Experience of the Imperial Condominium Corp. With Persons Taking Up Residence in Our Entrance Foyer
From the CCI Newfoundland and Labrador Winter 2023 Condo Chronicle Newsletter
The Imperial Condominium Corp., located at 22 Flavin St. in St. John’s, is a four story, 16 Unit apartment style condo situated in the downtown core of the City. An exterior photo of the property is provided above left. The entrance foyer, above right, is currently open to the public although the inner door is locked. There is a mail box for each Unit and an intercom security system in the foyer. In the winter, mats cover the floor to protect the tile flooring against salt damage.
The resident profile includes seniors, women living alone, working people and a few children. Only 5 of the 16 Units are occupied by Owners who live in the building. The remainder of the Units are currently either vacant, being renovated or are leased. The Board of Imperial currently consists of three Owners who lease their Units and thus do not live on site. There are facilities in our neighbourhood available to provide overnight shelter for people who have no place to live however the number of people using these facilities has been increasing steadily and these facilities have become overwhelmed – especially when the winter temperatures drop well below zero. Thus recently individuals, normally young men, have been taking up residence in the foyer of our building. The response of the residents towards these individuals ranges from a feeling of empathy mixed with concern and trepidation.
The Owners and occupiers of the Units have a legal obligation to comply with the Condominium Act, the Regulations, the Declaration, the By-laws and the Rules. The individuals who have taken up residence in our foyer are not bound by these restrictions – their priority is to stay warm and survive.
Description of the building security system: Imperial is equipped with a programmable Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) proximity FOB keyless entry system to enter the building.
- each FOB has a specific code programmed in. If a FOB is lost or stolen, the FOB code can be removed from the system and the FOB becomes unusable.
- there is an 8 hour battery backup for the entrance system in the event of an electrical power failure.
- the system is maintained by BABB Security Systems with trained personal on 24 hour call in the event of an emergency.
A couple of recent examples of individuals in our foyer:
- residents have found a man sleeping on the floor of the foyer wrapped in one of our winter mats for warmth.
- one morning there was a large half eaten pizza and the foyer was littered with cigarette butts. An unwelcome increase in the cleaning burden for our contracted cleaning staff.
The response of the residents to people residing in our foyer ranged from compassion where these individuals are given food to fear where the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) was called and the person is identified and action can be taken to have the person removed.
Women living alone in the building have, in particular, expressed safety concerns about this situation. The Board at the Imperial is of the opinion that they must consider the safety and well being of all our condo residents (especially the elderly and vulnerable). The Board is also concerned about the potential negative impact on our Corporation’s insurance premiums of having unauthorized people using our building as a haven. Part of the resident’s fear comes from the general perception that the crime rate in St. John’s is escalating. Are these concerns justified?
“... many Canadians seem convinced that crime is at least as high as ever, if not higher. Perhaps this is because the amount of media coverage of crime is unrelated to how much crime actually occurs – and because media coverage focuses on the worst crimes rather than the most common ones.” Source: https://johnhoward.ca/blog/crime-continues-to-decline-in-canada/
Crime data for the year 2020, estimated based on Statistics Canada data, found that Total Crime, Violent Crime and Property Crime in St. John’s/100,000 people was 25% less than for the province of Newfoundland & Labrador as a whole where:
Total Crime includes all violent and property crime. Violent Crimes include: homicide, murder, assault, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, harassment, threats and all other violent violations. Property Crimes include: breaking and entering, theft, motor vehicle theft, fraud, mischief and all other property crime violations. Crimes not reflected here includes: criminal code violations, traffic violations, federal statute violations and drug violations.
According to Statistics Canada, for the last several years from 1998 to 2018, the Crime Severity Index in St. John’s has not been escalating but has been either more or less flat or declining:
To alleviate the anxiety of Imperial residents, it became apparent that changes to the building security system were necessary to prevent people accessing the foyer. Although an upgrade to the security system was not included in our 2023 annual budget, Babb Security Systems is currently working to enhance our building security by requiring a FOB to open the outer doors of the foyer – timed to provide access during hours specified by the Board. The timing could be changed depending on the season – winter vs. summer for example. The necessary modifications will be implemented within a few weeks when the required parts are received. This is expected to be somewhat inconvenient for couriers, visitors, etc. however the safety and piece of mind of residents is the paramount consideration.
Imperial is not the only downtown St. John’s condo dealing with this issue and other condos are also considering security enhancements. There have been recent initiatives announced looking to relieve the pressure on the emergency shelter system including an expansion to the Gathering Place on Military Road in St. John’s which will see 56 new supportive housing units in an old convent next to the Basilica cathedral. The province also has a request for proposals out for the addition of a new 30-bed shelter somewhere in St. John's:
“The requirements are to provide low-barrier emergency housing — a place where people can stay even if they are using drugs or alcohol, or experiencing a mental health crisis.
Low-barrier shelters are designed to serve the most vulnerable individuals, who may have a range of experiences and/or are living with poverty, mental illness, trauma, addictions or challenging behaviour and as a result may face significant barriers to housing," the request for proposals reads.
It is hoped that these initiatives will alleviate the intense pressure due to the lack of available shelter space in the City.
For condominiums situated in the downtown, it is anticipated that the plan to increase emergency shelters combined with enhanced building security measures will address the issue of individuals taking up residence on their property.
The author acknowledges the current President of the Imperial Condominium Corp., Mr. Tom Power, for input to this article.
David Cumming is past President of the Imperial Condominium Corp. and serves on the Board of the CCI-NL Chapter as Secretary/Treasurer. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of the CCI Newfoundland and Labrador Chapter. Readers are encouraged to seek the advice of professionals to address specific issues or individual situations. This article may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without acknowledgment to the author.
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