Glossary of Terms

Please click on a term below to be directed to its definition:

Co-op/cooperative | DAMP | HDFC | Homesteading | Limited Equity | Self-Help Housing | Sweat Equity | TenantThird Party Transfer | TIL

Or, jump to the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Co-op or cooperative:

Co-ops are autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprises.  In a housing co-op, a cooperative corporation owns the building, and the residents own shares in the cooperative corporation. Resident shareholders receive a proprietary lease for their apartment and pay monthly maintenance charges for shared expenses.


Division of Alternative Management Programs. DAMP is the section of NYC's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) which develops and sells city-owned property to private owners. The majority of the sales have been to resident co-ops; the remainder have been to non-profit and for-profit groups.  Properties sold through DAMP receive certain property tax reductions, benefits which can last up to forty years.  For more, click here.                                  


Housing Development Fund Corporation. This is a special type of limited equity housing cooperative in New York State, incorporated under the New York State Housing Finance Law.  Under this law, the city of New York is able to sell buildings directly to tenant or community groups to provide low-income housing.  Many, but not all HDFCs, are organized as co-ops. All HDFCs are required to provide housing affordable to low-income citizens.


The process by which a group of self-motivated people take control of public or city-owned land or buildings and develop or rehabilitate their own housing. Urban homesteading in particular refers to rebuilding multifamily housing with the intention of collectively living in and (sometimes) running the buildings.

Limited Equity:

Restrictions on the equity required to purchase a housing unit, and on the amount a unit can profit in resale from its original sale price. These restrictions keep HDFC housing permanently affordable.

Self-Help Housing:

The notion that residents of multi-family apartment buildings have the capacity to participate in their housing decisions and that when residents take part in creating, managing, and preserving their own co-ops to advocate for affordable housing policy reform, this not only improves buildings and neighborhoods, but can transform lives as well.

Sweat Equity:

A term coined by the founding members of UHAB to describe the contribution to a project in the form of labor, in lieu of a cash down payment.


A person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord.

Third Party Transfer:

Third Party Transfer. A property disposition program created by New York City in 1996 which allows the city to foreclose on distressed tax-delinquent properties and transfer them directly to a new, more responsible, owner, without taking ownership itself. Buildings with residents interested in this program may work with UHAB, which takes ownership temporarily and helps the residents create an HDFC co-op.


Tenant Interim Lease program. This is a program of DAMP/HPD in which tenants of city-owned buildings can go through an interim period managing the building while they receive training and support to prepare them for co-op ownership. The city does major capital improvements to the building before the tenants buy their apartments (for the price of $250 each), as part of a limited-equity co-op. UHAB and the Task Force on City-Owned Property worked with the city to create TIL in 1978.  For more information, click here.


Frequently Asked Questions

How can low-income tenants run their own building?

Resident-controlled co-ops are great opportunities for civic engagement and tend to inspire volunteerism. A study by the City University of New York of housing privatization programs found that "The program that performed the best was tenant co-operative ownership. It was head and shoulders above the others in terms of management quality and building services, had many fewer problems with drugs and crime, showed the greatest tenant satisfaction, and was comparable to other sales programs in terms of preserving rent affordability." Affordable co-ops do face challenges, since they engage buildings that landlords have neglected and abandoned. They also have limits on how much rent they can charge. Most co-ops – even in difficult times – have a sense of pride that comes from owning. UHAB has seen the conversion process as one that empowers residents.

Can residents of HDFC co-ops get rich off their apartments?

HDFC co-ops can only be used as a primary residence, so they cannot be used as a source of income. When sold, residents generally only make a modest profit. And since HDFC co-ops are "limited-equity," they are required by law to remain affordable for low-income people. The resale guidelines of HDFC co-ops vary to some degree among buildings. In most cases, the sale price is limited by the fact that the incoming shareholder (purchaser) must meet the income guidelines of the HDFC. In some cases, the resale price is also limited. Where there is a profit to the buyer, there is usually a split of the proceeds between the departing resident and the co-op itself.

Is UHAB a landlord?

Not a permanent one. All of UHAB's programs create or support co-ops that are to be owned and controlled by their residents.  Recent programs, such as the Third Party Transfer program or Tenant Interim Lease programs do require UHAB to take temporary ownership of the building. UHAB acts as a custodian during this time: renovations are made, and tenants are trained to be shareholders of a co-op. UHAB never keeps ownership of these buildings.

Does UHAB work for the City of New York?

UHAB is not a government agency: it is a not-for-profit organization that contracts with HPD to provide services and assistance to tenants. UHAB works as a liaison to the city on behalf of residents, and buildings only work with UHAB if they choose to do so. UHAB also acts as a developer in the rehabilitation of buildings. In the event members of a building slated for conversion into an HDFC cooperative decide to remain as a rental, UHAB will transfer the property to a city-approved affordable housing owner. UHAB does not act as a landlord.

How do buildings end up working with UHAB?

In cases where UHAB works as developer or technical assistance provider, we may inform a building that it may be eligible to become a co-op or benefit from a new program (like tax relief). In other cases, buildings contact UHAB first, or are referred by other organizations.

Can my building become a co-op?

The possibility of becoming a co-op varies from building to building. If your building is owned by New York City, your tenant association can apply to have the building enter the Tenant Interim Lease program. If you are living in a building that has been designated by New York City for the Third Party Transfer program, the tenants can sign a petition to have UHAB selected as their building's sponsor.  Once the building has been rehabilitated and the tenants have been trained, the building can then become a co-op. If your building falls into other categories, such as having been abandoned by the landlord, is in a HUD program, or has been foreclosed upon by a bank, it may or may not be eligible.  To find out what your options are, contact Celeste Hornbach at (212) 479-3390.

How do I get an apartment in an HDFC co-op?

You must contact the individual building. Since the co-ops we work with are resident-owned and operated, each building is responsible for filling its own available units. UHAB lists vacancies as a courtesy, but is not involved in the sale or rental of units. Visit the Market and Match page for listings of new co-ops for sale.

I live in an HDFC co-op and I have a question about a problem we are facing. Where can I get more information about how to solve it?

The Member Services section of UHAB's website has many useful resources for co-ops, as does our Resource Library. Still not finding your answer? Give UHAB's Homeownership Hotline a call at (212) 479-3333.