How to Create a Neighborhood Association

A Neighborhood Association is a distant cousin to the more traditional Home Owners’ Association, established to give residents of a neighborhood a voice in advocating for improvements, in planning and implementing community activities, in fostering communication and cooperation between neighbors, and in improving the quality of life for local residents. Traditional Home Owners’ Associations (HOAs) are typically limited to just people who own the homes of an area, including people who own property but don’t live in the neighborhood. They usually require that all homeowners in an area pay regular fees, which can be quite sizable, to create a pool of funds for repairs, maintenance, snow plowing, and other communal services. Unlike HOAs, participation and membership in Neighborhood Associations are typically voluntary, and they do not have the legal authority to establish rules or place restrictions on residents. However, they can be a great asset in developing a sense of community, organizing events, and coordinating volunteers.

There are a number of things that we can do as individuals to make our communities safer and more enjoyable, but if you want to really mobilize as many residents as possible, a Neighborhood Association is a great place to start. These steps can help you get started:

1. Identify Your Early Adopters and Community Organizers

You probably already know who these people are, but make a list of people that live in your neighborhood that you think might be really interested in helping to establish a group. Take time though to invite people outside of your normal circle of friends—the perspective of different backgrounds may significantly improve your likelihood of success.

2. Define Your Primary Purpose(s)

Have a good, in-depth conversation with your early adopters on what they think are the most important issues that a Neighborhood Association can or should address. Be respectful in hearing people out—different people will have different objectives, but some objectives can be grouped together under a broader heading of activities. If needed to form a consensus, record these suggestions and have people vote for their top three. Common reasons to form a Neighborhood Association might include:

Opportunities to socialize and network which can include building friendships, establishing book clubs, coordinating block parties and events;
Fostering the use of local services and businesses;
Advocating for community improvements and establishing a mechanism for communicating with local government services;
Fostering beautification activities in the neighborhood;
Organizing for crime prevention and neighborhood watch programs;
Organizing for disaster relief and establishing a Community Emergency Response Team;
Fostering activities and opportunities for neighborhood youth including support of local school systems; and
Reducing neighborhood complaints, including pet issues, lawn maintenance concerns, potholes, etc. (Although these things are typically the purview of an HOA.)

Once the primary purposes are defined, be sure to remind people that this doesn’t mean that the HA won’t address less popular concerns. It just helps to build a map for priorities for future growth and focus.

3. Map Out Your Endgame

Discuss among your early adopters what they want to see this group look like in five years time. Do they want a loose association of […]

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