5 ways condos can suck

With further thought on the South Central issue and subsequent conversations with various people, I thought a look at “5 ways condos can rock” and “5 ways condos can suck” would be a good way to address some of the issues – positive and negative – and hopefully generate even more conversation.

To that end, I decided to specifically address the impact condo development can have for neighbourhoods/cities as a whole. These are just brief outlines of huge complex issues. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts.

5 ways condos can rock was posted yesterday. Here’s part 2:

5 ways condos can suck



shifted balance

When condo developments are out of scale with the existing demographics, they can lead to a sudden and significant shift in the delicate balance of established communities without sufficient time or resources to adapt and settle back into place. This kind of shift in both the economical and lifestyle demographics can result in a significant increase in property value and cost of living which often forces existing residents and businesses out. This is what is referred to as “gentrification”.



Though condos have the potential to increase the diversity of a neighbourhood, they often have the opposite effect and homogenize instead. This also contributes to the “gentrification” process. When a neighbourhood starts to exclusively target and attract this new type of “trendy” resident and businesses, existing businesses start to lose their clientele and cannot afford the increasing cost of their lease. You end up with a neighbourhood of endlessly homogenous mid-to-high-end bistros, cafés, salons, and boutiques.


visual impact

Because of their size, often entire city blocks and sometimes multiple blocks, condos have a significant visual impact on a neighbourhood. These behemoths often stand out like a sore thumb. A common criticism of condos, especially condo towers, is that they all look the same, boring modern glass boxes that lack character. Conversely, there are developments that pay lipservice to the existing buildings of the neighbourhood by imitating elements of the “local style” but end up more kitsch than character. Either way, they usually end up seeming a little too polished, a little too homogenous, and far too overbearing.


insensitive to existing conditions

Infill condo projects (ones built in established core communities) get a lot of bad press and local resistance because they don’t match the existing character of the neighbourhood. The physical scale, the demographic make-up, the architectural style, the lifestyle, can seem completely contrary to the neighbourhood’s identity and is therefore seen as an unwelcomed imposition of change. While it may be unrealistic and even undesirable to match the existing conditions exactly, responsible condo development does need to be sensitive to the them.


increased traffic

While ideally condos promote a walkable and busable lifestyle, often neither the local public transit nor the local businesses can support the new influx of residents. On top of that, people in North America are still very attached to their cars and to suburban shopping malls and grocery superstores. New residents will often move into the neighbourhood along with their cars, continue to shop in the suburbs, and aggravate the existing traffic and parking headaches. All of this is another sign that condos developed too quickly and out of scale with the existing neighbourhood.


Next up: 5 key issues for responsible condo development


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