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National Survey Affirms Community Association Success

3/10/2010  -  Alexandria, VA

For the fourth time over a span of 10 years, community association residents have told pollsters they are satisfied with their homeowners associations, condominium communities and cooperatives.

Independent, national research conducted by Zogby International in December 2009 showed that seven in ten community association residents are satisfied in their communities, with only 12 percent expressing some level of discontent and 17 percent neither satisfied nor unsatisfied.

More than 60 million Americans reside in an estimated 305,000 association-governed communities, from town home communities and cooperatives to high-rise condominiums and city-size master-planned associations.

The 2009 findings are strikingly similar to the results of surveys conducted by Zogby in 2005 and 2007. A Gallup Organization survey in 1999 showed similar results.

The news is positive for the homeowner volunteer leaders who serve on association boards, with almost 90 percent of residents saying board members "absolutely" or "for the most part" strive to serve the best interests of their communities. Only 7 percent expressed displeasure with their boards. An estimated two million homeowner volunteers serve on the boards that govern associations.

Other key findings

  • 91 percent of residents say they are on friendly terms with their association board members; just 3 percent indicate a negative relationship.
  • 82 percent say they get a “good” or “great” return on their association assessments; 16 percent say they don’t.
  • 76 percent say their professional community managers provide value and support to residents and the association at large; 18 percent say they don’t.

The survey was sponsored by the Foundation for Community Association Research, a nonprofit organization affiliated with Community Associations Institute (CAI).

"Given the state of the economy and housing market, these findings are reassuring," says Foundation President Lincoln Hobbs, Esq., a member of CAI’s College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL). "Americans have weathered difficult times, and that would normally create more negative views toward most institutions. That hasn’t happened in the case of community associations. That says a lot about the dedication and skill of the vast majority of homeowner volunteers and professionals who govern and manage these communities."

Association rules

While some homeowners chafe when confronted by rules they don't like, 70 percent say their association rules "protect and enhance" property values, while only 2 percent say the opposite. Twenty-seven percent believe rules have no impact. Often called Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs), rules in community associations typically address issues such as architectural guidelines, yard upkeep, pets and parking.

Although the enforcement of association rules can generate discontent and calls for more stringent regulation of community associations, only 10 percent of those surveyed want additional government control of association-governed communities. Almost 90 percent oppose more government involvement.

The best and worst

Asked to name the best aspects of living in an association, residents most often cite neighborhood attractiveness (23 percent), less maintenance for individual homeowners (22 percent), community safety (13 percent) and property values (11 percent).

Asked to name the worst aspects of their associations, 37 percent say there is nothing bad. That is followed by restrictions on exterior improvements (14 percent), dealing with neighbors (12 percent) and paying assessments (10 percent).  Association homeowners pay assessments for services and amenities provided by the association. Services can include landscaping, building maintenance, garbage pickup, snow removal and street lighting. Amenities can include pools, club houses, tennis courts, playgrounds and association-sponsored social functions.

Conflict among neighbors

Of those who cite neighbor-to-neighbor issues, 24 percent say conflict relates to the appearance of homes. Other leading reasons for strife include parking (12 percent), personal habits and noise (11 percent, respectively). 

“Conflict and dissention make headlines, and that’s what many Americans read in newspapers and see on television about community associations,” says Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, chief executive officer of Community Associations Institute (CAI).  “But when you ask residents themselves, the news is largely positive. While there are serious issues in some communities, this research affirms that vast majority of homeowner board members and professional managers are doing good work for the community associations they serve.”

Homeowners who are unsatisfied need to “step up and play a constructive and positive role in their associations,” Skiba adds. “You get out of your communities what you put into them. There’s no substitute for active and constructive homeowner involvement and no better way to build a true sense of community.”

Based on telephone interviews conducted in December 2009, the survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.8 percent. Zogby International has been tracking public opinion in North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Europe since 1984.

Created by CAI in 1975, the Foundation for Community Association Research is an independent, nonprofit organization devoted to common-interest community research, development and scholarship. CAI, with almost 30,000 members and 58 chapters across the country, provides education, resources and best practices to the homeowner volunteer leaders and professionals involved in the governance and management of common-interest communities.

For comparative data on the 2005, 2007 and 2009 national surveys, see 2009 National Research under Also of Interest in the Press Room.

Phone: 703-970-9235