Contributed by Janet L. Newcomb

Community association homeowner leaders are looking for more networking opportunities to learn from other board members and committee members, help with building a positive image for their communities, and support for fair laws and regulations.

That’s what more than 90% of CAI homeowner members stated in a survey conducted by CAI’s Homeowner Leaders Council earlier this year. Homeowners also were asked to share some of the challenges they face in their communities, what they need in terms of education, and how their community association living experience can be improved.

Skills development. Respondents value CAI education and would like to see incentives to encourage more homeowner leaders to get educated before they become board members. Most think education should help develop communication, conflict resolution, and leadership skills as well as provide an understanding of board member ethics, financial reports, budgets, reserves, governing documents, and insurance policies.

COVID-19 challenges. Homeowners surveyed had to address whether to close amenities or keep them open during the pandemic, concerns about potential liability, and helping residents understand that expenses continue even if amenities are closed. Communication issues included confusion about guidelines and compliance requirements and people with limited computer skills not understanding how to attend virtual meetings. Stress and isolation due to lack of face-to-face socialization opportunities also were challenging.

Most respondents say the biggest lesson learned is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Different types of communities had different issues and challenges. Flexibility and patience were important as well as clearly explaining the reasons for necessary decisions.

Long-term challenges. Respondents see these issues emerging in their community over the next five to 10 years: aging infrastructure; older residents aging in place; younger homeowners with different expectations; increase in rentals; inflation and rising expenses; inadequate reserves; keeping up with technology; electric vehicles and charging stations; educating people about community associations; finding people to serve on the board; and being up to date on relevant laws and government regulations.

CAI outreach. Respondents believe that CAI should reach out to more real estate agents, legislators, potential homebuyers, and homeowners who are not board members. It also should help members understand the role of chapters and legislative action committees. Homeowners believe their issues should be as important to CAI as those of community managers and business partners, and they believe community association management companies need more vetting and accountability.

Improving community association living. Respondents say it’s important to acknowledge the problems that community associations have and provide resources on how to prevent or fix them. There also should be an effort to highlight positive stories from community associations in local and national media. In addition, CAI can create a welcome packet that contains CAI educational material.

The Homeowner Leaders Council provides policy advice to the CAI Board of Trustees and serves as subject-matter experts for CAI staff on issues that are relevant to board and committee members as well as residents in community associations. The council will use the survey results to make recommendations to the Board of Trustees and CAI staff to improve your experience and support CAI as it continues to grow its membership.

Janet L. Newcomb is a board member at Springhurst Townhomes Homeowners Association in Huntington Beach, Calif., chair of the 2021 Homeowner Leaders Council, and a member of the CAI Board of Trustees.

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