The Compact City


By Tim Sheehan

The City Futures Research Centre of the Faculty of the Built Environment in the University of Sydney (which I will call the C.F.R.C.F.B.E.U.S. for short – I’m joking) has recently published a report entitled Governing the Compact City, authored by Dr Hazel Easthope, Bill Randolph, Prof Jane Marceau and Dr Raymond Bunker. The report summarised the findings of a research project the C.F.R.C.F.B.E.U.S. has undertaken.

The report was NSW centric as the research was undertaken in that State alone, but its findings are universally applicable to strata within Australia, and even across the world.

The research project had three major aims –

  1. To explore the role, capacity and effectiveness of owners corporations as agencies of property governance and management in contemporary urban Australia.
  2. To explore the capacity and effectiveness of strata managing agents as mediators of outcomes for residents and owners in the sector, and their role and function within the overall structure of management and governance.
  3. To assess how well residential strata works from strata owners points of view.

I am an unashamed “strata geek”, in that I love any and all intellectual musings about strata.  Consequently, I do commend the report to you as a fine example of research into the evolving area of strata.  The report is free to view and can be easily accessed by clicking here.

It is impossible for me to write a short article which summarises the key findings from the work which has been undertaken.  There is plenty to think about and plenty to write about as a result of the quantitative and qualitative research.  However, here are some of the first things that hit me:

The first aim of the research (To explore the role, capacity and effectiveness of owners corporations as agencies of property governance and management in contemporary urban Australia) is insightful for how we should all be thinking about the role of your strata committee.  If you are part of a body corporate committee you are charged with the governance of the property, and should be cognisant of the considerable responsibility for managing the property.

If you put the term “governance” into Wikipedia there are many insights into what the committee should be doing for the lot owners.  One excerpt from the definition is –

A reasonable or rational purpose of governance might aim to assure, (sometimes on behalf of others) that an organisation produces a worthwhile pattern of good results while avoiding an undesirable pattern of bad circumstances.

Good governance is about consistency and patterns.  One-off results are not solely indicative of good governance.  This is why committees need to set strategies and policies, and then must review results.  The existence of such systems provides third parties (i.e. the property owners), who rely on the committee, with the certainty they deserve that there will be a pattern of good results.

The second thing which strikes me from the research is there are consistent themes in strata, but there are similarly no absolute truths.  The strata laws have created a framework for strata governance, but the results being experienced by property owners are only as good as the personalities involved in each case, and the governance mechanisms being adopted by the personalities.  Consequently, because personalities are so different there are a wide variety of experiences and a wide disparity in satisfaction within owner groups.  However, this doesn’t mean the system is fundamentally flawed.  It is more appropriate to accept any system will have strengths and weaknesses and sometimes focusing on curing the weaknesses may in fact be an exercise with ever decreasing marginal utility.

The third thing that stands out for me (and this conclusion is not like the esoteric nonsense I have written above):  As your body corporate managers who are committed to servicing committees and making a positive difference in the lives of our lot owners, there is so much more SSKB can do.  We are excited about the opportunity to improve and to service you better.  We have already identified so many areas  –

  • in which we can be clearer with our communication,
  • where we can be more knowledgeable,
  • where we can use new mediums like Twitter and Living In Strata to share information and experience,
  •  where we can structure our teams to be more responsive to you – our clients.

We have made changes in the past and we are still committed to doing it in the future.  Thank you to all our clients for giving us the opportunity to serve you.  We truly do appreciate the relationship we have with you.

Finally, I wish to thank the C.F.R.C.F.B.E.U.S. for the work they have done.  I have one recommendation back to the researchers:  consider shortening your name!



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Recent Comments

2 Comments

John Gallagher On August 2, 2012 | Reply

Tim

Thanks so much for bringing this to my attention.

Does SSKB provide a service whereby you can provide a set of precedent policies and proceedures for committees and schemes to tailor and adopt to improve governance?

Does the report go into policies and proceedures at all?

I must read it all myself.

    Chelsey On August 3, 2012 | Reply

    Thanks for your comment,
    The report can be viewed here and is worth a read.

    In regards to policies and procedures, we believe that the legislative framework works best along with our qualified Community Managers who are always working towards improving governance. Let us know if we can have somebody contact you to discuss in more detail.

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