Revealed: The secret to navigating NYC’s affordable housing

TRD New York /
Feb.February 03, 2014 03:51 PM

A Manhattan three-bedroom for $1,000 per month. An East Village co-op with a mere $545 maintenance fee.

They do exist.

The secret to the legendary affordable New York City apartment can be found in the inside track taken by the children of tenants living in rent-regulated apartments or limited-equity co-ops, who unload these low-cost properties to buyers who agree to granting similar discounts when they sell.

The arrangement requires a certain amount of foresight and sacrifice on the financial front, foregoing market rates that would land sellers and renters far higher profits than keeping the tab low.

Parents in limited-equity co-ops such as Mitchell-Lama buildings sometimes even add their younger family members to waiting lists years ahead of actual need for an apartment, while those living in rent-regulated units arrange for their children to eventually take over a lease.

“It was impressed upon me and my sister that we would want to put our names on as many Mitchell-Lama lists as possible,” Josh Schaffner, whose parents left a rent-regulated Inwood apartment for a limited-equity co-op elsewhere, told the New York Times. “If we ever wanted a place of our own, we would have to go through the New York channels that we were trained in.”

Still, the window is steadily closing on tenants who look to take advantage of such below-market rate opportunities, with many buildings becoming deregulated and affordable-housing programs phasing out across the city. The number of rent-regulated apartments dropped by 8 percent, or 87,820 units, between 2002 and 2012, according to Furman Center data cited by the Times. The issue is a pet cause of new Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made a campaign issue of his promise to build or hang on to 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. [NYT]Julie Strickland

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