Today, Congressmen Eliot Engel (D-NY-16) and Steve Israel (D-NY-03), along with 19 bipartisan Members of Congress, called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to include co-op and condo owners among those eligible for disaster aid. Presently, co-ops and condos are only eligible to receive loans and not grants because they are classified as "business associations" under FEMA assistance eligibility rules. Especially in light of the damage from Hurricane Sandy, co-ops and condos are in desperate need of the same vital assistance that other homeowners are eligible to receive.
Rep. Engel said, "Under FEMA rules, if you own a house and a storm tore your roof off, you could apply for funds to rebuild your home. However, if you own a co-op or a condominium and a storm tore off your roof, you're out of luck. This is patently unfair -- co-ops and condominiums are just as much a home for millions of families as a house is a home for millions more. Thankfully, my district was mostly spared from the worst damages from Super Storm Sandy, but other co-ops and condominiums in New York and other states were not so fortunate. The next storm which strikes could hit closer to home, literally, for us, and we need to act now to prevent others from suffering from the loss of their homes."
Rep. Israel said, "It seems clear that FEMA's policy is the result of not understanding the role of co-ops and condos in our community. But that bureaucratic error in Washington is having real consequences for co-op and condo owners here in New York. Calling them "business associations' means that co-ops and condos cannot apply for the same type of aid available to other homeowners. It's time for FEMA to right this wrong so they can rebuild after Hurricane Sandy."
Co-ops and condos are housing communities made up of individual apartment owners who help manage and maintain housing, common areas, and residential infrastructure. FEMA classifies co-ops and condos as "business associations," meaning they are eligible to apply for loans through the Small Business Administration, but not for FEMA grants. Currently, FEMA offers grants for recovery efforts through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) as well as the Public Assistance (PA) Program.
While the Department of Housing and Urban Development will allow co-ops and condos to receive funding from Community Development Block Grants to help with repairs, this means that coops and condos will have to compete for these funds, and does not provide a permanent fix.