Friday, March 28, 2008

Living with Strata...

In North America, the only type of housing where you have complete control over is single family home. SFH means that all your outside walls are not attached to other houses. If you have SFH, chances are you have a front/back yard, and there is grass surrounding your whole house. Sadly, SFH is becoming more and more unaffordable. You can probably still have one, but you will be in debt for all your life.

The second best thing for a small family is townhouse, which is what I live in right now. Unlike SFH, townhouses are strata-ed.

What is strata? Strata is a group of volunteer owners, selected by all owners in the complex, who deals with administration of the whole complex. It's snowing hard and we need snow plow? Strata will call them in. Somebody's guests are making lots of noises at night time? Strata will warn (and fine) them. Somebody's car knock your garage door? Strata will deal with insurance. The complex needs more visitor parking space reserved? Strata will ensure it gets done.

But living with strata is not all rainbows and bright color pictures. Yes, strata deals with the part you can't bother with, but it also deals with something personal to you. Owners of townhouses do not have complete control over their home, at least the outside part. It means that you will be towed if you park over time on certain area. It means that you cannot paint your outside walls or fence, or plant a single flower without strata's permission.

Depending on your strata, some complex does not allow satellite dish, antenna, hanging the clothes to dry, or live Christmas tree. Want to put up decorations? You have to take it down by certain date. Want a lamp post on your front yard? Better make sure strata agrees to it. Want to enclose your garage for extra room? Nope, can't do it (the City treats it as illegal second suite -- not legal, but they won't do anything either. Strata, on the other hand, can fine you every week until you take it down).

I can understand that a complex want to look united. But when harmony turns to uniformity, isn't it taking unity a bit too far?

PS: And I currently am a Strata Treasurer.

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