American Professor Evan McKenzie  opened his keynote address to the Griffith University strata conference ‘Changes confronting the strata world’ with a line from physicist Neils Bohr:
‘Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future’
and he then, of course, went on to do just that.
The professor spoke to us of connectivity and big data and the way YouTube videos of unpleasant things about community living might embarrass committees much like video footage of unfair treatment of citizens has embarrassed police in the US.
Among other changes the professor touched on were the profound social, political and economic consequences of ‘radical life extension’ which might see us live for up to 120 years and the contribution of ‘gated communities’ to income and wealth stratification and segregation of society.
In his view cultural and political changes of diversity and demographics would see developers respond with different forms of community housing. Energy and climate change he thought too would present challenges for the elected representatives of home owner associations.
For all the big issues ahead for strata it was the inadequacy of financial and human resources that our keynote speaker thought the most serious. Citing large scale fraud of US condo schemes and home owner entities that have unsuccessfully filed for bankruptcy only to be left with personal debt, we were reminded by our guest of the importance of personal involvement and diligence in our community housing organisations.
Despite the gargantuan schemes in the US, relative to the average size of strata schemes in Australia that’s reportedly just 9 lots, it seems the full implications of shared ownership are not well understood in the United States either and there are calls there just as loud as those here for more government and institutional support for owners.
Unsure of governmental ability to presently achieve anything meaningful and effective, my interest piqued at his suggestion of institutional support. Perhaps it is to the banks financing purchasers in buildings with defects, and the insurers of committees paying out claims for bad governance, that we should turn for help?
Mitigating the institutional risk of future loss by stipulating acceptable building and operating standards may be a more commercial solution to the problems ahead here and abroad.
 – Professor Evan McKenzie is the head of The Political Science Department University of Illinois, Chicago and author of Beyond Privatopia; Rethinking Residential Private Government. Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press. 2011.