Originally conceived as a new housing form in Puerto Rico, community living took shape in Chicago in the early 1960’s by way of the passage of the Illinois Condominium Act in 1963. The concept offered home buyers a less expensive alternative to buying a single family home and promised fewer headaches and issues related to maintenance and repairs. Since then, urban planners and developers have built a tremendous amount of community associations in and around Chicago with the larger high rises mostly along the lakefront, smaller condominium associations within the heart of Chicago and larger Garden Style and HOA gated communities in the far suburbs. 60 years later, the number of community associations within the State of Illinois is now around 25,000. The other benefit behind community living envisioned was that it was supposed to encourage togetherness. The fact that so many individual homes are built so close together encourages the owners to connect with one another. Whether it is by serving on the board, attending board meetings or attending social events, homeowners have multiple ways to meet their neighbors and form friendships.
Togetherness Didn’t Take Hold
Unfortunately, the concept of togetherness within community associations didn’t take hold as it was originally intended. Over the last 20 years, the demands of our careers and work places have skyrocketed as the ubiquitous internet and rapidly increasing technology has made it easier for employers to demand more output from workers. This has made it more of a burden to serve as a board member and has resulted in fewer homeowners participating in board meetings. Nowadays, fewer people have the time to do things that they would normally do outside of their work and career.
Communities Confronted With New Challenges
And now we are all confronted with a new challenge within community living (and everywhere). And as a result, community association living is going through a transformation. Board meetings are now online, homeowners are sheltering in place, people are mostly working from home and vendors are working with staggered or skeleton crews that have hampered the amount of services normally available to community associations. Some association board of directors are asking janitorial/cleaning vendors and restoration vendors to sanitize the common areas more frequently while other boards are facing an increase in accounts receivables due to the large number of layoffs and company furloughs that are hurting (financially) homeowners within community associations. To make matters worse, community associations don’t have any legal recourse at this time due to the current situation that has paralyzed our legal system/courts and government institutions. So where do we go from here? What is the response to this societal crisis?
Adapt to the Situation
It is very simple. We adapt to the situation. We don’t shrink in fear. When life gives you lemons you make lemonade. With the shelter in place order, many people are feeling disconnected and alone. Don’t let this happen to the homeowners within your community.
Connect with Others
Now is the time to make a concerted effort to connect with fellow homeowners more than ever. Now is the time to reach out and connect with each homeowner within your community. Setup weekly online town hall meetings. Setup monthly online board meetings. Find ways to ensure all homeowners within your community feel connected. This will truly pay dividends in the long run.
If you have a management company, make sure that they communicate with the board and homeowners any change in response times or service performance due to the current situation. Make sure that any and all changes are communicated to the homeowners. Also, make sure to encourage homeowners to communicate with the board if they have fallen into financial hardship due to layoffs, furloughs or downsizing of staffing.
Unite Homeowners in Your Community
It is also time to review the overall performance of the association by analyzing areas such as capital planning, maintenance and repairs, board meeting dates, rules and regulations and financial controls. The coronavirus pandemic has taught us a lesson. The lesson is that community living is all about togetherness not about disconnectedness. Seize upon this opportunity to unite the homeowners within your community, show them that their health and well-being is at the top of mind for the board of directors. Together, we can make great things happen. With all of the homeowners now spending most of their time at home, creating an enjoyable community living experience is now more important than ever.