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Push for co-ops can stem housing decay.

If we listened to the messages emerging from our inner cities, we would become aware that the fabric holding our communities together and our affordable housing stock are disintegrating at an alarming rate.

Over the years I have written about the loss of our rental housing and the causes of this. I have discussed the difficulty landlords have in maintaining millions of units of affordable apartments in the face of several obstacles, including restrictions imposed by rent regulations and the inability of banks, ordinarily our best source of mortgage loans, to provide mortgages in the amounts needed.

But, today, in addition, it is necessary to discuss other types of obstacles: the danger of losing hope and one's life in the inner city. Witness the painfully high crime rate, the widespread graffiti and the many young lives that are lost to random gun fire in the inner-city areas of our city.

Too often in past decades we have been unable to stem deterioration of apartment buildings and homes, which almost inevitably is followed quickly by deterioration of neighborhoods and lives. Drug addiction and pushing, random shootings and loss of hope are often the ties that bind in the inner city. We accept abandonment of buildings and increased numbers of homeless, and the latter, I believe, was and is to a large extent a housing problem resulting from the abandonment.

We no longer can stand by and let these urban diseases run rampant. We must attack the core of the problem by doing something that begins to turnaround the lives of those in the inner city, those who have no pride in themselves, or in their homes, schools, neighborhoods and city.

A primary response to these problems should consist of innovative programs and, where necessary, more financial assistance, that will stem the downward spiral by giving inner city residents a stake in their apartment-homes. In turn, this will create a stake for them in their neighborhoods and city.

In working to develop a legal and financial structure that will enable even tenants of moderate means to purchase their apartments, the city should establish a new authority or commission that will be responsible for creating a program whose chief goal will be to: * Facilitate the conversion of moderate and and low-income tenants into owners, including educational and leadership seminars on co-op ownership for residents * To create loan guarantees, perhaps along the line of an inner-city FHA mortgage system, to encourage private lenders to provide necessary conversion financing and * Develop a structure of subsidies designed to assist tenants in buying and in maintaining their apartment/homes

To those who suggest that such a program will be too expensive I say, "Add up the cost of inner-city lives lost and of whole buildings and neighborhoods rejected as decent places to live."

A broad affordable apartment co-op movement could be the means of restoring hope and self-worth to residents of middle- and low income rental apartments. It is a "given" that anyone who owns property will be concerned about it and will protect its value. An apartment owner invariably is less tolerant of local hooliganism, and of drug users and pushers who try to hang out in lobbies and hallways. An owner will quickly make demands for proper schools and decent, protected neighborhoods.

The property preservation instinct is so strong that in Los Angeles recently we saw minority people trying to save their stores from looters, and we even saw looters protecting their new possessions.

The city has a reservoir not only of privately owned affordable apartment buildings, but of in rem buildings waiting to be reclaimed. Turnings as many of these inner city apartments as possible over to their residents has to help halt the downward spiral of the inner city as no other program that has yet been advanced.

We should strive to transfer ownership of as many apartments to as many ordinary citizens as possible, because ownership is a means of replacing hopelessness with hope and turning the downward spiral into an upward spiral.

The BRAB, Ruben Klein president, is the largest owner-industry organization in the Bronx. BRAB represents more than a thousand owners of 2,000 buildings housing over 150,000 residents. It offers members a full range of services, including labor negotiations and representation, informative seminars and periodic newsletters. Over the years, BRAB has participated with other city organizations in bringing and defending all necessary lawsuits.
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Title Annotation:Review and Forecast, Section III; cooperative ownership of real property
Author:Klein, Robert
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 24, 1992
Previous Article:Banks and real estate go together.
Next Article:ADA: what about signs?

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