Last year was a record year for co-op apartment loans in New York City and surrounding counties, with a 41% increase in originations, Fannie Mae said.

In 1999 Fannie bought close to 9,300 co-op loans totaling $887 million, up from 6,600 loans in 1998, the company said. About 50% of the loans last year were made under a special co-op program with flexible underwriting requirements, said Naomi Bayer, director of Fannie Mae's New York Partnership Office.

Cooperative ownership - in which residents buy shares in a building, including the right to an apartment, rather than buying the physical space - is widespread in New York City.

Co-ops account for about 30% of New York City's owner-occupied housing stock, and are "among the most affordable homeownership opportunities" in New York City and surrounding counties, Ms. Bayer said. The average size of loans that Fannie bought in 1999 was $40,000 in Staten Island, $55,000 in Queens and Westchester, and $130,000 in Manhattan, she said.

David W. Berson, chief economist for Fannie, said the record growth was in part a result of a booming stock market. Wall Street has been "a tremendous stimulus, particularly to the co-op market, over the last several years," he said. He also predicted that the housing market in New York would be "somewhat stronger than the national average" through yearend.

Fannie is in the midst of a$21 billion investment plan intended to provide affordable housing for 270,000 families in New York state. Fannie's Co-op Share Loan pilot program, one of the company's affordable housing initiatives, was created in 1993 for New York City and was expanded to include Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland counties. The program provides flexible underwriting requirements for loans to occupants and for blanket loans for cooperative buildings, Fannie said.

Fannie said it bought 7,667 co-op loans in New York City in 1999, a 32.5% increase from a year earlier. Most of these loans were to residents of Manhattan, followed by residents of Queens County and Kings County, also known as Brooklyn.

Among loans made to minorities, Fannie purchased the most of them, 669, in Queens County last year, followed by loans made to minorities in New York County, otherwise known as Manhattan, where Fannie's purchases totaled 496 loans. Nassau County, Bronx County, and Westchester County registered the highest percentage increases from 1998 to 1999 in this category, Fannie said.

One noticeable trend has been "an increase in the number of loans with higher LTVs," or loan-to-value ratios, said Ms. Bayer. Such loans help families who can afford only a small down payment.

Fannie's New York lending partners include Banco Popular, Bank of New York Mortgage Co., Chase Manhattan Mortgage, Citibank, and Dime Savings Bank of New York.

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