Owning Your Home

Building Your Community by Being a Good Neighbor

When you buy a house, you’re not just buying a building on a plot of land. You are becoming a member of the local community. It’s important to become part of the fabric of your neighborhood. Having a civic-focused relationship with your neighbors helps to keep communication lines open and crime down.

There are a few ways that you can quickly get to know your neighborhood, including:

  • Volunteering with a non-profit organization doing work in your neighborhood
  • Joining your local civic club
  • Voting in every election

It’s important to choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you like working with youth, consider becoming a mentor or an after-school tutor. If working with other people is your thing, then the civic club will give you opportunities to represent your neighbors at official city meetings.

Most of all, voting in every election is critical to draw attention to neighborhood. Houston City Council members are interested in hearing what you have to say and earning your vote.

Investing Time Into your Community Pays Off

For many people, volunteering is not how they choose to spend their spare time. But if you are a homeowner, every hour that you spend volunteering is an investment in your community that ends up paying dividends. Aside from helping other people, you also benefit by getting to know your neighbors.

But not all volunteer opportunities are created equal. Before you do the first thing that comes to mind, consider:

  • What unique skills can you offer? Are you a computer genius? Can you build a house in seven days with your bare hands? Consider your skills first.
  • What kind of organization do you want to work for? You can support political, environmental, educational, and other causes. Some organizations want their volunteers to have fun, while others expect hard work.
  • How do you want to spend your time? Some people volunteer to spend time outdoors. Others want to help mentor children at the library.

If you’re inclined, write down a rough “volunteer plan” that outlines your ideal volunteer opportunity.

Neighborhood Clubs and Civic Associations

The city of Houston has thousands of citizens who are active in neighborhood clubs and civic associations. You can check to see if your new home is located in a region with an existing civic club, or you can follow the City’s instructions to form one of your own.

There are many advantages to being part of a civic club, including:

  • Formal recognition and communication with City of Houston officials
  • Ability to communicate neighborhood-level concerns, such as redevelopment, planning, and crime
  • Greater connection with your neighbors

Even if you’re not an active civic association participant, you should know how your neighbors are representing your interests. If your neighborhood is active, try to attend at least one or two meetings.

Voting is Crucial in Municipal Elections

After you move into your new home, one of the first things you should do is register to vote. City of Houston candidates are up for re-election every two years, so it’s helpful to stay informed of their progress and whether they are representing your interests.

Only a couple hundred votes typically separate the winners and losers of City Council elections. For Mayoral elections, the difference of a few thousand votes can determine who is the City’s chief executive. In other words, your vote matters.

When you’re going to the polls, make sure you:

  • Know your proper polling location
  • Bring valid, state-issued photo identification
  • Research the issues ahead of time

Texas ballots are notoriously long. You can check third-party websites like the League of Women Voters to get a better idea of the issues at stake and what your vote means one way or the other.