Harlem or Upper West Side? Two Longtime Renters Test 20 Years’ Value of Savings on a Latest Apartment.


For greater than 20 years, Saul Robbins and Susan Fulwiler lived within the Latest York City equivalent of a golden cage — a rent-stabilized one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan Valley neighborhood on the Upper West Side that was too small for his or her family, but too inexpensive to depart.

Mr. Robbins, an artist and photography professor, craved space for an at-home studio. Ms. Fulwiler, a self-employed development consultant, wanted an office she could call her own. And each yearned for a spot with a second bathroom, on a better floor and with higher natural light.

When their son, Theodore, now 6, entered the image, the squeeze became a crush. Fairly than sacrifice their living and dining space, the couple opted to cram his bed into the only bedroom, next to theirs. Still, with 900 square feet at a monthly cost of $1,625, they considered themselves lucky.

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“By Latest York City standards, it was a really large apartment,” said Ms. Fulwiler, 56.

And yet, they were at all times flirting with the concept of an upgrade, browsing online listings and tucking money into savings. It was mostly stops and starts.

“We looked and looked and looked a bit more,” said Mr. Robbins, 61, who grew up in San Francisco in one among the town’s classic Victorian townhomes. “It becomes a little bit addictive. But we might at all times come back to this place.”

They were limited by geography, too: Most of Ms. Fulwiler’s clients are on the Upper West Side; Theodore, now within the second grade, loves his elementary school on the Upper West Side; and Mr. Robbins teaches at several universities around Manhattan.

But in late 2019, the couple realized that after saving for 20 years, they might potentially afford a down payment on a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment in the event that they limited their search to co-ops designated as Housing Development Fund Corporation (H.D.F.C.) buildings.

There are about 1,100 H.D.F.C. co-ops in Latest York City, and so they make up a novel piece of the town’s affordable-housing puzzle: The homes are priced below market rate, and management fees skew low. But while buyers are subject to strict income caps, they have to even have enough equity to qualify for a purchase order, making the apartments an appealing yet vexing option for a lot of.

“The largest challenge is, as middle-class people, you make an excessive amount of money to get into the programs and never enough money to put in writing a check for what you would like,” said JoLinda Ruth Cogen, a broker with eXp Realty who assisted Mr. Robbins and Ms. Fulwiler of their search. “H.D.F.C. is actually to make housing inexpensive for people. And to maintain trust-fund babies away.”

Throughout the pandemic, the couple scoured H.D.F.C. condos across the Upper West Side. Among the many properties they considered:

Discover what happened next by answering these two questions:

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