Monthly Archives: June 2012

Higher Issues For HighRise

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Stereotypes aside, whatever brings us together in smaller and smaller household formations ideally suited to strata communities, it is time for us to address the issues that arise from this form of living.

These are issues that go beyond the mere management of owners corporations and common property. These are higher issues that are being debated in a corporate context and are evolving as accepted mainstream standards.

Issues such as governance, compliance, sustainability and reasonableness dominate our thinking about corporate life and increasingly the not for profit sector but are yet to be applied in earnest to our strata communities. These are issues, which we must address and disciplines we must learn if we are to live well in strata communities in the second half-century of the strata age.

Learn To Be Sustainable

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Attend any meeting of developers or the planning community and the big issue will be sustainability. Partly driven by the environmental sensitivities of the younger property professionals and partly driven by the commercial savvy of the developer, it is game on for green star ratings.

Grey water, black water and rainwater occupy the consultants as they seek to check the boxes for a label, which will mark the building and the developer as socially responsible. The plant and equipment necessary to deal with these issues along with solar energy and natural air ventilation is costly both in capital and recurrent terms.

For the strata titled building and absent any proven form of commercial income or saving from these green features, this additional cost ultimately becomes the cost of the owners corporation. Does the prospective purchaser want these features? Answer – yes. Does the prospective purchaser want to pay for these features for the life of the property or their period of ownership? Answer – of course, no. Until imposed as conditions of developments and the market accepts that the cost must be absorbed and reflected in higher owners corporation levies, the advancement of these features in residential and mixed use strata title buildings appears constrained.

Learn To Be Reasonable

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If strata titled buildings are small sub sections of our democratic society, ‘subocracies’ we might call them, where the freedom of the individual is compromised by the rules for sharing common property and facilities, then necessarily we must be called upon to act reasonably.

Reason is not something at which strata communities excel. If it were otherwise, then the more developed strata title jurisdictions of Queensland and New South Wales would not be plagued by the community living disputes that have arisen. Perhaps it is a self-fulfilling and deliciously ironic prophecy that more complicated legislation about dispute resolution results in more disputes. In Queensland, where at the moment there are 15 pages of legislation devoted to the holding of secret ballots within strata communities, there seems to be more disputes than ever. Legislation is a lagging – not leading – indicator of community issues. No amount of legislation will cause people to be reasonable. Reasonableness must come from the people and it will when the people are enlightened and there is a moral sense to the laws they must uphold.

SCA Conference Wrap Five Pointers To The Future of Strata

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Well attended and well organised, the SCA national conference held last week in Adelaide has left me thinking, as these things are meant to do, about the future of strata. Five things stick in my mind and strangely all but the first came from the accompanying trade exhibition:

1. There was a conference app. This allowed you to check who was attending and organize those all-important catch-ups as well as see what was going on and make notes on your iPad. It was the reason I went to the conference. A great innovation. Apps will come to dominate strata services. Whoever invents one first for strata will win new business for free. www.micasahq.com (not at the conference) has an app for schemes and this or something like it will catch on.

2. FaceMe was the standout new product for my money. Allowing up to 12 people to meet by videoconference this is a better product than Go To Meeting or any video-conferring software I have used. It’s clean, its simple and its well priced for strata at $395 per year. Unlike Go to Meeting and other video conferencing products, there is no installation necessary on the users’ machines, you simply click the URL sent by email and you’re connected. This must make committee meetings easier and improve committee engagement. I have bought the product.

3. Stratapay have introduced an app to allow owners the convenience of paying levies on their mobile devices. Mobile phone use as a percentage of global web use doubled from 4.3% in Jan 2011 to 8.49 % by Jan 2012 www.mobithinking.com. Just watch this trend increase.

4. My Community by My Strata, which accompanies Staratware, provides a very comprehensive and elegant ‘FaceBook Plus’ solution for strata although it is expensive and is controlled by the provider. The notion that information has to be given to a third party provider and then made available to the owner of the information for a fee just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I think strata communities are looking for, and need, empowering tools that enable them to own and use their own information more conveniently.

5. WHS reports are now available online with a tool that helps schemes monitor compliance and demonstrate due diligence. At $1,000 the small schemes won’t buy it but it does get us away from the notion that buying a safety report is all you have to do to meet new due diligence standards. This tool provides a framework for cultural change within strata communities although for the life of me I can’t remember who provides it because trade booths weren’t on the conference app.

These initiatives go to the very heart of the issue identified in the recent CityFutures Report ‘Governing the Compact City; The role and effectiveness of strata management’ (www.cityfutures.net.au) about owners getting easy access to meaningful information about their schemes. For me, these initiatives point to the future of strata.

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