How To Build Community In Your Communities: Does It Matter?
Texas Multi-Family Housing Q&A with Caroline and Kerry
Caroline: Community, when it comes down to it, is the real first responder of any society. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston for instance, it was the community that acted to help people before anyone or anything else. It was the neighbors who checked on the elderly around them to see how they were doing. It was the neighbors who started clearing away debris, like fallen trees, so that traffic could flow more freely up and down streets. It wasn’t until after the storm passed that the bigger actors, companies like HEB and Kroger, and government entities, started to offer their services. Community can be created, but it takes someone to begin the process. Once a person gets to know at least one neighbor and lets that neighbor know, “if you need anything, let me know,” then the community can blossom. Properties are designed with community in mind. An open and inviting clubhouse, cabanas, and grills are often conveniences and perks but when you pull away from the sales pitch -- they are truly vehicles to foster community. Localism is not just about helping recover from disasters, it is a way of life that makes neighbors out of strangers. It is important to remember that community is about people, not things or ideas. What is beautiful is that “community” has no rules. Say for instance you live in an apartment complex with 300 units and 500 residents, it does not take “buy-in” from all 500 residents to build community -- it starts neighbor to neighbor, person to person. Twenty residents can be a community and with time, and most importantly, action, a community can grow. Alexis de Tocqueville observed community in America in its earliest form when he wrote in Democracy In America, “Americans of all ages, conditions, and all dispositions constantly unite together. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations to which all belong but also a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very specialized, large, and small. Americans group together to hold fetes, found seminaries, build inns, construct churches, distribute books, [and] dispatch missionaries to the antipodes. They establish hospitals, prisons, schools by the same method.” What is so magnificent about community is it has the unique ability to be a catalyst for good. Kerry: Community matters and we should all be taking an active interest in making a real investment in it. Whether it starts with a smile at your neighbor two doors down to local crime stopper events you attend in your neighborhood. Renewing the American community starts here and has been proven to thrive in multi-family housing. The community can enrich the lives of you, your families, and your neighbors. A great way to start is having your small community organize a clean-up. One of the best parts of doing this sort of action item is the ability to do good by example. Promotion both before and after add to the perks of calling a multi-family property home if the management makes it a priority to focus on building a culture of giving back. People care about the place they live, they take pride in it -- that goes for multi-family rental dwellings too. Before, let people know what’s happening, talk about the issue, talk about the reason for the action. Then afterward, tell people what you did and why. If you are picking up trash as part of a clean-up, maybe you will make people more aware of their responsibility, and maybe you will remind them to keep their litter off the ground next time. Renewing the concept of community in America starts here and has been proven to thrive in multi-family housing. This is what Alexis de Tocqueville saw that awed him enough to write about it. American streets really are paved with American dreams and that doesn’t always have to look like a single-family neighborhood. Community is everywhere.