By Julie Warren
For a variety of reasons, condominium communities have long been considered the domain of singles, couples, and empty nesters. Not any more—especially in Toronto, where city planners are actively studying the robust migration of families with children into downtown high-rise communities.
According to Vanessa Van Dette, vice president of CAI's Canada Chapter, the economy has a lot to do with this sea change. Single-family home prices in the Toronto area are out of reach for most young families, says Van Dette, who is regional vice president, operations, at Larlyn Property Management in Ontario. With more than two-thirds of the city's housing stock in condominiums, of course buyers would look for homes in vertical communities. “You look at our skyline, and it's all condos," she says. “It's the only thing you can afford here."
But affordability isn't the only factor. Toronto city planners have been enticing families with kids to move to its urban core for years. As early as 1999, the City Council adopted the Toronto Children's Charter and the City's Strategy for Children, both of which are based on the 1991 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
And in 2016, Toronto launched
Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities, a study that is exploring “how new multi-unit residential buildings/vertical neighborhoods can better accommodate the needs of households with children."
A survey of condominium owners conducted as part of Toronto's study reveals that young families value generous living areas and multiple bedrooms, nearby green spaces, indoor play areas, and plenty of storage in their urban high-rise communities.
Jackie Burns, a Toronto resident and author of
The Condo Kids, a children's book about the adventures of living in a high-rise condominium, says it's time Toronto managers started prioritizing communities for families with children.
“It's a Toronto demographic that's only going to increase," she says. A mother of two school-age boys, Burns is an advocate for designated areas for children in condominiums. “I think a lot of people have this idea that kids need their own yard," Burns says. “But in reality, a lot of kids end up going to parks anyway. And many of (Toronto's) condos are very close to parks."
Andrea Oppedisano, a community planner for the City of Toronto, says while the city's study has revealed that most of the downtown housing growth is in buildings seven stories or taller, these communities still lack units that have more than one bedroom.
“The majority of growth—about 80 percent—is in one-bedroom or bachelor (studio) apartments," says Oppedisano. “Just under 4 percent were three bedrooms."
The Toronto study indicates that more than two-thirds of condominium owners with young children altered their units' layout to carve out space for their children or for customized storage. Toronto city planners now recommend that builders provide at least 25 percent of a building's units in two- and three-bedroom configurations.
Oppedisano points out that the number of bedrooms is less of a factor than the size of units. “In the past, some three-bedroom units were only 650 to 800 square feet," she says. “They aren't functional for larger households."
Family Housing Affordability in U.S. Cities, a November 2015 white paper by
Governing magazine, several U.S. cities are experiencing similar housing trends. Less than 20 percent of home listings in the most expensive U.S. cities—New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, and others—have three or more bedrooms and are “affordable." And in downtown areas, “families with children … often can't find units large enough to accommodate them. Many newer developments are without larger units."
Finding a high-rise community with convenient, accessible storage for bicycles, an array of sports equipment, and especially strollers—essential equipment for young families to maintain urban mobility—also can be challenging. And respondents to the Toronto study also indicated it would be nice to have “space to be messy" where family members can repair a bicycle or build a school project.
But Oppedisano says it's more than just providing the right space and the right unit layout. Communities need to do their part by providing green spaces and indoor play areas, and many of Toronto's newer communities have done so.
A lot of Toronto's high-rises now are offering kid-friendly amenities, like play rooms, game rooms, gyms, and Wi-Fi, says Burns, who lives in a 40-year-old high-rise with a view of Lake Ontario, an indoor pool, and plenty of green outdoor common areas. She and her husband have become friends with other young families in the building and recently purchased the unit they've been renting for several years.
“It's the kind of a community that looks after each other," Burns says. “It's nice to have … friends with kids who are so close. We help each other out if someone needs their kids watched for a while. And having playdates with other kids in the building is great."
Burns wants managers and boards in other urban areas to realize this housing trend probably is headed their way as well and to prepare to develop kid-friendly rules, such as the ability to sell Girl Scout cookies door to door or have a lemonade stand somewhere in the lobby. She is mindful that residents who don't have children may not always want to be exposed to kids in their communities. “Our building is going through these growing pains now."
Marc Kotler, senior vice president for FirstService Residential's new development group in New York City, says that—based on the amenities they're now including—New York developers clearly are targeting young families.
“A lot of (developers) we've worked with over the course of the past five years have built the units with families in mind," Kotler says. “Some of our buildings even have 'tween rooms—with Game Cube and Wii games, so there's a place for the older kids to play." One New York developer created a room just for storing strollers.
“Giving (high-rise communities) good programmable spaces is vital," says Kotler, who advocates flexible common area spaces because buildings developed for one use will inevitably be transformed by the residents into another use. Managers also can help create family friendly communities by programming events that include resident children and helping boards develop kid-centric rules like allowing people to put their kids' drawings on the doors of their units and permitting trick-or-treating in the building.
