Condo, Strata and HOA News

Tag Archives: zoning

Parking Spaces the New Investment Vehicle in Gridlocked Housing Market

For high density housing, multiple parking stalls attached to a unit can be a major incentive for purchasers. Where developers will commonly building only slightly more than one parking spot per unit, the option to have a second stall is always appreciated – especially with the wealthy who often own multiple vehicles.

There are normally two types of parking associated with condominiums – assigned and deeded.

Assigned parking is normally common property that the board assigns to units, sometimes on a yearly or multi-year basis, as an exclusive use area much like balconies. The space is common property, but you are the sole person allowed to access it. Transfer of the stall is at the control of the board.

Deeded acts much like your unit – often with its own tax roll. These can be sold or traded just like a unit can be, but often with caveats on who can buy. Deeded titles normally have unit factors attached to them as well – so selling or buying them will change your monthly condominium contribution.

A good condominium corporation will have bylaws in place that limit ownership of a stall to those who also own units. If you sell your unit, you are also required to sell your stalls to other owners (normally the person buying). Bad corporations allow anybody to own parking stalls – which over time tends to put them in non-owner hands, managed by people who have little incentive in the maintenance of the building as a residence.

For many urban centers, parking spots are maintaining their value or rising – even when units are dropping in price. A parking unit in Boston (200 sq. feet) sold for $125,000. Toronto sold a spot for $100,000.

These are in part driven by municipal regulations that are either lowering the minimum number of parking stalls developers are required to build per unit built, or in some cases capping the amount of stalls within very dense regions in order to reduce traffic issues. Both of these will force parking stall prices higher, especially when newer developments (with fewer parking spaces) get infilled into spaces previous held by lower density and higher parking ratio buildings.

The Problem with Conversion Neighbourhoods and New Residents

When we bought our first condo, the building came with an unofficial escort service on one of the corners of the building. If I’m being a little vague, what I mean to say, the building was at the corner of a popular hooker stroll.

We bought knowing what the situation is. The exiting companionship business (ok, less colloquialisms) was there before we bought into the condominium. The neighbourhood was on the cusp of redevelopment with 5 new high-rise condominiums going in within 2 blocks of our new home. We also benefited from the prostitutes – it was a very affordable unit near the downtown core and multiple public transit stops. It was a great buy for our first condo.

In Montreal, a similar neighbourhood is drawing attention. Known as the Gay Village, an onset of condominium buyers and young families is bringing forward a clash with the local homelessness and beggars established in the community.

I’m bugged by people who move into an existing neighbourhood and then demand changes for their lifestyle. They moved into an area with a known homeless situation, and now want them all deported from their new home. Relax. Take it easy for a couple years. There are two stories I want to tell you.

First off – there was a burglary in one of the commercial units in our condominium. The entered through the residence, made their way though the service hallway and raided a store. While making their escape they passed by several of the working ladies and departed. When the police showed up to investigate, the ladies provided details and descriptions of the culprits and their manner of escape. They proved to be a reliable set of witnesses to the crime.

Second – give the city a few years. With new development, especially higher density, new tax revenue will come through to the city. After giving the pre-existing inhabitants of the community time to realize that the community is changing (and they will, street revitalization with new shops and other revitalization events always follow high density redevelopment), you can approach city hall with a strong tax case for enhanced community initiative (including police) that will push out the pre-existing community. You just have to give it a few years, and don’t come into an existing community just to push your weight around.

Our first condo is now hooker free (not by far, they popular streets only migrated a few blocks), but they have moved. It happened relatively naturally and without the need for new residents to build conflict with the old.

Living Close With People and Restaurants

I’ve often mentioned that condominium living is communal living, and part of buying into a condominium is realizing that you’ll be living in close quarters with people of all types. With that in mind, you’ll have to learn to live with the idiosyncrasies of others to some extent.

There’s another level of communal living with many condominiums though – and that’s the location of the building. Often condominiums are used to infill downtown cores and beltlines, substantially increasing the core population density, shortening work commutes, and breathing new life into a city. In one aspect then, the building is part of a local municipal community/zoning area which may include non-residential businesses including, but not limited to, restaurants.

Well built condominiums will over pressurize hallways to keep individual unit cooking smells in the units and not propagating to others in the building. But keeping out the smells from neighbouring buildings is much more difficult.

Cities are not blind to the issue of a neighbourhood pub with an extensive menu of deep fried food, and the venting issues of the fryer. Modern technology can do a pretty good job a scrubbing out the smells from the exhaust.

But it is something to keep in mind when buying a condominium in the city – your neighbours are not only your actual within-the-building owners, but the shops, residences, and businesses around. Building a condominium does not generate a sudden onus on existing businesses to move or upgrade their site, and you may be living with a smell for some time.

When Lonnie and I were looking for our current condominium, there was a nicely located unit 10 floors above a commercial floor that was the ground for the building. While I was happy with the unit, when we left she noticed one of the establishments was a pub, and the back outside wall was dark with fat staining around the kitchen exhaust. If we had been there in the evening, we would have likely been made very hungry by the smell, and very put off living in that building. It was a nice spot.

In that case the restaurant was in the building, but it could have easily been next door or a street over. And it doesn’t have to be smells (for instance, dry-cleaners) but sounds – manufacturing, vehicle repair shops, or even a very busy intersection that runs at all nights.

When taking the condominium route, remember that you may be living with two different neighbours – the owners in your building, and the buildings and infrastructure near by.

Seniors Frustrated By Resturant Smoke

Mixed Zone Development, Perfect for Condominiums

There is an article in the Globe and Mail entitled “Why condo-villes don’t work” by Shelly White which I agree with completely. I don’t get the title – it’s actually a very positive article about the benefits and joys of building community focused developments that include residential, business and commercial in one area. Where everything you need is within your community (read: walking distance, or very short public transport/bike/scooter). It is an approach to development that I have held for a long time.

In Calgary, every planning and development zone is its own, and never shall any overlap or meet. That has led to one of the lowest population densities in North America for a metropolitan centre, and an overly extensive infrastructure to maintain this approach. This is an approach that I find dreadful, and has created for dozens of years a downtown core that literally empties at the end of the work day. A ghost “down”town, as citizens car commute mostly back to their suburbs. If we say that such design costs 70 minutes of commute time a day per person, and 160k people commute, then we kill (70m*160k*250day) 5327 years of productive, enjoyable, life every year to commute (and that’s only if 160k people commute a day – Calgary Transit says it is more).

A mixed zone development approach to all towns – which can be driven by condominiums as the residential part with business on the bottom, would substantially help to increase a quality of life.