6

Armchair quarterback time: War zone in a condo

https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/surveillance-video-shows-brawls-vandalism-inside-beleaguered-saskatoon-condo-building-1.5360878This post is about a different type of crisis and disaster. From a prepping perspective, this is the deterioration that becomes the crisis.

I wish I could tell you that the videos and related stories were part of a movie set and plot, but they are not.

First the news link which is 4 days old.

https://saskatoon.ctvnews.ca/surveillance-video-shows-brawls-vandalism-inside-beleaguered-saskatoon-condo-building-1.5360878

To better understand the back story, watch both videos and also read the first related story on that news page titled “Living in a war zone….”

If you look at the footage of the exterior of the condo building, I can see how someone would have purchased a condo there 12 years ago, as was the case for Geoff Wilkie who was interviewed in the related article “Living in a war zone…”

The panned shot of the neighborhood in one of the videos shows a fairly clean area and there appears to be a church on the corner. It looks like a glimpse of a neighborhood in a typical small prairie city, who like Dog River in the fictional tv program Corner Gas, doesn’t appear to have a whole lot going on.

There is always the risk of the neighborhood deteriorating into unsafe living conditions. Regardless of whether we live in a condo or a detached home, or whether we own or rent, we all face the same risk of change to our neighborhoods and communities.

I have rented apartments and houses, and I have owned homes, so this is not to slam renters. I relate what I have witnessed first hand in urban and rural areas and after living in several provinces.

Absentee landlords are a big problem because they have no interest in the community, other than through renting their house(s) and the profits they make. 

There are landlords with multiple rental properties who barely maintain them and who rent properties which are outright fire traps due to old and faulty wiring. 

The problem is further compounded by the “guarantee of rent” provided through govt.-sponsored income assistance. The landlord no longer has to worry that his tenant(s) will lose a job or be laid off. The rent is paid in full every month like clockwork by the income assistance program and not the tenant.

There are those tenant(s) who are responsible people or parents and who require this assistance through no fault of their own. For many of them, it is a temporary situation. They are a boon to the community.

Unfortunately, there are others in these programs who have no desire to better themselves or at the least attempt to parent their children more responsibly instead of being preoccupied with their drugs of choice.

Their children roam the streets and start packing up with older youth who are gang or “wannabe” gang members. The crime goes up and before you know it, you have a war zone situation like the people in that condo.

I have owned a home in a neighborhood where there was a nice mix of people – young, old, single working and couples with and without children. 

One day, I got off the bus and began my usual walk home. I glanced over and saw several young men that either should have been in school or working, who instead were hanging out in the front a house. This house was located several blocks away from where I lived.

After I saw them, I noted the deterioration on that first block. I hadn’t really noticed before, until I saw the loitering and attitude of the young men gathered at that one home. 

I paid attention on subsequent walks to and from the bus stop and noted the lack of work traffic from that block in the morning. I also noted the party atmosphere that had set into certain homes in the first block in the evenings.

I keep my house in ready to sell condition. The for sale sign went up and it sold before it could appear on the MLS listings. I was lucky to have noticed the change and got out before others began the stampede out of the neighborhood.

For the people in the above condo story, what could they have done differently? To me, it looks like they waited way too long. 

Fighting a condo board to change things when you already have let the raging bull into the barn is pointless. That condo building was supposed to be a owner occupied building only, no rentals. Rentals in a condo building and owners with multiple units don’t always bode well. As soon as the rentals started, Mr Wilkie should have baled. 

How would you know the difference between “a bit of trouble” happening in your neighborhood and “wait a minute, this is turning into SHTF and it’s time to get out of Dodge and find a new home?”

Do you think you would be able to get out fast enough if all your other neighbors have come to the same realization?

Are there any ways to avoid or reduce the risk of buying or renting in a problem neighborhood? 

What if, for some reason, you were unable to get out and find a new place to live? How would you survive in such a situation as portrayed in the video above?

