How HOA Boards Can Influence Public Policy
As a member of your HOA board, you know the value of your association. It serves an essential function for creating rewarding lifestyles for residents, protecting and enhancing property values, and much, much more.
And yet some legislators and decision-makers aren’t as familiar with these benefits as you are. Unfortunately, sometimes these are the individuals that have a hand in creating the policies and laws that directly affect communities, associations, and residents.
That’s where a cohesive public policy initiative comes in. As part of this effort, the trade organization known as Community Associations Institute (CAI) conducted some panel discussions with stakeholders and industry professionals to help define some important public policy initiatives. The results were published in Common Ground, CAI’s magazine. We’ve paired that insight with information from our own experts to arrive at five key areas of focus when it comes to how HOA boards can influence public policy. Here they are.
1. Communicate the true nature of homeowners’ associations.As a resident of a homeowners’ association, you’re familiar with its benefits. To enhance residents’ lifestyles, many HOAs offer amenities such as fitness rooms, swimming pools and tennis courts. Associations typically manage the exterior maintenance and landscaping needs as well. But those benefits can be hard to see for legislators who typically focus on governance. In truth, that’s only a part of what associations do – they also have an important role to play in building a sense of community and conducting the business of running a nonprofit corporation. While legislators can be eager to offer solutions, they may not be well informed on the full responsibilities of associations, which may result in “blanket solutions” being put in place, or a response that only answers to exceptions within a circumstance. Consequently, it is up to all of us to educate legislators on the full balance of duties that associations are responsible for, which will guide them in setting policies that fit all associations’ needs.
2. Emphasize financial stability.Associations are responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of their communities, including structural elements and operational systems. But as our communities age, infrastructure deteriorates. “Capital improvements, including asphalt roads, sidewalks and lighting, are typically taken care of by HOAs. Our legislators often forget how homeowners’ assessments fund these programs, and in many cases, without any breaks or tax credits,” says Barbara Holland, CPM – Regional Manager for FirstService Residential of Nevada. Large capital expenditures to replace or enhance infrastructure must be planned in advance – primarily through thoughtfully developed reserve studies. An excellent community management company can help you with this. It’s an important step to ensure of your association’s continued financial stability.
3. Take advantage of new technology.Technology means opportunity. New innovations have provided new online and web-based applications that enable associations to streamline communications, voting, and more. Public policy should get behind this trend, granting associations the flexibility to operate more efficiently. This happens most effectively through communications – something we cover in-depth right here.
4. Build relationships with public officials.It should be the shared responsibility of board members, residents, and community management professionals to foster good relationships and open dialogues with public officials. This is the only way to ensure they truly understand the benefits of association living. Developing these relationships will take ongoing efforts, and could benefit from the help of research institutions, such as colleges and universities, which could supply objective, valuable data and analysis to back up association claims. There’s a role for everyone to play – take a look at this article for ways to get involved.
5. Harness the power of branding.Your brand is your emotional and intellectual connection to your audience. It communicates your values and your beliefs. This is important because these principles inform many of the policy decisions that get made. Your brand is built many different ways, from the physical aspects of your community to your online presence and more. Public officials are part of this audience, so a cohesive brand will be influential to that group, too. Take a look at these marketing tips to build your brand.
Homeowners’ associations have a big role to play in residents’ quality of life and the valuation of property. Together, we need to do our part to make sure those who create public policy understand this role. With a focus on the areas we’ve discussed here, positive progress can be made.