Build Equity with Cooperative Housing

A photo of two people shaking hands.

Pui Shan Chan/Wikipedia

When I first moved here a year ago, I wrote an article about my experience looking for a small apartment. Because I had no job, commercial landlords (as opposed to private houses) were requiring as much as $24,000 in the bank to secure a lease on a one-bedroom apartment.

Since this time, it has come to my attention that cooperative housing is available in the District starting at around $100,000. Cooperatives offer an ownership interest in a corporation that owns a building and give the owner a right to lease a unit in the building. While not an ownership interest in the actual property, cooperatives are still a way to create equity.

Although even the price of the most affordable apartment in the District sounds like a lot, anyone who is considering a move, or is a recent arrival to the District, with anywhere near the assets required to rent should consider buying instead. A typical mortgage on such a property could be about $500, with a monthly lease fee of $500, significantly less than the $1,500 median monthly rent paid in the District.

In addition, the District’s Department of Housing and Community Development has a program for first-time home buyers called the Home Purchase Assistance Program. The program pays up to $4,000 in closing costs and has 0 percent interest for the first five years of the loan, payment of which is itself deferred for that period. The program allows for purchases of homes up to $417,000, more than is needed to get into a small place. Priority is given to very low- or low-income people, with a cap of $50,000. For those who qualify, the DHCD is an excellent resource. The Department even has a list of places available on its website.

So, if you are new to the District and have found a job – any job – check out the DHCD and see if it can help you to find an alternative to renting and an opportunity to build some equity.

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