I pay attention. Keep my home ready to sell. Review the MLS and private sales so I have a finger on the pulse of the real estate market at all times.

18

  • Comments (18)

    • 1

      Apologies – First link is same as second and wasn’t suppposed to be there.

    • 3

      Ubique, In reply; I use a somewhat different perspective and a longer time line for both analysis and forecasting (modeling). After stuck in the “war zone”, it is fate governing and risk management is nearly useless.

      The people in the condo story purchased too expensive of a dwelling … providing my most favorable interpretation to matter … if, prior to purchasing the condo,  they didn’t allocate a substantial fund to hire and retain a law firm / attorney for the legal matters. Even absentee landlords are not that absent when they learn their real estate could be lost by legal action generated by owners/occupiers of condos. 

      Government-provided rents (and the derivitives such as no-cost electricity as in Virginia) generate problems more predictable than the phases of the moon. 

      The knowledgeable new condo buyers would have researched the area’s neighborhood watch programs and considered a neighborhood watch program as a mandatory matter for buying the place.  This program is frequently under the auspices of a Sheriff’s Office or Police Department. The formula is basic: events and matters of concern are reported. The law enforcement agencies evaluate the “bit of trouble” and the “Hades/SHTF” enroute.  Private citizens really cannot make these evals – nor address them. The police can. The condo owner(s) of course have their law firm / attorney copied in on the reports.

      Can’t address ways to avoid / reduce risk question on the web.  I’m writing from Virginia and this specific subject is a current “hot political item” in both Richmond and Capital Hill, D.C. Much $$$ involved in the mortgage aspects of real estate. 

      • 3

        Hi Bob, 

        Good points and I understand issues for you with responses.

        A major issue with some of these condos is that a person would buy one or two condo units to begin and then lobby to have rental units added to condo board rules.

        Once he could start renting his unit(s), he would bring in the worst possible tenants. The meth heads and other like tenants would begin driving the other condo owners out. One by one, they condo owners would sell before the word got out about the problems in the building.

        As the units went up for sale, the person with the one or two units, would buy the now available units and continue expanding their ownership in the building.

        Each time, he would add more undesirable tenants – the worse, the better. As the building was more destroyed and occupied by a greater percentage of problem tenants, the remaining condo owners who were fighting to stop it, became overwhelmed and had to give up.

        Once the person who orchestrated the rental units and influx of bad tenants, controlled the entire building (or he and his buddies), the building was usually so damaged that it was condemned.

        Once the building is condemned, then everybody is evicted. The owner of all the condos can come in and refurbish and rivitalize the building (never mind the tax writeoffs/loss offsets) and whack those condo units back onto the market and get rid of every single one at a windfall profit.

        It shouldn’t be allowed, but sadly, it happens. I plant to follow this story and see if that is where the money leads on this one, Bob.

        After what I realized about how they can take a owner occupied building and let it become a rentals allowed building – there is no way I would ever consider a condo now. I had at one time considered if, with age, it might be an alternative to living in my home. Not after reading this.

      • 2

        Ubique, We’ve discussing concepts. The concepts still revolve around finances and legal business aspects.

        Think of the multi-million $ condos of New York City and Wash D.C. If someone can lobby, there can be counter measures involving the array of tools to protect the group’s assets (Their condos).

        A term here is”block busting” (“white flight”).

        “Undesirable tenants”, in an organized condo community, would have been  reported to the neighborhood watch point of contact and onward to the police or Sheriff’s office – via the association’s law firm / attorney.  Even Mayors, Governors and Premiers feel pressure.

        Here, the ethnic South Koreans and ethnic Chinese-Americans perfected their neighborhood watch programs.  Their investments will not be lost to lobbying or undesirables.

        I’ve been through much of this also.  Knowing the system and the pressure points does wonders.

