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Housing Committee Examines Issue of Condominium Development

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Housing Committee Examines Issue of Condominium Development

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Legislature’s special Housing Committee today delved into the matter of condominium development, receiving a briefing from Director of Assessment Jay Franklin on how condominiums are assessed in New York State, how they differ from some other types of clustered housing developments, and what the dynamics of valuation requirements mean for property owners. The committee is looking into the issue as it continues its work examining the critical issue of housing in our community.

Director Franklin advised that, under requirements of New York State Property Tax Law, the value of a condo project must be determined as a whole, typically using the income approach to value (similar to an apartment complex), with the individual units then allocated a fraction of the overall value. Condominiums, he noted, are a form of ownership and not a building style—not all clustered developments with a Homeowner Association are condos; Tompkins County, he said, currently has only 143 condominium units.

Among issues that limit the number of condominiums here, Franklin reported that any condominium project plan must be approved by the State Attorney General through what can be a tedious process, and financing of such a project is often difficult, as a significant portion of the units must be pre-sold. In a strong rental market, he said, a developer will lean toward building an apartment complex instead of a condo, since income can be received each year rather than simply from the sale of the condo units. Franklin said, because of the way condominium units must be valued, the owner of a condo unit gets more buying power and tax benefits, as compared to “normal” construction.

Referring to practices in other parts of the country, Chair Martha Robertson questioned whether existing houses here, such as duplexes, could be “condo-ized”—for example, split into two ownership units, suggesting that might be a vehicle whereby people could more easily buy into the market. Franklin responded that the only potential barrier would be local zoning.

Responding to questions from the committee, Director Franklin observed that he believes that there is a pent-up demand here for condominiums, and that with somewhat of a softening in rental demand, developers might have increased interest in this option. Chair Robertson noted that “softening” in the rental market actually means that “we are starting to get a ‘healthier’ rental market.”