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Stories of Resilience and Support from Ontario’s Condominium Communities

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging time for us all and supporting each other continues to be more important than ever. In recognition of coming together, the Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) sought local stories of resilience and support within Ontario’s condominium communities during the pandemic. We heard how condominium communities maintained operations, supported one another, and communicated in creative ways while navigating health and safety restrictions to keep everyone safe.

The CAO’s Annual Report 2020-2021 highlights some of those stories as well as the CAO’s own story during the pandemic in supporting condominium communities across the province. We have published these stories below and in full, in the chronological order they appear in the Annual Report.

If you have a story you’d like to share with the CAO, please submit to: stories@condoauthorityontario.ca

Stories of Resilience and Support from Ontario’s Condominium Communities

Stories

I really enjoyed the ‘Newcomers’ group that was formed to help people who were new to our community during and just before COVID. Otherwise, there would not be opportunities for us to meet others as our community centre was closed down.

Kim Kivell took it upon herself to start this group online. We zoomed every Tuesday at 7 pm. It was a forum that we could ask questions about living in the village plus it was a support group if you were living alone. I got to know 10 women who like me were new to the Villages. Now we are meeting in person in one another’s homes. I looked forward to that group meeting each week. It held me together.

My story is about an amazing young lady. In general residents very quick to complain about anything and everything but seldom take the time to compliment or appreciate efforts made by others.

I learned at an early age that recognizing good is very important. I would like to recognize a remarkable young lady, Lucy Traetto who went above and beyond to help the residents of 235 Sherway Gardens Road.

Some she new and others were strangers to her. During the pandemic when many of us were afraid to leave our condo’s, Lucy volunteered her time to shop for us and delivered groceries to our doors.

She risked her life to go shopping every day for the residents without being concerned for her health. I for one and on behalf of other residents would like to thank Lucy from the bottom of our heart’s and wish her all the best!

As our small building of 39 Units consists mostly of (not all) very senior owners, one of the challenges was to make sure those living alone were managing well and not facing loneliness on a daily basis.  Some of our owners already had a buddy system in place where they contacted each other every morning to ensure all was well.  More residents took it upon themselves to extend this system to some who were not currently hearing from someone in the building daily.   Friendships developed and the families of those involved were comforted knowing their loved ones were being checked on each morning, in addition to their own checkups.  In many cases groceries and prescriptions were also picked up to help others as well.

Our Condominium has had a strong Social Committee since inception over 30 years ago and in normal times it arranged Potluck dinners, lunches and movie nights.  The Social Committee undertook providing a Hallowe’en dinner, St. Patrick’s Day dinner and BBQ meal by cooking and delivering in take out boxes to all owners wishing to receive them.  The Board of Directors arranged a catered Christmas dinner from a local caterer, who supplied a roast beef dinner with all the “fixings” including desserts by delivering them in two take-out containers for each owner wishing to participate and this dinner was well received and enjoyed.

Our owners are a happy, caring group of people who continue to enjoy the changed life we are currently living and are all looking forward to better times, the same as everyone else.

LSCC45 SARNIA Ontario fell into COVID without Superintendents and little prospect of retaining any possible candidates.  Fortunately, in March 2020 a live-in Superintendent couple arrived and fit in here perfectly.  James & Mary Meakes jumped in the ‘deep-end’ their first week with us amid COVID lockdowns. [They] have been keeping the building clean and sanitized, and residents healthy and happy ever since!  They even treat Owners/Residents to monthly home baking and snacks delivered in Covid safe methods.  Their work and contributions to our lives is appreciated.
Our building’s Facebook page became active as neighbours helps each other out. At the beginning of COVID if someone was going for groceries, they would ask around to see if they could pick up groceries for anyone; when stores ran out of flour and yeast, there was a lot of sharing. This positivity has carried on, with people using social media to give things to each other and to lend a hand when needed (like pet sitting)

Our management and Board moved quickly to put safety protocols in place, and as Public Health updates and changes, they moved (and continue to move) quickly to adjust.

Our Board provided bonuses to building staff several times during the pandemic to thank them for their on-going presence and good work. Management also deployed their services to focus on health.  Increase in package delivery meant increased need for concierge staff, additional personnel were hired.  There is not enough that can be said for staff at buildings and all they do for Condo Communities. 

AGM managed virtually and very successfully.

New friendships for sure!!  Our building rallied around each other.  People who were working from home

I should like to recognize our Concierge Staff and Cleaning Staff – who made a positive Impact. The Board is looking for a way to celebrate them.

Many new dogs in the building!  In my free time, I’ve been able to lend a hand walking other’s dog, when they are busy or sick.  It makes my day, as much as it does to help others out.

40 Homewood is the oldest condominium (at 49 years) located in a downtown city in Canada. Built under a CMHC policy to provide home ownership to working people under a certain wage group, with some original residents still residing in the building, it was faced with additional challenges when COVID health regulations came into effect, as amenities like the common laundry room had to remain open to residents.

Board members and our Crossbridge manager listened carefully to what the public health professionals were telling Canadians. The manager and Board president regularly attended virtual information meetings with professionals in the condominium industry. We instituted a mask policy immediately in April 2020 and took other preventive precautions by closing areas in the building where gatherings could occur and result in the possible transmission of the virus. Our motivation was that no resident or staff person would be infected by the transmission of the virus in our building. If, at some point, we were to have a COVID-19 case in the building, we asked residents to advise the office so that we could implement appropriate hallway cleaning procedures and recommendations regarding receiving groceries and handling garbage disposal. The privacy of the few individuals affected was protected by the management office.

