What problem was it trying to solve?
The Ontario Residents' Panel was a Citizens' Reference Panel set up in 2012 to contribute to the Condominium Act 1998. During that period the number of condominiums had rapidly grown, making up approximately half of all new homes in Ontario and resulting in one in ten Ontario residents living in one1. With this expansion came an increase in the number and variety of issues faced by renters, owners, boards and volunteers which resulted in many condominiums being run poorly or inefficiently. This was in part due to ineffective legislation which failed to ensure condominiums were running properly. Understanding that residents' lived experience would provide crucial insight to producing effective policy, the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services ran a three-stage public engagement process to review the Condominium Act, of which the Residents' Panel was a key stage.
Who were the participants? How were they selected?
10,000 invitations were sent out to randomly selected condominium residencies in Ontario to people who either live in or own them, from this there were 278 eligible volunteers for the Residents' Panel. From that cohort, 36 Panellists were chosen to be representative of the Ontario population's age, gender, geography, type of condominium residence and renter/resident/owner status. Special selection was not made for ethnicity, education or income but these were found to emerge proportionately within the sample.
What was the process?
As part of a wider public engagement to review the Condominium Act, the Residents' Panel was itself made up of three stages over three Saturdays: a learning stage, a stage for prioritising values and issues, and a stage where Panellists agreed trade-offs and specified what their recommendations to the Ontario government. During the learning stage, expert speakers were heard from and questioned by Panellists to better understand the variety of issues faced by Condominium residents. During the second and third stages there was greater emphasis on facilitated table discussions, and breaking into working groups, for Panellists to explore and develop their perspectives on what should be done to solve the issues faced.
What was the conclusion?
The Residents' Panel deliberated on the various issues faced by condominium residents and set out what they concluded were the most pressing issues whilst also offering ideas for solutions. For example, some of key values emphasised were resident responsibility, sufficient information for new buyers, better support for board members, and stronger protection measures for buyers. Based on these values identified, the Panellists offered a number of Recommended Directions for the Review of the Condominium Act regarding financial management, condominium governance and manager qualifications, consumer protection for buyers and dispute resolution.
What was the impact?
The Panel's report was used to inform the new Condominium Act 2015 which aimed to address many of the concerns which were highlighted during the Residents' Panel.