“The immediate effect I’ve seen in my practice is with existing condos. I refer to them as the canary in the coal mine. They react quickly and are very sensitive to the changing environment. Some of the big issues I’ve seen pop up have been how to deal with amenities. Amenities that include items like pool, gyms, storage, bike rooms. We’re now seeing pools reaching 30 to 40 years old, with dramatic infrastructure upgrades required. On top of the exceptional maintenance costs, you now layer in the pandemic. So you’ve taken a weakened system and added the extra strain of COVID-19. Many condos have shut down those amenities, so many of my clients are now having a conversation about the value of these amenities. It’s become a bit of a white elephant. It was already an extensive piece of infrastructure, and one that left us more exposed as a result of potential virus transmissibility.
But I’m getting daily emails from some, asking, ‘What’s your legal opinion about reopening the pool? Or the gym, or the library?’ Needless to say, with increased sanitization costs, hygiene protocols and increased cleaning, those maintenance costs are going to go up. So COVID-19 is putting significant strain on the ability of condos to deliver those amenities to the unit owners in a cost-effective and safe manner.
‘And that might have a long-term effect with respect to developers. I could see the breadth and depth of amenities dwindling in the future. At the very least, the delivery and planning of amenities will be more ‘surgical’ and perhaps more mindful of the long-term implications of the costs the condo will eventually bear. I think developers – and no discredit to them – have had a different yardstick by which they measure a development, measuring marketability and profitability and sales. But I think you’ll see developers put into their calculus, ‘What will be the long-term ramifications of this amenity on the condo’s budget 15 years from now?’ And if you’re a long-term builder in a particular jurisdiction, you want a solid reputation that follows you, where that building is looked upon as an asset to your brand reputation as opposed to a detriment. Some builders have been aligned to this for a generation, but some are just coming to this realization; that just looking at the construction, sales and exit of a condo should probably not be the only calculus in determining how to be a good, vibrant community member for generations to come.
And you’re seeing an increased message from the courts in the past year to developers that this is an enhanced relationship where you have to try harder to make sure that the consumer is protected.”
Robert Mullin, “The Issue: The New Reality of Condo Amenities”, Ontario Home Builder 37:1 (Winter 2021) 43, online: <www.ohba.ca>.
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