        Not too much is new under the sun. There are methods and techniques to counter much.  It does require a group to discuss; not eligible for the web.

      • 1

        Hi Bob,

        There seems to be more actionable choices out your way.

        I think what happened in Saskatoon was because the condo owners were naive about what would happen if they allowed rentals.

        Most of the people I know would never buy a condo that allowed any kind of rental including air B&B rentals.

        Here, there are routes to complain, but getting results is awful. To further muddy the waters, it varies from province to province.

        I had friends with a detached home in an older neighborhood. A large home was rented out several doors down from them. The family that moved in was a horror show.

        Their kids ran up and over cars damaging them. The police were there over and over. There was one incident after another. It was so bad the block formed a citizen association over the matter.

        They lobbied for 7 years through every level of city and provincial government. The police were sympathetic but unable to have them evicted.

        What finally got rid of them was when the wife left the husband with most of the kids and returned up North where she came from. It took a bit, but finally the water was turned off for non-payment of the utility and finally, he and the kids were evicted.

        The block lost 7 years of peace over it. The landlord didn’t live in the area.

      • 2

        Good morning Ubique,

        Being naive about condo rentals is akin to a new prepper purchasing an expensive knife or multitool and the needed criteria not addressed. The research just was not done.

        It’s about the same here. An owned apartment, condo or co-op, is a piece of property with numerous attempts to steal the property no less so than stealing a trailer and fishing boat. If someone is considering buying a condo or a weekend fishing boat it is an inherent obligation to study the neighborhood’s safety valves such as the local political establishment, the law enforcement agencies, the local media, the local attorneys. I’ve known some people who spent enormous amounts of time – and some money – researching an area for premier public schools for their child. All other aspects were subordinated to the public schools research.

        The mentioned 7 years of lobbying is now considered not that long. It is an indicator of decayed gvernmental organizations.  The good news is that on year 8, the 7 seven years of efforts worked.  In the current DAV Magazine, someone wrote a letter thanking DAV for the help in getting medical care for him. He wrote that it took 7 years and 4 months of efforts.

        The US and Canada are about the same.  It requires groups dedicated to a cause and willing to do much work. Some areas are thriving and some areas are in decay.

      • 2

        Good morning, Bob,

        You are right that research is a huge part of prepping. One can never do enough of it, especially for important issues.

        To me, this is a cautionary tale for urban preppers and not just because of what happened, but also because of how the condo owners reacted to a very clear and present danger.

        In this case, their research wouldn’t have shown a problem because it started after everyone had purchased their condos.

        As I replied to Seasons4 below just before this reply to you, what boggles my mind, Bob, is why the condo owners, at least some of them, not recognize the problem brewing and sell at the first sign that there was a problem and it wasn’t going to be fixed?

        Why didn’t anyone get out of there when the second tenant(s) who were problems moved in?

        I also don’t understand why any decent tenants who were placed there by agencies and could have gone to their worker for help stayed there.

        Was it a form of denial? Is this a greater cautionary tale for all preppers because of how the condo owners reacted to a clear and present danger?

        Where was their self-preservation instinct? Losing some money on a property is never a happy occasion but was risking their lives and safety worth it?

        I related my home sale based on the first sign of trouble because I paid attention to my environment and knew to get out before it got worse. 

        I wasn’t planning to sell at the time, but I never get attached to “things.” So there wasn’t an emotional attachment for me. I have moved a lot in my life. Everywhere I have lived became my home for the time I lived there. I carry that sense of home with me.

        On a deeper level, I wondered if this wasn’t a good lesson for all of us as preppers for how seemingly reasonable people can make terrible choices in the face of catastrophe.

        Who cares if anyone lost money beyond at a certain point- they needed to get out of there. It was really, really dangerous.

        With respect to lobbying for change, yes, it does take time and that is how change happens. It takes committment and patience.

        I know people who had a problem tenant who moved into their genteel family oriented cul-de-sac. The landlord refused to do anything about the situation, which had become very bad.