At the March 2020 Board meeting, attended by our Crossbridge manager, the question on COVID preventative health regulations dominated the agenda. It was decided that the office would open at three short time frames during the day and that the two management staff members would be present in the office on alternate days during the week and working from home otherwise. Cleaning staff took on additional duties sanitizing common element areas. Signage was put up on every floor and every entrance instructing residents and visitors of the two per elevator, public health rules as they changed and masks were and still are obligatory in all common areas of the building.

Fortunately for 40 Homewood residents, there was already a strong sense of community amongst residents that supported its Board of Directors strong directives to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the building. By April, 2020, total shutdown of common amenities including the gym, the indoor pool and the party room was instituted. The library and smaller meeting room for residents was restricted to lower numbers allowed at any one time, with mandatory sign in sheets and sanitizing products available for use by residents before they left these rooms.

The Social Committee created a list of over twenty-five resident volunteers who offered to shop for vulnerable residents and to take them to appointments. Trades people were allowed to continue any work for residents that had been started but no new individual renovation projects were approved. The contractors had to sign in every day and mask while working in the building.

Communicating to residents at 40 Homewood happens through email through BuildingLink. The property manager sends a bulletin to all registered residents every Friday, updating everyone of any issues in the building and if there any changes to the preventative health regulations in the building. In October 2020, the City of Toronto updated safety protocols allowing reduced capacity gym openings as well as some other public spaces. Residents were able to electronically reserve times to use the gym, pool, library and the smaller meeting room. With the third wave of COVID-19 these amenities were closed again but have since reopened at reduced capacity with the same electronic reservation system in place. The party room and gym were and are still closed to residents at this time.

And finally, through our monthly newsletter, we encouraged residents to stay positive, act collectively, and to be grateful that they were living and now working at a home in a safe residential building. The sense of community that informs 40 Homewood has been strengthened in spite of ravages of this, what seems right now, never ending pandemic.

Family Day, February’s long weekend, is a holiday where loved ones unite and spend some quality time with each other. However, for a small group of community leaders at the Chicago Condominiums (Chicago) in Mississauga, that weekend was far from relaxing. In fact, it turned out to be full of stressful phone calls, video meetings, and emergency actions that ended up curbing a potential crisis.

Let’s start from the beginning…

When COVID-19 first presented itself in Canada, like most, Chicago was not sure what to expect and what to do to protect the members of their community. With that being said, their team knew that they had to act quickly and implement many safety protocols around the building to protect the lives of the residents and staff members. Chicago prepared an immediate three-pronged approach to do their part for the community.

Changing the way the building operates. With the province heading into major lockdowns, and with many government protocols being enforced around the time, Chicago was forced to close their communal spaces. The gym, pool, media room, and terrace were temporarily shut down, and access to their unique indoor-outdoor-style amenities was restricted. To increase safety practices around the building, and to shield their residents from potential external staff members, they installed protective glass around the common areas of the building and designated contactless entry and exit access points.

Increasing safety and sanitization. Cleanliness was a top priority for the Chicago team while the global events were unfolding before them. They quickly distributed masks and portable sanitization stations around the building. In fact, they also arranged for their cleaning staff to increase their scheduled frequencies in their common areas. As residents saw a safer community, it would promote their daily cooperation and overall acceptance of the new practices. After all, the team ensured that every public health recommendation was adhered to, and they maintained informed on any new protocols that were emerging as the days progressed.

Streamlining the interactions of residents. Not only was the sanitization of the building important, but it was also critical to control the areas that brought together residents of different households. As a result, Chicago restricted access to the building to visitors, guests, and contractors, and they encouraged their community to follow in their footsteps. On top of this, their team was empowered to get creative, and find new solutions to enrich the lives of the residents. They re-configured the elevator system to limit its occupancy, and they partnered with a parcel delivery service to install lockers whereby residents could pick up their online orders without coming into contact with building staff members.

 It is safe to say that despite the challenges that the global pandemic presented on the world, the property managers swiftly acted and implemented an overwhelming number of measures to protect their residents. However, this did not stop a potential crisis from running rampant throughout the building.

 In February 2021, Chicago was notified by the Region of Peel of a situation involving residents of their building, and a variant of concern (VOC) in Mississauga. Their management team, staff, and board of directors quickly gathered with various health and media officials from the Region to mitigate the emerging situation.

It was recommended, as a precautionary measure, that all residents and staff get tested for COVID-19, even if they did not have any symptoms. As a result, voluntary door to-door testing for over 400 units (approximately 800 residents) was conducted on Monday, February 15, 2021 in collaboration with the Region of Peel, Ontario Health, Paragon Security, and CityTowers Property Management Inc.

It was a stressful time, as this story had gathered the attention of local and international news outlets, and Chicago had never experienced anything of this nature. For the Region of Peel’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Nicholas Brandon, this was clearly a situation that needed special attention.

He says, “This was an unprecedented situation for both us and the Board of Directors. Prior to our inspection, the building management had implemented many prevention strategies to reduce possible transmission in common spaces of the building. They quickly implemented our recommendations of further measures to protect residents.

Fortunately, there was no ongoing transmission of this fast-spreading variant of concern in this building. The Board of Directors worked through a very difficult situation that unfortunately played out in the media. They kept the need for timely communication to residents at the heart of their actions,” he concluded.

Ironically, the entire situation gave new meaning to the word family, in that it brought the managers, the staff, the board of directors, and the residents closer than ever before. Chicago also learned that a little goes a long way when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of their residents and neighbours. It was by staying vigilant, by being alert, and by being dynamic that this impressive downtown Mississauga condominium was able to remain afloat in some very rough waters.

Working for a digital organization like the CAO made it easier for staff to adapt to working from home. While this year has come with many challenges, especially for the ones with younger school-aged children, we have been able to adapt quickly to a new way of communicating, work collaboratively and supporting each other throughout the year. The weekly virtual All Staff meetings were especially important for keeping us connected as a team.