by RYAN BOLTON
I was in a CBC documentary about condos last fall. A film crew followed my lady and me around asking questions about condo life for some eight hours. They filmed us in our local dog park with Hank, our Welsh Terrier, as fellow condo dwellers looked on, curiously. They filmed us order and eat pizza, awkwardly.
Out of the eight hours of filming, they used a minute-long segment of us in the documentary. And out of the hours of interview footage in the otherwise well-researched doc, they decided to use a clip of me swearing on national television. (“Don’t worry, he’s got a beard and tattoos. He can be the only person to swear in a CBC documentary,” the producers probably mused).
“I don’t think the foreign investors care, or give a shit, about the condo community… because why would they as long as they have the money,” is what I say in the doc. I stand by that more than ever today.
I have rented out a concrete box in the sky for nearly five years in downtown Toronto. My condo is part of a massive complex of condos on both sides of Spadina by the CN Tower called CityPlace (or as I affectionately call it, ShittyPlace). Its advantages are myriad, but so are its downfalls. Here’s why.
Like that Death Cab for Cutie song, Toronto’s cityline looks like crooked teeth. Teeth that continue to grow and jut out of the ground in varied sizes, shapes and colours. And there’s no sign of slowing down. In fact, Toronto has the highest number of condos under construction in all of North America. According to the CBC, the number of condo buildings in Toronto has doubled in the last decade and now sits north of 1,300.
A key issue here is that with these quickly-erected buildings come hordes of people, which is all well and good, but not when planning is tossed to the wayside. As we continue to build these vertical suburbs—let’s not kid ourselves, that’s what a condo is—there needs to be sufficient forethought on 1) traffic and transit 2) building a community 3) local retail stores 4) public space, and 5) family-friendly amenities like schools, day care and libraries. The real joke is that we all rib that there’s no real sense of community in the suburbs, just cookie-cutter houses in perfect little rows as far as the eye can see. This may be the case, but condos are the suburb’s vertical brethren, and maybe even worse when it comes to community.
I don’t know anyone on my floor. Not one person. Sure, I see the nice, older Asian man that walks his husky up and down the floor once in a while. I enjoyed nodding at the dude with ass-length dreads, but he moved out a year ago. Alas, it’s not uncommon to have people rushing to hit the “close” button in the elevator as you walk down the hall. Makes for an awkward elevator ride. Condo dwellers simply don’t interact. When they do, it’s a rushed veneer of a conversation. It’s fucking weird.
Back to my swearing on national television.
Condos aren’t built for their inhabitants. They’re built for the developers and the investors, namely foreign investors, and the big money. Condos equal a ridiculous amount of cash in a relatively quick amount of time (it’s bloody astonishing to watch the condos jut up, changing the face of the downtown core daily). Developers even use this money to lobby the government to keep the regulation doors wide open. Ontario developers, for instance, gave more than $16 million to both the Liberal and Conservative governments between 2004 and 2011, according to the CBC. And it doesn’t stop there, of course. In 2012 alone, the City of Toronto received more than $250 million from developers. That’s a quarter of a billion dollars. In one year.
Once developers and investors build and sell a condo, they don’t care how well the building are maintained. They don’t “give a shit” if there’s a sense of community. They don’t care if families move into the area. Why would they?
They’re already building the next pair of crooked teeth.