One advantage already available to some families in high-rises: Since the building they live in is staffed with security personnel and equipped with cameras, Burns is comfortable allowing her two sons, ages 10 and 8, to visit their friends' homes in the building or head for the ground-floor convenience store unescorted.
“I feel like they have more freedom because they're in a confined space," she says. “We can keep tabs on them fairly easily."
Burns estimates there are about 50 kids who live and “hang out together" in her 46-story, 260-unit building. “There are probably more ways for the kids to burn their energy (here) than there would be in a house," she says.
Julie Warren is editor of Community Manager.
Growing Up: Planning for Children in New Vertical Communities at
>>Read more about Jackie Burns and
The Condo Kids in
Common Ground's November/December 2017 issue.
©2018 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.
By Julie Warren
It's a familiar story: A home in a community association is vandalized or burglarized, and the neighbors are outraged and fearful. Other residents worry that their homes are next. To prevent a recurrence, the association board votes to install stronger locks, new security cameras, extra outdoor safety lighting, or other barriers throughout the community. Perhaps the board goes so far as to hire security personnel.
While this may be a kneejerk—albeit, natural—reaction to a break in, property damage, or other criminal act within a community, it is, after all, like closing the barn door after the horse is out. Inevitably, once the new equipment is installed or the guard is hired, residents tend to relax and go about their business. And then there's another incident.
For managers and boards, what's a better strategy for maintaining residents' safety and securing personal property in community associations?
According to Christopher Lanni, CMCA, AMS, CPP (certified protection professional), the first step in making a community safer is to gather data about the association you manage, nearby or similar communities, and the region or municipality in general. Founder and president of Secure Residential Services, a Boston-area consulting company that specializes in safety and security in multifamily communities, Lanni encourages managers to research and collect a lot of information for their boards to review and consider before taking any expensive steps.
“Do your homework," Lanni says. “The change you're about to make is significant." For instance, learn what the crime statistics are in the area, and what other communities in your area are doing to reduce or prevent crime. What information or advice can local police departments offer? Talk to vendors, investigate products, and consider what a reasonable next step is. “Every property has its own needs and style, and the solution should be tailored to the individual community," adds Lanni.
Make sure you have a plan. For instance, if your community chooses to hire a security guard, do you want that person to wear a uniform to create a sense of authority? Or is your association's style a softer, more relaxed presentation? When will the security guard be on duty? Only late at night? If you need a guard 24/7, then the community obviously needs more than one person. Is it more cost-effective to hire a security company to provide guards or for the association to hire guards directly?
Recognize that securing a property is a process, and consider and evaluate what the community is doing already. Is the current process making a difference? If not, what adjustments should be made? And what are the association's goals? Were video cameras installed to create a historical record for post-incident investigation only or for real-time monitoring? Expectations should be different if someone is monitoring a system live and reacting real-time, says Lanni.
Immediate past president of the Association of Residential Security Directors, Lanni also recommends that the community establish a reporting system. If you have a video camera, what is or will be your policy for archiving recordings? For how long? If you're making plans to install a new key-card system, how will that be monitored? Will the fob or card record who the holder is? And who alerts the police if there's a breach? Is there a warning if a secure door is propped open for more than a few minutes?
“You want to know who's going in and out," says Dave Pearson, president of 215 Secure, a CAI business partner in suburban Philadelphia. Pearson, whose company primarily installs electronic security systems, believes that securing a community involves assembling layers. For instance, he says, “You may want to add a layer that lets you know
which fob went in and out. You also may want a video camera at perimeter locations to verify that the registered individual has the fob."
Lanni also recommends starting with simple adjustments rather than an immediate comprehensive overhaul of the community's security plan. He suggests adding one inexpensive item or step to the current process, and then ask yourself, “Is what we've already done making a difference?"
Lanni, who also is corporate residential risk advisor for Barkan Management and director of security and resident services for the Harbor Towers in Boston, recommends that managers work with their boards to establish a policy. “People get in the most trouble when they don't have a policy," says Lanni, who adds that once a policy is in place, managers need to “stick to it."
Whatever security procedures you implement, Lanni warns that even a minor change to a community's current security plan is significant, and sometimes even the smallest adjustment can have a negative outcome. That's why it's essential to be vigilant and frequently assess the security program. “Sometimes getting you to a better place is enough," he says.
Pearson says that when it's time to make decisions about securing a community, “You want to get a group of folks in the room to talk about what the issues are and what they're trying to achieve." He adds that “those in the room" should include the manager, a board member or the owner of the building, the guard company, and your electronic security folks.
“That's when I've seen the best results take place," he says.
Julie Warren is editor of Community Manager.
