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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Condos and co-ops not covered under FEMA’s disaster aid policy

By Kate Pastor
Posted

Co-op owners are not eligible for aid in the wake of superstorm Sandy — or in the aftermath of any other disaster, for that matter. 

As it stands, Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency policy classifies co-ops and condominiums as businesses rather than as residences, therefore excluding their residents from receiving disaster aid. 

The Association of Riverdale Cooperatives & Condominiums, upon learning of what it called this “gross inequity,” joined with other local and national housing associations to call for change. 

Although he knew of no Riverdale residents who would have been eligible for FEMA funding, ARC president Stephen Budihas wrote to Rep. Eliot Engel, a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and New York Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer, asking them to pressure FEMA to amend its rules. 

ARC blamed the exclusion on a misinterpretation of the Stafford Act, which constitutes the statutory authority for most federal disaster responses.                                                                                                                       

“We believe that FEMA has misinterpreted the Stafford Act by arbitrarily classifying housing cooperatives, condominiums and homeowners associations as ‘business associations,’ which are excluded from the assistance provisions of the Stafford legislation,” Mr. Budihas wrote in an e-mail. “The issue is not that FEMA nor Homeland Security deliberately wants to exclude co-ops from assistance, but rather that the law does not currently specifically cite individually owned and run ‘co-ops’ anywhere in its text, and therefore, the agencies have no specific guideline in their regard.” 

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