The concept of high-rise living—people on top of each other—or across a privacy fence in condo living, doesn’t automatically equate to a sense of community; in fact, the close proximity sometimes has opposite effect. The reality is, residents with hectic schedules and thriving careers, or those who are continuing their education and/or raising children, often have minimal time or interest in socializing with neighbors.
If a sense of community has value—both real and perceived—what is the best way to achieve this network of support and communication? What steps should an HOA take to foster this intangible benefit? What, if any role, should property managers play in building community awareness? What can busy residents contribute to improving the quality of life in the place they call home?
Benefits of Community Living
Jeffrey Stillman is vice president for Stillman Management, located in Mamaroneck. He coordinates the technology resources, software, and online communications systems for his firm and the properties it manages. Stillman feels the same technology that allows for better online communication is just one reason there is less face-to-face communication between human beings in general, including the residents of a condo or co-op community.
According to Stillman, the demographics of a property—coupled with a lack of common interest—is a barrier to building a strong sense of community. He says 20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work in relation to community building and awareness, and notes the lack of residential involvement as a significant problem in the quest for developing a sense of community.
When properties increase community contact, usually tolerance is the result. Residents are more likely to overlook small issues—like occasional noise or strong cooking odors. It becomes easier to talk with other residents and exchange ideas; the atmosphere becomes friendlier. Often, trust grows along with tolerance.