5 Ways to Build and Sustain Great Neighborhoods
Great neighborhoods don’t happen by accident. They take neighbors who care about each other working together toward a common purpose.
How can you get your neighbors to team up and get results? Garland, Texas has successfully nurtured neighborhoods with help from the residents who live in them. Felisa Conner, Manager of Garland's Office of Neighborhood Vitality and Councilman Scott LeMay of Garland joined a CommunityMatters® conference call on April 10 and shed light on their city’s efforts to build great neighborhoods.
Here are five approaches from Garland that are sure to be useful in strengthening any neighborhood:
1. Address Curb Appeal
The perception of a neighborhood greatly influences its success. Recent research suggests that changing assumptions about crime and decline is easier than you might think. Start by picking up trash, planting trees, and installing flower boxes. Organize volunteers to maintain the exterior of foreclosed homes, and help neighbors who struggle to keep up with maintenance. In Garland, the DIY Garland program brings community organizations and neighbors together to focus on landscaping, window, door, and other exterior improvements.
2. Encourage Investment in Older Homes
The age of your neighborhood shouldn’t determine its health. Garland residents receive an Idea Book with advice and inspiration for renovations and upgrades appropriate for aging housing stock. When it comes to foreclosures, Garland’s GREAT Homes Initiative leverages volunteer labor, federal funding, and community partnerships to transform abandoned houses into affordable homes for first-time homebuyers.
3. Talk to Your Neighbors
How many of your neighbors do you know and talk to? For many of us, life gets in the way of our best intentions. We don’t talk to our neighbors or even know their names. And often, the conversations that do occur stem from conflict—things like barking dogs, loud music, or poor parking. You don’t need a neighborhood association to start building a stronger neighborhood. Organize a Neighborhood Walk, Stone Soup Event or simple project with suggestions from GOOD Magazine’s Neighborday Toolkit.
4. Organize Online
Bring your neighborhood into the Digital Age with an online forum. There are plenty of tools for online neighborhood organizing; NextDoor, Neighborland, iNeighbors, and Front Porch Forum for starters. An online forum can’t replace meeting face-to-face—you still need to knock on doors or hand out flyers to get everyone involved—but it can help bring new voices to the table.
5. Initiate a Block Club
Block clubs build community and maintain safety in a neighborhood. Unlike neighborhood associations, a club doesn’t require elected officials or formal committees. A block club can operate as a Neighborhood Watch or may focus exclusively on community building by hosting large events like Block Parties or taking part in National Night Out. If you’re feeling really ambitious, organize a formal neighborhood association. Garland offers great tips for getting started.
Find more ideas and inspiration for your neighborhood in the call recording and notes from our CommunityMatters Vital Neighborhoods conference call event.