Condominiums in Canada have come a long way from their shaky start way back in the last century. Condo lifestyles and developments are now as varied as those associated with freehold house ownership, with the promise of increasing diversity as this decade unfolds. The complexes are communities within communities. Condos come in all shapes and sizes from commercial space to urban townhouses and rural bungalows, but high-rise units remain very popular.

Technically, condo owners do not own "a condominium" since this term actually refers to the entire building and the associated rights and real estate. Residents are exclusive owners of the unit they buy, however "unit" is defined in the condominium corporations documents. Together the unit owners also share ownership of the common elements, or everything that is not included in the units. Owners also share responsibility for the condominium's operation through the condo rules and corporation that dictate everything from day-to-day management to long-term maintenance strategies.

Although urban condominiums are popular for as many reasons as there are buyers to purchase them, this type of housing offers a unique entree into neighbourhoods that might otherwise be out of reach for urban buyers. That's not always because areas are very expensive, but also because some locations were not traditionally residential areas. New condominium developments and condo conversions of industrial buildings continue to bring fresh vitality to downtown neighbourhoods.

One couple was attracted to condo living by the distinctive Toronto core community that grew out of an urban renewal project in the historic business district around the city's St. Lawrence Market.

"My husband and I fell in love with this area when we moved here," said Maggie Fairs, Founder and Executive Director of The media Foundation. "We had come to Toronto on visits and explored all the different areas and neighbourhoods, so when we looked for a place to buy, we only looked in this neighborhood."

The media Foundation (mF), a national, nonprofit organization intent on helping the voluntary sector raise its collective voice, connects communication professionals with the nonprofits and charities through seminars, events and mF's media-matching program, which pairs voluntary organizations with professional communicators.

Maggie, who moved back to Canada from England, is attempting to transplant a British idea to help Canada's more than 80,000 registered charities and countless nonprofits. Fairs found that although a few networks did provide specific sector services like IM/IT Canada's efforts to foster IT excellence, there was no communications forum that targeted the needs of charities and nonprofits.

"In the UK, the voluntary sector is well respected and there are [communications] resources available," said Fairs who has worked extensively here and in the UK for large, big-budget charities as well as small grass-roots organizations. "I volunteered with small charities and was amazed at their lack of resources. Some had never done a press release even though they have cases studies and results [to use in one.]"

From the home office in her condo unit and shared office space in the area, Fairs promotes the media Foundation and its activities while continuing with her own public relations consultancy.

"The media Foundation is a labour of love that has the potential to grow, and I'd love to have it [create] a full time job," said Fairs. "When it is very successful, I would like it to have its own office and to run seminars across Canada."

The Foundation currently provides communication and professional development seminars in Toronto that are geared to the voluntary sector and offered "at a fraction of the cost that [attendees] normally pay." This revenue supports the registered nonprofit and its website.

Fairs feels that owning a condo unit gives her a sense of ownership in the community and the security to undertake the launch of this national non-profit network.

"I'd like to give them a community," said Fairs. "Many work in isolation. There are tons that do similar work, but are not connected. If I could just join them up. Toronto has 5,000 charities, the majority run by 3 or 5 people. They are always fighting for donation dollars. In the UK, the charities were a lot more willing to work together and saw the benefit of working together ... . Until we start treating charities and not-for-profits like a business, we are in trouble."

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