Every two years during the Summer and Winter Olympics, countries of the world gather for what could be some of the most remarkable cultural experiments of the time. It is a fascinating juxtaposition of extreme nationalism and ultimate respect for people from all cultures and ethnicities as they compete to win gold.
The lesson for all of us in homeowner association (HOA) management? The importance of recognizing the immense benefits of embracing diversity and acknowledging the different cultures existing in our communities in all our boards, homeowners and management teams.
While there are advancements happening, there is still a long way to go. If a protected class under the FHA guidelines moves into your community association, there is a chance their voice is not heard during board meetings and that they feel unwelcome in a neighborhood of people who could be very different from them. In other words, diverse people may live in the same area, but it does not always guarantee an inclusive community. It is in the HOA’s best interest to encourage inclusivity by making everyone feel like they belong.
How can a board, committee or fellow neighbor make protected classes feel welcome and heard?
- Promote Diversity. Specifically welcome and engage racial and ethnic diversity as it creates and fosters community. Make sure new members are welcomed, listened to and given opportunities to become involved.
- Make Rules Understandable for All. You would do this with any new HOA member if they asked. It is more important, however, if that new HOA member’s first language is one other than English. Governing documents, rules and community guidelines are challenging to navigate for many people but imagine if only somewords make sense. Never assume your new HOA member will need your help, but if they ask, be there to lend a helping hand.
- Diversify the Board. By expanding your circle, you will discover ideas and possibilities that the association may not have yet explored. Even if you are not on the board, you can encourage inclusion by creating a representative group that converges with your board regularly. We can all benefit from the minds of our culturally diverse neighbors.
- Inclusion Communities. More communities are forming committees that address this crucial topic. They are a great start to building community trust among people who feel underrepresented. Neighbors will come out of their homes and mingle when they are comfortable. Communicate with protected classes in advance of the next board meeting; let them know the date of the next election and inform them that they have the same opportunities to run for a seat on the board.
- Craft Inclusive Meetings. Rigid meeting structures can deter people from participating — nobody wants to feel like they don’t know the rules or can’t ask questions. Meetings need to be welcoming and accessible to all, every time. For example, even if you have never seen a person using a wheelchair at your meetings, space still needs to be wheelchair accessible. If it is a small meeting, consider having all participants introduce themselves and how long they have lived in the community. Make sure to explain the agenda and how the meeting will run. Consider translating all membership communication into Spanish if that is a predominant language of the association.
- Develop Projects that Bring Neighborhoods Together
- Block parties
- Community gardens
- Crime prevention initiatives
- Directories and newsletters that spotlight homeowners
- Holiday celebrations/potluck dinners
- Neighborhood cleanups
- Yard-of-the-month programs
- Sharing information about volunteer opportunities within the community
Planning for the neighborhood’s future, building support, and creating a durable community are crucial for a healthy HOA to serve the interests and concerns of the people within the community. An association that embraces and represents people of many different cultures and backgrounds proves more successful in identifying problems and finding solutions.
For more information on running a successful HOA, visit our HOA Management Services page.