A study that shows financing of cooperative apartments to be profitable for New York City banks apparently has failed to impress institutional lenders in the District of Columbia.
Although the report, by a former officer of the Cooperative Housing Association (CHA) in the District, shows that co-op financing has been a successful venture for New York banks, the D. C. Bankers Association and the Washington Board of Realtors, who paid for the study, are apparently not as interested in financing cooperatives as the CHA had hoped.
Prospective buyers of cooperative housing units in the District are unable to get mortgage financing from banks because the lenders view the apartment as personal property, not as real estate. Some lending institutions "will lend less than $25,000 for a short term of 10 years at 11 percent interest," said Fred Smith, president of CHA.
"I asked the D. C. Bankers Association for an official response to the study and it wasn't particularly encouraging," said John Hoskinson, author of the study, who recently completed the first draft of his report. "In their comments to date they have expressed continuing doubt as to whether the financing of cooperative apartments is feasible."
Cooperative buyers, unlike those in concominiums, do not buy real estate or property, they buy shares in a corporation which in turn owns the building. The buyer signs a type of lease that allows him or her to live in a building as ong as the shareholder's status is maintained.
A group of cooperative apartment buildings organized CHA in 1976 with the aim of convincing banks and savings and loan associations to extend conventional mortgage financing to co-ops. The association was first formed by owners of co-op buildings in the Adams-Morgan area, and membership was restricted to buildings east of Rock Creek Park. Recently, however, CHA extended its membership to include owners of buildings throughout the city.
Hoskinson, in his New York study, examined the security of loans, assessment value of co-ops, interest rate restrictions and mortgage liens.
He said that his research showed that New York institutions feel it is profitable to lend to co-op buyers. The first darft of his has been completed and a CHA committee has made recommendations of its role in improving the financing situation. Those points will be incorporated into the final report, which is being prepared now.
CHA president Smith said that the study "showed that they (New York banks and savings and loan associations) were able to make conventional loans to co-ops for up to 80 percent of their value. The banks had a good loan record with no defaults."
James Ingham, president of the Washington Board of Realtors, was out of town and could not be reached for comment on the report. K. Donald Menefee, president of the D. C. Bankers Association, said he had not seen it yet.
The basic purpose of CHA is "to share information and look out for the interests of co-ops," said David Hunter, one of CHA's organizer and its first president.
"We're asking to be treated like condominiums and single-family houses - like owners. We're not like rental housing, which is a profit-making venture," said Bob Henry, treasurer of CHA. "We're trying to make sure that we are fairly assessed on property taxes on our buildings. Some of he assessments were raised 93 percent. Our biggest issues is lobbying before the City Council, Congress and the Federal Home Loan Bank Board to get mortgage financing for co-ops."
Smith said that conventional mortgage loans had three basic provisions: "They are for a long term, at reasonable amount of the property value." No lending institutions in the District currently make loans with these specifications for cooperative purchase.
Pierre Wessell, a staff member of the D. C. City Council Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said that a bill that was recently passed to create a Housing Finance Agency in the District of Columbia would cover cooperatives.
"We're in the process right now of writing co-op legislation but it's more geared toward consumer protection, warranty information and technical requirements for filling as a cooperative," he said.
Washington apartment buildings began converting to co-ops in the 1920s but most did not change over until after World War II. Inflated real estate values and land speculation in the area in recent years have brought about a renewed interest in cooperatives.
Thirty-three middle and upper-income buildings now belong to CHA. Smith estimates that there are more than 5,000 co-op units in the city. They include buildings with as few as four units and as many as several hundred.
Besides working for co-op financing, CHA opposes a rate increase request by the Washington Gas Co. that is before the D. C. Public Service Commission.
"They are asking for an increase in the system charge (monthly service charge) for individually metered apartments from $3.75 to $5.00 a month," Honskison said. "CHA is pressing to have lowered. Washington Gas has miscalculated the cost in lumping apartments together with single-family houses. We think the charge is too high and should only be about $2.50 per month per apartment."
CHA member buildings share information on smoke detector installation, plumbing, roofing, security and trash collection problems and buildings maintenance costs. Member buildings organization does not receive any outside funding.
Sylvester Ligsukis, the Ontario Apartments representative to CHA, said that last spring and summer CHA successfully conducted a campaign to have co-ops included under property tax relief measures that were passed by the Council. He said that the CHA legislative relations committee will be interested in tax benefits for co-ops and the rent control law and how it would affect the city's tax base and the housing market.