Social Sustainability: Promoting Neighborliness
Denver is known for it’s friendly and welcoming people and this attracts more and more people to move to our state. HOA Boards and HOA Management companies should build on this to create longstanding communities with deep roots. So how can HOAs foster a sense of community and work to increase socially sustainable communities? And more importantly, what role can they play?
HOAs exist to help maintain and increase the value of your home in particular, and the community as a whole. On a ground floor level, this entails insurance, maintenance, and other day to day items. But, there is much more that an HOA Board can do to increase community engagement and encourage their homeowners to be around long term.
Here are 5 quick ideas:
1. Create a Social Committee
A great first step is to create a committee whose sole focus is community outreach and events. This can be anything from having a quarterly block party, facilitating a ‘yard sale’ day, coordinating holiday events and/or outings (like having a neighborhood-wide trick or treating event for Halloween). They could also coordinate volunteer work or chose a worthy charity to have a raffle for. It may take a couple of tries, not everything is a home run, but being persistent and present is a great first step.
2. Build a Community Garden, Green Space or Dog Park
Nothing brings people together like shared spaces. And dog owners value a well-maintained dog park. This can also reduce pet waste costs elsewhere as folks keep their pets in one place. A garden can also provide organic food for families in the community or donations to folks in need. This will also add to the property values in the surrounding community.
3. Start a community Newsletter
This will keep people in the loop on the events you plan and help build a sense of shared activities. It can also be a good place to post announcements like updating keys and codes, any planned construction, or meetings. Simply receiving a document from the HOA on a regular basis that provides accurate and localized information builds trust and gives residents a sense that their HOA cares about them.
Start having planned community events. This can be as simple as a barbeque on the Fourth of July or having a Karaoke party in the clubhouse. Be persistent and be creative, you never know what people are going to respond to. The key is to build a tradition so that in time, whatever event you chose to hold, it becomes a staple. People who have young children are almost always looking for something to take their kids to do and community events can provide parents with a local option.
5. Pick a Charity
Here at CAP we donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to give back and acknowledge the need for cancer research. Your HOA can donate too! Pick a worthwhile and rated charity and see if your HOA can be a part of it. There can be generous tax benefits for the Association as well. Donating can help work against the perception that all an HOA does is bill people and fine them.
One thing HOA Boards can worry about is the cost of implementing any of these ideas. This is where big picture – financially sustainable thinking – comes into play. Many HOA Boards consist of volunteers who treat the HOA’s finances much like their own and don’t want to have to pay any more than they have to.
However, social sustainability should be seen as an investment with a very high return: not only do you get real fiscal value from having a happy community, but that kind of social cohesion is an asset that cannot be measured in pure dollars and cents.
By framing social sustainability not as a frivolous expense or extra feature, but as a part of long term strategy to uplift the community, the costs become much less burdensome. After all, it is the community’s money! And that money does not need to just sit in an operating account, it can be used to make sure that everyone lives in a neighborhood they can be proud of.