The Hunt for Condo Data

July 2021

There is a lack of reliable data condo communities can rely on when making decisions.  Condo directors, management and owners find it necessary to rely on less reliable anecdotal information.  Even the most basic of information, including how many condo buildings exist and average condo fees paid, is available but unpublished.  Surprisingly, this information can be made available with nominal effort.

This unnecessary situation is easily rectified.

Data deficiency is not a condo-specific problem.  Despite the current push for condo communities to install electric vehicle charging stations (EVCSs), the number of electric vehicles sold is unclear.  Transport Canada collects this information for “research purposes only”.  The information is available but unpublished.  Condo communities are being forced to make major financial decisions without what should be basic information.

During the pandemic Canada’s National Strategic Stockpile of personal protection equipment wasn’t of much use.  Nobody knew what equipment was available or its expiration date.  This is basic information management that occurs in every grocery store.

The problem, while not unique to Canada, does not exist elsewhere.  A 2013 report by Deloitte in the United Kingdom estimated data held by the public sector in that country and made available was worth more than $8.5-billion a year.  This data played a role in holding government to account and spurring innovation in the economy.

While condo communities and Canada in general remains in blissful ignorance, its neighbour takes a different approach.

The U.S.A. is the world leader in gathering and sharing data.  Their tracking and making public of more information than any other government is a competitive advantage.  Dominance in this area was expanded in 2013 when President Barack Obama signed an executive order making government data open and machine-readable by default.  Information that remained hidden and unused in government vaults was converted to machine-readable format and made public.  More people were reading and using this data, obtaining insights and making use of this vast warehouse of knowledge.

The Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) is in a position to improve on data available to condo communities.  It currently requires each condominium corporation to file an annual return.  It should be easy to require each annual return to include audited financial statements.

The current Public Registry “discloses” information already available through any condominium corporation but which appears to serve little to no practical purpose.  Anonymizing, digitizing and reporting information from the audited financial statements would be infinitely more useful.

Once in the public domain condominium corporations, private businesses and government agencies could access the data.  Businesses could create analytic tools and reports utilizing this data to be used by condominium corporations and those that support the condo marketplace.  Condo communities could base financial decisions on solid information without compromising privacy.

No community would be obligated to use this information.  They would be motivated to do so since better and more poorly run condominium corporations would be more easily identifiable, and possibly reflected in condo selling prices.  There would be more motivation and incentive for communities to improve as compared to averages generated from this data.