Photography By Brooke Schaal

How to build a strong condo community

Writer Yashy Murphy has worked hard to create satisfying personal connections in her GTA condo—and you can, too

When my spouse and I tell people that we’re raising young kids in a condo, the comments inevitably start about the perceived lack of space and absence of community. We hear things like, “But there’s no backyard for your kids to play in!” and “Where do you store all your stuff?” and, of course, “It’s hard to get to know your neighbours in a condo, huh?”

By this point we’ve got a handle on the space issue. We’ve figured out that we don’t need much, and we regularly donate unnecessary items. As for a backyard, ours is the city of Toronto, and it’s the best space we can imagine.

In terms of community, well, our condo neighbours are our community. Sure, living in the heart of the city with access to 24-hour grocery stores means that we never have to ask our neighbours for a cup of sugar, but we’ve relied on them in many other ways. Above all, they’re friends: Our group of condo-dwelling families frequently celebrates birthdays, parenting milestones, new jobs and holidays together. It doesn’t get more community than that.

What pushed me to connect

I’ve lived in the same downtown Toronto condo since I moved to Canada from Karachi, Pakistan in 2005, but it was only in 2012 that I made it a point to know my neighbours. The arrival of my first child had me stuck inside during a typical Toronto winter. Unable to venture out much and desperate for connection, I asked our condo management office if they would pass around a flyer for me. I wanted to connect with other moms in a similar predicament, so I set up a private Facebook group, which was an immediate success. Six years later, that group is still active. Families come and go (condo life isn’t for everyone), but new ones continue to join – often first-time parents excited to have that connection we long-time members once found ourselves craving.

Our community members help one another out when needed, sharing parenting tips and standing united on condo board issues. My most recent mission was to build a “free little library” where residents could exchange books — an idea I picked up right here on Local Love. It wasn’t easy convincing our board of directors to allow us to test out the concept, but with some nagging we persuaded them to let us do a trial run­, and everyone loved it!

How to build your own condo community

Do you feel like you’re living an isolated life in a condo? Are you craving the camaraderie of a strong community? Here are a few tips to help you connect with your neighbours.

1. Take that first step. Ask your management office if they can pass along a flyer or provide a space for the community to meet.

2. Find common ground for connection. In my condo’s case, kids were the reason we came together. But your group could be based on any interest, such as volunteer work, baking or reading, or aimed at specific members of the community who are craving connection, such as newcomers to Canada.

3. Schedule recurring events. Meeting once isn’t enough to build a strong community and forge relationships. Set up biweekly or monthly meetings so you can really get to know your neighbours. I’ve found that encouraging casual drop-ins to a rooftop potluck or party-room hangout works well.

4. You don’t have to like everyone. There’s no way you’ll enjoy the company of every single neighbour — and that’s OK! Find the people you connect with and be cordial to others. You’ll soon find your group within the larger community, and this will be the one you rely on most.

5. Get your management team involved. Residents often silo themselves and feel like they’re functioning in opposition to a condo’s management team. They may see the team as authority figures who don’t want to know (or care) what community members are up to. However, keeping management in the loop and occasionally inviting them to larger group events will give you a chance to get to know them. And that makes it easier to lobby them for special requests that will make your condo community even stronger.

We all know that condo living means sacrificing elbow room, but that lack of space has given my neighbours and me the opportunity to build a tight-knit community within the common areas we share. I don’t know why it took me so long to reach out, but I’m sure happy that I did.

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