The emergence of the popular "condo lifestyle" is the inspiration behind a new Toronto children's book.
Toronto journalist Jackie Burns is the author of The Condo Kids: Adventures with Bob the Barbary Sheep, which tells the story of a group of kids living in a condo building.
Noah, one of the kids featured in the book, wants to adopt a pet. After his mother's constant disapproval, he executes a plan to sneak a Barbary sheep from the local zoo into their condo building. With the help of the other "condo kids," he goes to great lengths to hide the sheep from adults.
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We spoke with Ms. Burns and her nine-year-old son, Nathaniel Durkacz, about family condo life.
Why did you decide to write a children's book about condo life?
Jackie: I first got the idea to write a kids book about children growing up in condos when we lived in downtown Toronto with our first son. When he was a toddler he used to stand in our solarium and wave to the babies and toddlers who would appear in the windows of the condo across the street and I just thought that would make a really cute little kids book.
I feel like now it's kind of timely because a lot of people are moving into condos more than ever. In Toronto right now, and in other major cities in Canada, housing prices are at an all-time high – and people are feeling like they can't afford a house for their kids. I thought it might be cool to get the message out there that condo living can be amazing with kids and not to feel the pressure to have to buy a house to give your kid a happy childhood because there is a great lifestyle that can be had in a condo and it's a great alternative for people looking for another option.
What important elements of condo living did you try to capture in this book, especially for kids who don't know what it is like?
Jackie: I think kids who live in a house will say, "Wow, that's really cool if I lived that close to my friend!" And that's kind of a romanticized idea of living so close to your best friends. I'm hoping to show them that there is a different way of living, not just in a house because obviously around the world millions of families live like this. The latest census numbers that came out for 2016 show 44 per cent of Toronto residents live in a condo and 40 per cent live in single detached houses.
What would you say about the overall experience of living in a condo with your family?
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Jackie: I always felt the pressure to give my kids a house, to make sure they have the best childhood and I would like to tell people that you don't have to live in a house to have a happy home. My kids would probably get really upset with me now if we moved to a house because they are so happy with this lifestyle. So I feel like if people are going into debt and over their heads just to be able to afford a house thinking that that's the only way for their kids to have a happy childhood, it's not necessarily the case. There are amazing aspects to living in a condo and I think, for kids, it can actually be a bonus to live in a condo.
How do you like living in a condo?
Nathaniel: I love it. It's just so easy because it's one floor and everything is in one area so you don't have to walk up and down stairs. I also love how instead of walking down the street to go knock on your friend's door, you can just hop on an elevator and go down and knock on your friend's door. It's convenient. I like it because there are squash courts and at night, when you can't play outside any more, there's a squash court which has light so you can play hockey and soccer or basketball.
Do you ever think you would want to live in a house?
Nathaniel: No, I wouldn't want to live in a house, I love living in a condo. There are a lot of fun things to do.
This interview has been condensed and edited.