A Call to Arms – Condominium Unionization?
As the President of a 44-unit Condominium property and an active Union member, the issues commonly brought to my attention by condo owners and fellow union members on site, all relate to poor effective management from the top down. Within the structure of a Union there are primarily six factors that can be translated to benefit the condominium sector.
Benefits – Strength in numbers is the most resourceful tool for Unions. If corporations used this to their advantage, they could find competent skilled labour affordable. We need to organize ourselves effectively through a Reserve Fund Strategy that assists good companies to maintain steady work. We don’t need a quote for 44 new doors, we need 2000… How much?
Another benefit for condominiums, would be vetted contractor lists with a proven history of satisfied customers and complexes alike. Property Management Companies typically employ their own maintenance division but don’t pay the going rate for skilled labour, which means we’re left with subpar workmanship and overhead from the companies we’re already paying managerial fees with … and there’s no discount!
Agents – Dues pay the living wages for the working staff of a Union. An Agents wage can be upwards of 100k per year and can include pension, RRSP, and a benefits package.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable that some of the day-to-day business duties of a condominium Agent would be to vet and/or update a contractor list for all residential and commercial structural needs. This would be accessible to any Board of Directors or Owner who pays the working dues.
Another task of the Union would be frontline mediation. Unbiased representation towards all members and a different approach to the long-awaited Condominium Tribunal. The Agents skillset would be extremely akin to Condominium Manager without being beholden to a company or broker, instead they are accountable to the membership.
Collective Bargaining – A Corporation could provide their Reserve Fund Study to the Union. Similar architecturally designed properties may have dates that align and could, in fact, provide contractors with steady work that ease their marketing/project manager burden. This is intermediate level management services that you do not see from current Property Management Companies. Often, managers receive kickbacks from contractors which ultimately comes from the pockets of the individual owner, including the owners on the Board of Directors. Despite RECA certification, we still employ those who actively benefit in ways that go against the best interest of the Corporation. Fraudulent business practices are difficult to curb when they run rampant. The vetted contractor lists would ensure we do not cooperate with poorly managed businesses, and we could hire skilled labour more often!
Training – Currently the CCI offers training, but the savvy Board will learn all the fundamentals within a short period while on the Board. The costs associated with CCI are not fiscally responsible for small sized corporations or individual owners seeking more knowledge. It would be advantageous for a Union to have ZOOM scheduled training monthly for its members, teaching them the fundamentals with a Q&A period. By now, we all are aware and comfortable on how to transition and operate in a virtual environment; we can easily schedule forum discussion topics and simultaneously progress forward while ensuring all owners are included.
Fair Representation – Regardless of an individual’s identity or demographic, all persons are treated equally and are entitled to the same duty of care. If we consider this from the condominium perspective, Fair Representation means the above but also regardless of the size of parcel or number of units, the agent(s) would have the same duty of care to address any issues that arise, from owner or board member.
Lastly, Solidarity. We are not alone. It is time to lift the veil, turn on the light, burn the wick, or any other adage that motivates you. We should be able to communicate openly with other Presidents about ways to ease the burden of this thankless task we’ve signed up for, bounce ideas around and be able to discuss what is working – and what isn’t; Learning and growing from each other to foster a sense of community and togetherness. I’m sandwiched between 2 other condo properties and not once have they reached out to formally say hello.
Given our current social revolution, it is disheartening that these resources aren’t already in place to support our ever-growing sector. But alas, we can be the change that WE need, and ensure future owners’ long-term success is secure. We need to, and we can, do better for the most unaware and vulnerable.
How can we best determine our course of action based solely from employees of the Corporation?
Why aren’t there more services provided to this branch of the housing industry?
When mental health is at the forefront, why are we still working alone?
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to ask for dues equal to $10.00 per unit monthly for all the burden listed above, and more. A temporary higher paying dues schedule would be required until more members join and see the real added value. Most property management companies operate with $20-$30 a unit.
If we have a rate for agents at $100k + Benefits = roughly $115K monthly, we would need $9,600.00 a month. At $10.00 per unit, we would need almost 1000 units to participate to have one fully employed agent. There are an estimated 9,000 condominiums in Alberta, with an average of 30 units each, for an estimated total of 270,000 units.
One Agent would not suffice for the entire province, and the real value add for owners would be negligible at best. To best position this strategy provincially and initially, we would require; one General Manager, three Territorial Agents, and at least two Administrative staff. Running a total cost of roughly $60,000.00 monthly. This would require a market share of 2.22% (6,000/270,000), or 200 (6,000/30) individual condominium corporations with at least +30 units contributing $10.00 per unit.
Can we not have this system funded through our province?
What about national funding for all of Canada, why do we remain so divisive when lumber and concrete are negligibly the same coast-to-coast.?
Why not $1.00 per unit, per month? The market share would need to be 22%.
Imagine 100% market share at $1.00 per month; that’s an estimated monthly budget of $270,000.00… we could see almost 5 times the staff then what I’ve explained above in Alberta, working for the betterment of all condo owners in Alberta!
For more funding models and organizing structures investigate CHOA in British Columbia, or CAO in Ontario.
Why are we behind the times and what’s the plan?
The answer is simple. We (Alberta) haven’t put in any effort into redeveloping or demanding change, and it’s our fault. As I’ve referenced above, this isn’t something we can individually fix, but it is quantifiable. Grandiose discussions bare many fruits, so let’s start cherry-picking the best and worst parts of our industry, simplify solutions to remedy, organize ourselves effectively, aggressively market advantages, studiously track progress, and ultimately create change that impacts owners.
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