(Breeze Yoko mural ‘Boniswa’, © Hazel Easthope 2019)

This year, the International Research Forum on Multi-owned Properties really lived up to its name and we hosted the first conference outside of Australia, in the beautiful town of Stellenbosch in South Africa. There was a stellar line up of speakers, representing multiple countries and disciplines.

Keynote speaker Adriana Mihaela Soaita reflects on a few of the presentations in her blog post here, relating to the nexus between free/common/leasehold property rights and the difficulty of adapting existing housing stock in the UK, and participatory redevelopment/major improvement of post-war private estates. The full conference program can be found here.

While attending the conference, we took the opportunity to ask the speakers what piece of advice they would give based on their research. This is what they told us:

KNOW WHAT YOU’RE BUYING

Don’t assume that the land you buy with a condominium is the same as land outside of a condominium. When you purchase a parcel of land within a condominium you’re buying a set of relationships with other owners within the condominium. Douglas (Doug) Harris, University of British Columbia.

When you purchase a property, you should read all the rules applicable in the scheme (development) you’re buying into. Gerhard De Kock, Arbitrator & Adjudicator, Community Schemes Ombud Service (CSOS)

Read the lease. Sue Bright, University of Oxford

Every purchaser who wants to buy a unit should get advice from a neutral and objective attorney before signing any contract. Nadja Schwery, University of Stellenbosch

Actually listen to your lawyer who says ‘I want to sit you down here for an hour and tell you what this is about’. Elizabeth Toomey, University of Canterbury

RESPECT AND EMBRACE COLLECTIVE LIVING…

People need to understand their living arrangements and have respect for the other people who are cohabiting in these spaces. We need to get back to some fundamentals about people and understand how we interact with others in a respectful manner so that everyone can enjoy these spaces … the norms of society aren’t contractual norms, they’re norms that are applied, that society creates. Sacha Reid, Griffith University

Talk to your neighbours. Sarah Blandy, University of Sheffield

Remember you’ll get old too. Sarah Nield, Southampton University

… AND COLLECTIVE DECISION-MAKING

You’re not living in a standalone house, you’re part of a community and you should go to all of the meetings and be on the executive committee and take an active part … because you are the people responsible for efficient managing and therefore you have to help. Cornelius Van Der Merwe, Stellenbosch University

It’s important that you agree on how to use your units … and that you have a forum for deciding that and for changing it over time. Elisabeth Ahlinder, Stockholm University

The strata renewal committee should look at both the super majority and the dissenting minority. In Singapore there is case law and I think it’s gone overboard in not taking into account the interests of the super majority. Edward Ti, Singapore Management University

ANTICIPATE WHAT PEOPLE WILL WANT

My advice is to be predictive. It is important that the owners know what they want but it’s more important that the manager knows in advance. All of the owners need to be happy when they live in multi-owned buildings and the important thing is to know what the wishes of the majority of owners are – the managers need to know that in advance. Pepe Gutierrez, Burgos University

DESIGN APARTMENTS TO SUPPORT RESIDENT WELL-BEING

We need to consider the different needs of people in different locations and household types for the design of apartment buildings. Hyungmo Yang, University of New South Wales

Please never forget these are homes for people and what matters for them is having green space around the block of flats and having quiet spaces, so quality of construction is more important than anything in order to make a home in a collective property. Adriana Mihaela Soaita, University of Glasgow

DESIGN DEVELOPMENTS THAT LAST…

Developers need to ensure that the quality of the built form is at the highest standard and that the governance arrangements they put in place are in accordance with good governance principles … they have to better understand the nature of schemes (developments) and how people live in them. Nicole Johnston, Deakin University

When we’re building multi-owned properties, we need to think about the future. How easily can they be maintained? What will we do with them when they’re old and outdated? This is especially important for multi-owned properties because the land ownership is divided so many times it makes redevelopment tricky. Hazel Easthope, University of New South Wales

… AND RECOGNISE THE HUGE POTENTIAL FOR IMPROVING EXISTING PROPERTIES

The environmental impact of the multi-owned property sector is more significant than many policy makers or owners realise, but the energy and water efficiency measures are actually, from a technical perspective, relatively simple and cost effective, so the business case is there. So my one piece of advice is that anyone working in this sector, including policy makers, needs to invest more in educating owners about their collective responsibility for environmental retrofits, but also what their collective and long term benefits are. Kimberly Crawford, City of Sydney

We don’t think that’s too much to ask.