PROBLEM SOLVERS: CAI has numerous resources for managers and boards looking to improve security in their communities, including
Best Practices: Community Security. One of the Best Practices series produced by the Foundation for Community Association Research, this book is available at cost at
www.caionline.org/shop (member price $6.95) or as a free download at
www.cairf.org/research/bpsecurity.pdf. Community Security details various options available to community associations, including security services, access control systems, alarm systems, gates, and surveillance systems. In addition, the book provides a list of key security terms, a checklist of what residents can do to secure their community, what to ask prospective security vendors, and a numerous resources for more information on security.
Additional information about security, including webinars and archived
Common Ground articles, is available to CAI members at
Community Associations Institute (CAI), the leading international authority in community association education, governance, and management, just had its largest fiscal-year membership gain in the organization's 40-year history. It's easy to see why: after announcing a new dues plan for homeowner leaders in October, CAI membership grew by more than 1,300 in a matter of weeks.
With CAI's new dues program, up to 15 board members can join CAI for only $250 and have access to CAI's wealth of in-depth resources, research, networking, and education opportunities.
“In the past, community associations would typically only support a CAI membership for the top three board positions—president, vice president, and treasurer," says Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, CAI's chief executive officer. “Under the new plan, communities now can sign up their entire board to join CAI at the lowest cost. We're confident our new membership structure will continue to provide association board members the best tools and resources they need to be successful."
CAI membership includes a subscription to award-winning publications like
Common Ground magazine, which covers the latest news and trends impacting community associations throughout the world. Membership also includes access to specialty e-newsletters and the members-only section of CAI's website, which features helpful—and free—resources like the CAI
Board Member Toolkit and
From Good to Great: Principles for Community Association Success. CAI members also can participate in The Exchange, CAI's members-only online community, where you can network with community association colleagues worldwide.
It's no surprise that 89 percent of CAI members are likely to recommend CAI to their peers. Members cite CAI's professional designations and certifications, networking opportunities, and educational tools as top reasons join.
Join now at
www.caionline.org/join and be a part of the membership association leading the way in community association resources and education.
“It's one of the most comprehensive survey's we've done to date," says Christine Isham of the
Community Association Manager Compensation & Salary Survey 2017, which was just released in November by the Foundation for Community Association Research. According to the Survey, community association managers who have achieved certifications and designations have 10 to 20 percent more earning power than those who have not.
For those who anticipated its arrival, the Salary Survey was long in coming, largely because of feedback from several managers who use it.
“They asked if we could try to get it out closer to the end of the calendar year when some (management company and association) financial decisions are made," says Isham, chair of the Foundation's research committee. “If the folks who need this information aren't getting it when they need it, then we're not providing a very good service."
While management companies and associations are naturally very interested in the survey's findings, particularly the salary ranges it puts forth, the document—along with CAI's annual
Statistical Review—has a wide following outside of CAI that gives the organization a lot of credibility.
“When we get inquiries from people in the government agencies who work on housing policy, that's the first place we send them," Isham says. “When we get academic researchers, who are writing papers on these topics, again, it's the first resource that we give them."
Once the committee has preliminary results, managers and management company executives are asked to review and comment on the findings' usefulness and relevance.
More women responded to this year's Salary Survey, and a larger portion of managers work for a management company than directly for association. While both statistics are notable, the changes are slight.
“Sometimes the 'news' is that there are no earth-shattering changes in these kinds of reports from year to year," says David Jennings, CAE, SPHR, executive director of the Foundation and CAI's vice president of education. “For example, the Salary Survey and CAI's
Homeowner Satisfaction Survey both demonstrate some consistent themes over time. Although the profession continues to evolve and improve, the basics are still in place—credentialed managers earn more, and most homeowners are satisfied with their community, etc."
“One of the challenges of this kind of survey is to make sure we get a reasonable response—and not just geographically," says Isham, who looks for responses from a variety of community types.
“We can track responses so we know geographically where they come from and whether it's an urban or suburban community," she says. “And we do make judgements based on region."
When survey recipients in a specific area are slow to respond to the survey, Isham says that research committee members get on the phone and call individuals to encourage them to do so. The committee also recruits chapters to urge respondents to complete the Survey.
“Personal contact tends to really make a difference to people," she says.
“We certainly want to recognize and thank everyone who responded to the survey," Isham says. “The large number of people—all of CAI's nearly 14,000 manager members—who are asked to respond insures that the survey results are really useful to people know matter where they work."
Isham and others on the research committee encourage those who use the Survey results to continue to “provide us feedback about how they use it, and let us know what's missing or could be added. It would certainly help the Foundation improve the survey and its results as we go forward."
www.caionline.org/shop. Member price $59. Nonmembers $99.
CAI homeowner leaders, attorneys, communications and insurance specialists, and association managers and management company executives comprise the Research Committee of the Foundation for Community Association Research. This committee has many responsibilities beyond preparing and writing the Salary Survey.
©2018 Community Associations Institute. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution prohibited.