Attaining condo conversion zoning and other necessary permissions from a city or town should really test whether the change from rental housing to condominium ownership is in the public interest.
Sometimes city councils think that home ownership and a higher property tax base are so important that they overlook the by-products of the conversion, which may include displacing long-term residents, decreasing the supply of moderate-income housing in a particular neighborhood, and creating a product that might be not age well as a condominium.
We're writing about condo conversion zoning because we kept receiving questions about what a city council can do about conversions. Our visitors seemed to think that zoning would solve the problem.
However, often the zoning ordinance is fairly silent about condo conversion zoning. In fact, condominium conversion is more appropriately viewed as a sub-set of the process of subdividing land.
Instead of subdividing each part of one parcel of land into a lot for sale, a developer is subdividing the airspace into different ownerships, and sometimes allocating patios and yards to particular units. However, the land is held in common, and usually the building or buildings have common spaces also.
So in our opinion, you should govern condo conversions under the subdivision regulation rather than the zoning ordinance.
But we will just be optimistic and assume that you have combined all your ordinances related to real estate development into one development code. That is a sometimes tedious, but really worthwhile process.
Regardless of whether these rules are contained in the zoning, subdivision, or development codes, or whether the city enacts a stand-alone ordinance, these matters should be addressed:
Another option for some cities is an inclusionary zoning provision requiring that low-income, elderly, or disabled residents be able to stay in place permanently or for a designated number of years. Sometimes units are set aside for low-income or moderate-income residents.
We're assuming that state law will provide for adequate fire protection, which is commonly much more strict for condos than for apartments, but if there are no applicable state or local laws otherwise, that area should be covered as well.
Some states also regulate condominium creation in general, so keep in mind that additional state requirements may apply, even if the buildings are pre-existing. We have been largely silent on commercial and industrial condominium conversions, but in those instances, safety regulations and avoiding potential legal complications after the conversion are paramount.
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