Residential communities: grassroots governance

It can be a lonely, unrewarded and difficult journey for the president of a residential community.

Plenty of after-hours work, disgruntled property owners, loads of paperwork, and recurring trips to the bank.

It is remarkable that with so many different types of residential communities in different parts of the world, all arrangements seem to rely on one owner to handle the community’s affairs: the community association president.

Extensive literature is being published these days highlighting the rising importance of residential communities in places like China, where horizontal property communities are disrupting archaic civil law paradigms and creating whole new governance structures, like yeweihuis:

Gated communities in China: Urban design concerns


Suddenly, the president of the community becomes a relevant figure in the local community. Something like a tribal chief, he embodies the interests of sometimes hundreds of “commonholders” of a residential community. In China, they are called jianshihui zhuxi, roughly translated as “chairman of the committee”.

Such degree of responsibilities can only be fulfilled with the right aids and tools. Heads of State have ministers, CEOs have advisors, captains have crews and radars and tech stuff. But who helps the community president?

Community association committees can be formed to assist (in case you are still curious about China, homeowner association committees there are called xiaoqu guanli weiyuanhui). Property management companies can be hired to outsource most of the work. But is there a valuable tool that presidents can rely on from day one in their roles?

There is a plethora of software out there to manage residential community associations. From DIY community web pages to super-complex accountancy packages. The problem is that they don’t factor-in time, nor the fact that community presidents are usually inexperienced in running organizations.

Software should empathize with these owners who suddenly become community presidents. It should automate things whenever possible, but also help this user navigate local governance. Conflict resolution, facilitating general meetings, these are the things that you just cannot learn overnight and where good software can greatly assist.

Neighbours questioning the transparency of voting in an AGM? The software keeps blockchain records. Can’t get other homeowners to fulfil their obligations as commonholders? Software rewards them for their participation.

In the end, the learning curve in the process of governing a residential community should be assisted by software that empathizes with this poor human being that will probably be thrown into the lions’ pit overnight, after an AGM that he probably didn’t even attend.

Leave a Comment