In an urban environment, people can feel isolated, though they live close to each other. While high-rise residential buildings put families near one another, living close doesn’t turn a group of neighbors into a community and that’s understandable, since people are busy and schedules are hectic. In some buildings in their downtime, few residents eagerly attend their building’s annual meeting or socialize with their neighbors. But attracting committed board members and creating a sense of community improves the quality of life within the building and saves money. It’s good to know that there are many ways that co-ops and condos can work to foster a stronger sense of community among their residents, while also attracting new board members and committee members.
In the city, people don’t always want to interact with strangers, because they’re used to being on their guard. Others feel no reason to socialize. In some multifamily communities a significant percentage of the residents are renters, who may not be as fully invested in the community. Some are newly arrived shareholders still stuck in a renter’s mentality, and don't immediately see the value in forging connections with their neighbors.
“A lot of the problem is most co-op owners are working people. Their time to participate is limited,” says Steven Gold, president of Hudson View Associates, a management firm in Manhattan. “When I see them get involved, it’s something infringing on their life.”
In some buildings, part-time residents who also live elsewhere are not always attuned to what’s happening in their city home. People with busy careers and families don’t have the time to volunteer, and some people prefer to remain anonymous and don’t want to be involved. Some buildings don’t offer much enticement to go to community functions, while others get creative.
Jay Cohen, vice-president, director of operations for property management firm A. Michael Tyler, said his company serves some clients who take a “town hall meeting” approach to the matter. A. Michael Tyler encourages its clients’ boards to have town hall meetings two or three times a year. At town hall meetings, the board of directors tells owners what’s going on with the building, and refreshments are served. Depending upon the needs of the community, the board might invite an architect to talk about a planned maintenance project, or have the accountant talk about the building’s finances.