        They were children of the 60’s so they organized and one morning staged a sit-in at the landlord’s residence. They were successful in their bid to have the tenant removed from the house.

    • 2

      I recently moved out of a condo into the first single-family home I have ever owned that wasn’t a mobile home. I wanted a garage and more space. My orientation toward prepping contributed to the decision because I felt my car was too vulnerable being out in the open in a parking lot and also because I had very little space to store any supplies.

      Rentals of at least six months in length were allowed in the complex. No Air B&B style rentals. Half the units were occupied year round by owners or long-term renters. Half the units were essentially vacation homes by people who had homes elsewhere. That worked well.

      There were only a dozen units in the complex, however. That is too small for a volunteer-run homeowners association board. The talent pool is too small to recruit conscientious board members. It was excruciating to try to get repairs done when we had to work through officers who didn’t want to spend money on anything. Also, we had common entrance hallways, which was a problem because people had divergent ideas of covid precautions and masks.

      If I ever own a condo again, my entrance will not be via a common hallway, it will have a garage, and it will be in a larger complex so that the board talent pool is larger (or it will have higher monthly fees so that a professional management firm is involved).

      I agree it’s generally a good idea to have one’s dwelling in condition ready to sell and to be emotionally ready to move. 

      • 3

        Hi Seasons4,

        Your example of why you moved and selected your current home is a good example of how prepping can influence the choices we make with respect to our living environment.

        I wanted to use the news story as a different type of prepping/survival lesson. It relates more toward urban prepping issues, but could also happen on a smaller scale in rural towns also.

        If we look at the extreme conditions in the news video, I can help but wonder, why wouldn’t any sensible person have simply moved at the first sign that troublesome tenants were in the building and that nothing was going to be done about it.

        Those tenants didn’t all move in at once. At the first sign of trouble, the condo owner(s) had the opportunity to sell and relocate before losing on their investment. Even if they lost on the investment, this was a matter of safety and security.

        This delay in reaction started me wondering about why they didn’t do that. I took that further in my mind and wondered about how people react when danger or threats are imminent. They weren’t safe and still they stayed in the situation. Were they in denial?

        I also don’t understand the decent tenants who moved into the building who were placed their by income assistance or any means. Why did they stay in the face of such danger and violence? 

        That’s why I related the story of how I noticed a change in my neighborhood and why I sold one of my homes based on that information. I knew when to get out of a situation that was brewing.

        As preppers, I think we are more aware of what is going on around us, or at least I would hope we would be. I think of us as detail oriented people.

        I have heard that there are condo boards that are difficult to work with or underqualified to hand the responsibilities of the position.

        Your criteria for if you ever own a condo again is well considered. A private entrance and professional property management are good points.

      • 4

        Ubique, I didn’t watch the video because I avoid watching upsetting images. I can consider such things in my mind, but I don’t want to see images. Regarding why people don’t leave unsafe environments earlier, I’m guessing this is a version of the “sunk-cost fallacy” from investment theory. 

        The sunk-cost fallacy notes that people are more likely to throw good money after bad than they are to cut their losses. If we can recognize that human tendency in ourselves and counteract it, we’re ahead of the game. 

        Also, moving can be expensive and overwhelming, and it requires good organization skills to navigate. Disciplined investors tend to do better than non-disciplined investors, and organized people with resources who aren’t easily overwhelmed tend to do better than others. It seems to me that all this comes into play regarding whether we move when the environment changes.

      • 2

        Seasons 4, This is a great post !

        You’ve presented the most important aspects of living with the required adjustments than my ramblings here.  Thank you.

      • 4

        Hi Seasons4, 

        I understand your avoidance of upsetting images as I have the same aversion to many images of overt violence that are widely broadcast. I didn’t care for the opening of the video and I think they could have made their point without including that bit in the news coverage. They are a major broadcaster here and usually don’t engage in sensationalized reporting.

