooperatives, condominiums and homeowner associations presently prevents our members from benefitting from these relief efforts. We write to urge FEMA to change the way it classifies these homes.

When housing is owned and governed in a common interest community or cooperative form, homeowners join together as a group to share ownership and all its responsibilities. A Board is elected from among the members to manage and maintain the building in which they reside.

How is it different if the roof on a single family home collapses and the roof on a housing cooperative collapses? Both types of homeowners are impacted in the same way but are, under current FEMA policy, treated differently. Under the present system, while individual owners could apply for FEMA grants to restore the interior of their units or their individual homes, the cooperative or association could not request a FEMA grant to put on a new roof, remove debris from the essential roadways in their community, or to replace a boiler or heating system or electrical system destroyed by Tropical Storm Sandy.

Our homeowners are not commercial business enterprises; they are simply a different and growing (1 in 4 homes in the US) type of homeownership and as such, they should be eligible for the same assistance as all other homeowners who suffered damage to their structures from this terrible storm.

We believe that FEMA has misinterpreted the Stafford Act in classifying housing cooperatives, condominiums and homeowners associations as business associations. However, we also believe that FEMA has the authority to correct this misinterpretation.

On behalf of our members and all resident owned multi-family housing developments in our nation, we urge you to provide maximum help in recovery from this devastating storm and from future disasters. Please consider meeting with us to discuss correcting this situation. We look forward to working together with you to resolve our concerns.

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