Calgary is comprised of more than 200 amazing neighbourhoods. If you’re purchasing a new Calgary home, familiarize yourself with your neighbourhood and learn how to get involved with your local community association.
A Personal Touch
While the city as a whole is operated by the municipal government with the Mayor and Councillors, each neighbourhood has a community association run by a volunteer directors and members. It’s the purpose of each association to keep the community connected, to offer social programs and events and recreation. Most associations, which are separate from home owners’ or residents’ associations, have a meeting hall and are responsible for operating the neighbourhood outdoor skating rinks. The tireless volunteers that serve the community work every day to maintain a wonderful quality of life in every neighbourhood.
They are non-profit societies registered with the provincial government and some associations cover multiple neighbourhoods, such as the Northern Hills Community Association that have five member communities. There are large community associations which operate large facilities, such as Oakridge with an indoor rink, tennis courts, yoga studio, preschool and a concession. Varsity Community Association has a wonderful hall which is available for rent for wedding parties, banquets and board meetings.
Some of these larger associations have one or more employees who act as property managers. However, the lion’s share of all operations is done by volunteers. Calgary has tremendous volunteer spirit, and community associations are the largest volunteer-run organizations in the city with an estimated 20,000 people keeping our neighbourhoods vibrant and safe.
The Community’s Voice at City Hall
The associations also act as community advocates, taking the concerns of residents to area Councillors who then take these concerns to City Hall. Just one example of this advocacy is the South West community of Haysboro which is adjacent to busy 14 Street SW between Southland Drive and Heritage Drive. When the City of Calgary began planning a bus rapid transit corridor along 14 St SW, the association hosted a variety of open houses to engage the community in the city’s project. The association also lobbied long and hard for a pedestrian walkway to span 14 Street SW so residents and cyclists could cross over to Glenmore Landing Shopping Centre and the pathways long the Glenmore Reservoir safety.
Community associations generally have one meeting a month of directors and members with an Annual General Meeting for budget presentations and elections. Ward Councillors generally attend these meetings and keep residents informed of permit applications that may affect the neighbourhood. That includes permits for new retail establishments, road repairs and zoning changes. When a retailer is preparing to set up shop, such as a liquor store across from a school or a business that may create enormous traffic volumes, the community associations are generally consulted.
Providing a Sense of Belonging
Community associations create a sense of pride in the neighbourhood by hosting civic events such as Neighbour Day, instigated by Mayor Naheed Nenshi after the 2013 floods in Calgary. Stampede Breakfasts are also a tradition in Calgary neighbourhoods. Associations organize community clean-ups, providing dumpsters at designated areas for residents to bring discarded items. Tree planting is another activity. Playground beautification is another. All associations publish a community newsletter and have a website to further inform residents about events and issues that involve them.
Finding A Community Association That Meets Your Household's Needs
Finding the right community association means understanding what the household needs when it comes to thriving within the community. A family with young children will want to find a community association that is focused on families and activities for the family as a whole. As community associations give homeowners a sense of belonging and help build community within a neighborhood, it's important to identify the strengths of the association to see if it matches the desires of the individual or family purchasing a home within the neighborhood.
Whether an association is brand new, or has been established for decades may matter to a potential home buyer. For people who want to play a strong role in the development of a community association, moving to an area that is new and growing is a good idea. People who are better suited to sitting back and enjoying the activities offered by a community association but don't want much input may enjoy a well-established community association instead. The goal is to allow people living in a neighborhood to grow as a community and to develop relationships that help give people a sense of belonging.
Be a Part of your New Neighbourhood
If you’re moving into a new community, consider purchasing a community membership. Most memberships cost $30 a family or less. The community association can only exist with the support of it’s members, and you'll be among those who want you to enjoy your new Calgary home if you join.