When you hear the words ‘body corporate’, what do you think of? Unfriendly neighbours? Power hungry committees? The barking dog cooped up all day in the unit next door?
What about when you hear the word ‘community’? Maybe this brings to mind some more warm and fuzzy ideas, such as belonging, shared events, helpful neighbours, and cooperation.
Unfortunately, bodies corporate can often be just buildings full of strangers rather than resembling anything close to a community.
In our role as community managers, we see a lot of different strata complexes: big ones, small ones, high rise apartment blocks, and gated estates with backyards. However it is not the physical structure of the complex – whether it is brand new and shiny or has won design awards – that makes it a nice place to live. It is the people.
As more and more people move into shared living for the first time, it should be a priority for all owners to develop a sense of belonging and ownership. So how can you improve the sense of community in your strata complex?
Do you know your neighbours’ names? If you don’t know your neighbour, it can lead to an inability or reluctance to approach them about small issues. This may cause any tension to escalate into something much bigger. Try introducing yourself to your neighbours, especially those with whom you share walls. Have a friendly chat with them and use this as an opportunity to get to know each other and understand each other.
Do you know your rights and responsibilities? Sharing building information and by laws so that residents get up to speed quickly on your strata policies will help them feel included, in control and informed with what they need to comply with the community’s expectations. This helps to prevent any unintentional infractions and goes a long way towards garnering positive relationships.
Is there open communication? A communication medium that facilitates communication with all residents, for example Facebook, could be implemented. As an online noticeboard, it can be used to:
Do you attend your AGM?
AGMs are a great way for the entire community to come together to find out what’s happening in the community, share views and concerns, and get to know other owners.
Would you consider joining the committee? Becoming a member of the committee is also a good idea to help gain a sense of community. Serving on the committee will help you get to know your neighbours and allows the body corporate to tap into a vast array of experience and expertise that it might not have otherwise had.
Are all residents included? It can be easy to fall into the us/them divide when it comes to owner occupiers and tenants. However this can sabotage your chances of achieving a feeling of community. Long term renters are equally as concerned as owner occupiers, and arguably more concerned than investment owners, with the maintenance of a functional, stable and harmonious strata community.
In a time where strata living is becoming increasingly popular, owners and tenants are looking for a community experience from their strata scheme. A small effort on the part of all lot owners is all it takes for this hope to become a reality.