        In retrospect, I was remiss in not applying my own warning upon the video and I apologize to you and anyone else who was affected by it for failing to do that. 

        I agree with the idea that “sunk-cost fallacy” is a factor for why people stay beyond what is sensible. Lack of experience could also be a factor. There is a fear of loss when the most sensible choice it to get out of a dangerous situation.

        I second Bob, thank you for a great post and for teaching me.

         

      • 4

        Thank you for your comments, Bob and Ubique. I had a further thought about how everyone in society benefits when people don’t get overwhelmed too easily. In a state of overwhelm, people can default to fight, flight, or freeze, none of which is likely to make the situation better. (I also recognize that everyone can get overwhelmed if too many things happen at once.)

        So one approach to making life better is to help ourselves and others become more resilient / not get overwhelmed quite so easily. That reminds me that people who have experienced past or present trauma can feel overwhelmed more quickly than others. So it’s in the best interest of everyone to reduce the trauma that others experience. 

        “Trauma-informed care” seems like a trending topic. A good friend of mine has a trauma response triggered by things that sometimes seem minor or “just life” to me. I am trying to figure out how to be a supportive friend without enabling what I might consider “stuck” behavior.

      • 4

        Hi Seasons4,

        I can offer some perspective on how to be a supportive friend to your friend who has a trauma response to things that seem ordinary or minor.

        This is going to be detailed so that you can see how these responses evolve and become the result of triggers, and why support is hard to ask for.

        I have mentioned here before that I have c-PTSD (most times I just shorten it to PTSD). I do this because I believe that there are a segment of preppers who have PTSD. 

        Chronic, complex (c-PTSD) means multiple events/trauma usually over time and for many of us with it, trauma that wasn’t treated immediately.

        No one, including my family, ever knew about what happened to me because I wouldn’t tell anyone. 

        I experienced multiple random acts of violence over a large swath of time.

        The situations that surrounded those events were all different. I was assaulted by a doctor at twelve. One of them involved being rescued out of a house after almost a year. I have survived a knife assault. I survived another attack where the assailant employed three different methods to kill me and I saw where he planned to dispose of me.

        There were other incidents, including the “near misses” such as a break and enter into my bedroom via the window.

        I couldn’t understand why these horrible things kept happening to me. I wasn’t involved in the “high risk” lifestyle attributed to some violence statistics. If anything, I believe I was very naive and too trusting.

        So, I defaulted to shame and blamed myself, and like other survivors of violence, stayed silent.

        Further, I had no language for what I had experienced. I didn’t know how to tell someone or to even explain any of it.

        There weren’t the same supports for survivors of violence in that era. PTSD was considered a military service related condition.

        Regardless of how well I thought I hid them, the symptoms, or trauma responses remained.

        I used to disappear all the time because I couldn’t handle the triggers that invariably happened around other people. I sought refuge in nature and the companionship of my dogs and spent a lot of time alone.

        PTSD is a social disorder. It is difficult to tell someone could they please put that table knife down because you are being triggered by it or the way they are holding it. It’s just easier to leave the room.

        What people saw was my responses to the ordinary things. They never knew that the table knife was a reminder of another knife in another time.

        I was one of the lucky ones who had a doctor who realized I had PTSD and was finally diagnosed. But even then, I stayed closed about the amount of violence I had survived. 

        After diagnosis, I became pro-active about understanding and healing whatever could be healed. Ten years of therapy took me to a point in that healing. Then I took it the rest of the way by writing about it.

        Today, I do better, although there are still triggers and situations I avoid because it’s just easier that way.

        So, here’s what I can offer about support from the perspective of one who has lived it, and who also has a few friends with it.

        PTSD is a wound that has never healed.

        I am a firm believer in getting the appropriate diagnosis and professional help. What may seem to be “stuck” behavior may mask a deep well of trauma beneath the surface. No one knows how deep that water is and that requires professional guidance to navigate it safely.

