Are Condos Family Friendly?

Yes, condos can be very family friendly. It is a North American myth that families need big houses to thrive and that children need a lot of space to develop well. None of this is supported by research evidence. This said, however, in the past few years, particularly in downtown Toronto, developers have focused on building smaller and smaller units in order to cater to investors who are looking for rental accommodations for singles. Very small spaces are definitely not family friendly and may even contribute to lower our fertility rate.

Paradoxically, detached houses have become bigger and bigger at a time when they have become emptier and emptier: Families have fewer children and, in a majority of Canadian families, both parents work. During the day time, children are in school.

Families that live in large houses actually have less time together because each family member spends most time alone in his or her room. Nowadays, kids have a cellphone, television, computer, Internet, and game system in their own bedrooms—and this is where they spend most of their time. In large houses, some parents now have to phone or text their children to get them to come down to eat...!

Opportunities for Children

Condos may provide more, not fewer, opportunities for children.

  • Sociability. Children living in a condo, especially a high rise, meet people on a daily basis in corridors, elevators, lobby and parking. They can learn to interact with others, how to be polite or considerate. They may become less shy and more sociable.
  • Diversity. Condos generally have a diverse population, especially in large cities, so that children are more likely to meet people from all ages and various backgrounds.
  • Peers. There are several other children around in the same building. This situation can help them make new friends. (Click here for Factors to Consider)
  • Physical Activity. Many condos have a pool so that children can have fun while exercising. As well, many condos are located near a playground or green space.

Opportunities for Parents

Living in a condo may offer many advantages for parents in their role.

  • Less Work. There is much less housework to be done in a condo as well as less ground work outside. This gives parents more time for their professional work, family and recreation.
  • Easier Access. Most high rises are now built along or near a transit route: Parents and children spend less time commuting or in cars. It’s also easier to access grocery and drug stores.
  • Easier Supervision. It may be easier to supervise children’s social activities in a condo because it is a fairly self-contained vertical neighbourhood or a townhouse area that is quite compact. It’s easier for parents to keep track of their children’s whereabouts.
  • Easier Internet Monitoring. It is easier to monitor children’s Internet activities because rooms in a suite are near the others. We are familiar with the dangers of the Internet for some children. Parents are bombarded with tips on how to monitor their children’s activities on the net. This is more easily done in smaller housing units than in a “monster” house.
  • Sociability. Mothers at home with small children nearly always meet other mothers in the same situation. In some condos, enterprising mothers exchange services and babysitting, arrange meetings, or go to a nearby park together.
  • Car Pooling. Car pooling for schools can more easily be arranged once parents know each other.
  • Moving. When the family expands in size and age, it is easy to buy a suite in the same building so that children don’t have to change school or neighbourhood.

Opportunities for Extended Families

Do you need your parents to help in babysitting your children? Do you want your children to get to know their grandparents better? Do you want to help your aging mother or a parent who has become frail? While at the same time neither you nor your parents want to share a same dwelling?

Condos are ideal for this. I personally know several young parents whose own parents have bought a condo unit in their building. Each family has its own space. Yet, all they have to do to help each other is take the elevator up. No need dressing up and jumping in the car to visit grandma.

Similarly, condos are ideal when a mature couple or person wants to help aging parents. Here as well, I know of several cases where adult children have bought a suite for their parents or their mother in their building. Others have bought a suite in an adjacent building.

Condos are quite safe for older persons: There are no stairs; help in opening outside doors is readily available; accessibility to the street and nearby stores is easy.

Cautionary Remarks 

A condo home is like a home anywhere else: location counts. Parents or would-be parents should look into the surrounding neighbourhood just as people do when they buy a detached home. Some areas are better than others and the same can be said about schools. (Click here for Buying a Condo?)

Please visit  or phone the neighbourhood school to make sure that your children can attend it. It's not always the case in some areas that have seen a lot of recent development. Prospective owners are too frequently misled on this issue by real estate agents.

As well, condo living does not mean that parental supervision is not necessary. For instance, small children should never be left alone on a balcony or terrace on floors above ground level. They could climb and fall.

Neither should they be left alone in elevators. Unless a building has cameras in the elevators, children below the age of 14 should probably always be accompanied by another person.

Underground parking areas are not a safe place for a child alone.

Even condos that are in a good location report incidents of teenagers and young adults who drink or do drugs in stairwells, locker rooms, and underground hallways leading to parking areas.

In other words, parents have to exercise the same caution and vigilance over their children that they would in other living environments. They only need to adapt their vigilance to the type of condo they live in.

Finally, condos are not properly sound-proofed. This fact and the addition of wood flooring mean that sound carries. Parents with active children should carpet the children's bedrooms, corridors, and areas where they spend most of their active time--otherwise neighbours, particularly those below them, will constantly hear their every move. And this cautionary note applies to adults as well!!!