A Landlord ‘Underestimated’ His Tenants. Now They Could Own the Building.

When a new landlord bought their building in the Bronx and threatened to raise rents and kick them out, tenants banded together. They never expected how far they might get: the chance to buy their apartments for $2,500 each.

On a sunny afternoon in the spring of 2017, a dozen tenants from a small Bronx apartment building met at a trendy Port Morris neighborhood bar with exposed brick walls, craft beer and funky cocktails. One of the tenants had slipped fliers under her neighbors’ doors a few days earlier, calling for the weekend meeting.

Shoving two hightop tables together, and ordering sliders and wings, they huddled, trying to figure out how to deal with a new landlord who’d come in with big plans to raise rents after buying the building for $4 million. The group took the first step in a five-year journey that would end with the landlord gone and the tenants poised to own their 21-unit building.

A nonprofit organization paid the landlord $2.6 million for the property in February 2022, and plans to eventually hand it over to the tenants, who will be able to buy their apartments for $2,500 each. Over the past five years, only 11 rental buildings have converted to this type of limited equity co-op, called a Housing Development Fund Corporation co-op, where tenants buy their apartments at prices set by the city, and can sell them for a limited profit. 

In this case, the tenants made the deal happen without any funding from New York City, an even rarer victory. There are roughly 1,100 H.D.F.C. co-ops in the city, most converted decades ago, according to the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. That’s out of about 7,100 co-ops citywide, according to Ariel Property Advisors, a commercial real estate brokerage.

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