        Your friend’s trauma response is that persons means of communicating their distress. Every time a person is triggered, they are in some way reliving their trauma, and not willingly.

        To be supportive of this person means opening a dialogue so that they feel safe enough to tell you why they are in distress. This means establishing a level of trust where they can feel safe enough to talk about it, if they are able to talk about it.

        If the person is unable to talk about the trauma at all, then they need professional help.

        A supportive friend could say: “You are my friend and I care about you. Sometimes people go through things that they can’t talk about. I think that might have happened to you. If you can’t talk to me, I will be your friend and help you find someone that you can talk to who can help you.”

        When they react to something, gently acknowledge their trauma language and pause. For example, “I noticed you seemed a bit uncomfortable. Do you want to take a moment or have a cup of tea with me?”

        Your acknowledgment can help your friend acknowledge that she has a problem. We think of trauma as being blocked, but it also can become the “norm” for the person living with it. The person becomes desensitized to the effects of trauma and the resulting symptoms instead of the trauma itself, which is the goal of therapy.

        Also, note the details of where and when these triggers happen to your friend. It could provide a clue as to what that person may have survived.

        One last point before this turns into a book, your friend may not always make sense when speaking about the trauma. I call it “gapping.” 

        Our brains work to protect us during trauma. When we speak about it, it can be a little like talking to someone over a bad connection on the phone, where parts of the message are dropped. The traumatized person is attempting to recall the entire event and tell you about it. Some days, they can become overwhelmed and certain parts may just drop out of their ability to speak about it leaving “gaps” in their recall.

        I hope this helps you to help your friend, Seasons4, and thank you for caring enough to be supportive of that person. 

        For any preppers reading this who have PTSD, please get help. There are some wonderful support groups or one on one support and therapy available.

        Don’t let the trauma or who ever hurt you steal one more moment of your life. There is hope and help for you. You don’t have to suffer alone.

      • 2

        Ubique, I am sorry your experienced so much random violence in your life. I am glad you survived! Thank you for taking the time to write such a valuable account of complex PTSD and what’s going on behind the observable behavior. 

        A few of the concepts you mentioned that I will spend time with — PTSD is a social disorder, deep well of trauma, acknowledge their trauma language, the person becomes desensitized to the effects of trauma and its symptoms instead of becoming desensitized to the trauma itself, which is the goal of therapy. 

        You put an enormous amount of effort (time, money, and energy) into healing what can be healed. I don’t see my friend as being willing to invest that much effort into his own healing, unfortunately. We’ll see.

        Thank you again, Ubique, for sharing your experiences. I appreciate it, and I wish you the very best and much happiness moving forward.

      • 2

        Seasons4,

        Thank you. Post therapy, I can say I am happy to be here, too : )

        I hope that the above account might help someone who visits this forum. I believe there are a segment of preppers who have PTSD.

        There are ex-military who prep, for example. There are other civilians who began to prep after 9/11. As witnesses via the media coverage, they were traumatized deeply by the horrific events of that day. Still others are similar to my situation as civilians survivors

        I was very fortunate that when I moved back to Manitoba that I was able to access free mental health therapy. I give back through volunteering.

        Your friend may be able to access a support group which might not feel like a lot of effort in a group setting. Some trade unions and other sectors offer mental health counselling to employees and retirees via their staff or retirement benefits.

        Your friend is lucky to have you as a friend and support person.

        Thank you for the good wishes, Seasons4. They are much appreciated.

      • 4

        Well received, Seasons 4.  I’ve talked to several USN helicopter pilots and they use the term “stress overload” and “helmet heat”.  It’s a major issue for them and they put much time in attempts to minimize stress overload.

      • 2

        Bob, Haven’t heard the term “helmet heat’ before. It makes sense considering the level of stress they fly under.

        Thanks for the info on that.