It may come as a surprise to many that federal disaster recovery assistance is not available for the country’s co-ops and condos the same way it is for single-family homeowners.
This discrepancy in the law became apparent after 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, which devastated buildings and communities in New York, New Jersey, and beyond. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—the agency that provides disaster recovery to individual homeowners—was not authorized to fund disaster recovery grants to co-ops, condos, or community associations, even though many such communities suffered significant damage to crucial systems, like flooded basement boilers, damaged or destroyed electrical panels, or inoperative elevators. Their properties were also littered with dangerous debris that the storm left behind, and with no federal assistance to pay for their repair or replacement, co-op, condo, and HOA communities had to shoulder these costs while they struggled to recover.
In the intervening years, storms and other weather events have become more frequent and more intense, with a continuation of this trend projected for the foreseeable future. With this in mind, Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and nine of his colleagues introduced federal legislation this month to correct the gap in FEMA disaster assistance.
H.R. 5298, the Disaster Assistance Equity Act (DAEA), would streamline the approval process for FEMA to reimburse local governments for the cost of removing debris from community association roads, and would allow condominiums and housing cooperatives to use FEMA disaster assistance payments to fund critical repairs for common elements such as a roof, exterior wall, heating and cooling equipment, elevator, stairwell, utility access, plumbing and electricity, should it become law.
“At a time of unprecedented national disasters all across our nation,” says the Council of New York Cooperatives & Condominiums (CNYC) in an announcement of the proposed legislation, “there is great need for this legislation to provide to housing cooperatives, condominiums, and homeowner associations the same FEMA protection as private homes. Please urge your Congressional representatives to support H.R.5298 and contact friends in other states to ask them to do the same.”
Helping co-ops, condos, and other community associations plan for disasters and improving recovery coordination with local emergency management officials will go a long way toward resilience, restoration, and recovery in the face of ever increasing threats from natural and biological calamities.