While it can be rewarding, serving on the board of your condo owners association (COA) or homeowners association (HOA) is far from easy. The number of responsibilities can feel overwhelming, and every day has its own set of challenges. From managing finances and budgets to enforcing rules and regulations, board members have a lot on their plates when it comes to community planning for the coming year. 

So what’s the best way to break down these issues into manageable pieces? How do you map out a clearer path moving forward? The answer: A strategic community plan.  

strategic community planning in texas

What is a strategic community plan? 

A strategic community plan (SCP) is a working document that serves as a roadmap for an association's future. Ideally revisited annually (with a mid-year checkpoint), the SCP is based on an association’s current strengths and weaknesses and establishes a list of action items to take for improvement over the coming year. Don’t worry, this is not a formal, drawn-out process. It’s a flexible working tool to make your community planning easier. 

What should community planning for a Texas association include? 

Every SCP should include: 

  • Vision (What will enhance the life of every resident?) 

  • Mission (What are we here to do?) 

  • Goals (overall, general) 

  • Objectives (measurable, specific) 

  • Strategies (What’s the plan of action?) 

By providing a clear path forward, a SCP can help board members make better-informed decisions that promote community planning cohesion and benefit everyone involved. It’s a straightforward checklist that has been agreed upon by the board. 

texas community planning hoa coa

Does every Texas community have to make a SCP?  

No, a SCP is not a required document for every Texas community, but it is a reliable tool to develop a game plan for your board each year. It takes a small amount of time to create an SCP, but the benefits a board sees in the long run make it worth the effort. 

What are the consequences for community planning if an association doesn’t have a SCP? 

Without a SCP, associations tend to experience a lack of organization, unclear direction, and misalignment with their property management partners.  If there is no vision, no clear path forward, and no list of action items, it’s hard to know exactly what to improve, so less gets done. 

How does a Texas board start strategic community planning? 

A seasoned property management partner may send you board a detailed community planning questionnaire (also known as a “customer review”) for members to complete. The questionnaire may list essential operations required to run your association, asking your board to rate each as one of three categories: 

  • Meets expectations  

  • Needs improvement  

  • Needs immediate attention  

texas community planning customer review
From there, your management partner will meet with the board to help create a SCP based on how each daily operation is rated. By the end of the meeting, you should have a clear set of action items for the year ahead. 

For example

Optimizing Operating Spend / End of Year Forecastmonthly dues/special assessment communication 

  • Meets expectations 

  • Notes: No action needed 

  • Solution: Continue current process 

Enhancing Property Value 

  • Needs improvement 

  • Notes: Cleanliness and waste management issues 

  • Solution: Walk property daily (multiple times); create work orders immediately 

Management Office/Administration - follow-through with resident voicemails/emails 

  • Needs immediate attention 

  • Notes: communication issues, lack of responsiveness 

  • Solution: instruct staff to close the loop within 24 hours, plus a follow-up email 

In addition to providing community planning solutions, your property management partner should have the resources required to advise you on Texas laws, hierarchy of statutes, governing documents, training, preventative maintenance, reserve studies, and other guidance and board education. 

When it comes to putting together a SCP with your property management company, a reliable partner will listen to genuinely understand your board's specific needs, not just listen to respond. In the words of Justin LaHue, Regional Director of the High Rise Division at FirstService Residential Texas: 

"As long as we listen, they tell us exactly what we need to hear." 

texas community planning with property management

Why do you need a SCP? Isn’t that what the governing documents are for? 

Unlike your association’s governing documents, a SCP is not a formal record. It’s a working tool for the upcoming year, not necessarily set in stone. It needs to be flexible. For example, if a major catastrophe happens at some point throughout the year, a board needs to be able to adjust the community planning roadmap as needed.  

However, you may determine from what you find on your SCP session that you do need to update your governing documents or change rules and regulations.  

In other words, your association’s SCP outlines what your action items are for the year; the governing documents define how you can execute those action items. 

governing docs vs community planning texas hoa coa

How is a SCP communicated to residents? 

For high-rises in Texas, communication about a SCP is mainly between the board and property managers. However, some things communicated to residents may be the result of what the SCP set in motion.  

Communication about a SCP may work better (if signed off by the board) for larger associations like master-planned communities as homeowners appreciate feeling connected and knowing what their homeowners association is doing. 

texas strategic community planning hoa coa resident communications

What are the overall benefits of a SCP for Texas communities?  

A comprehensive SCP can provide numerous benefits to Texas communities, including: 

  • Direction: A SCP provides clear goals and objectives of the association, which can help board members allocate resources and prioritize tasks. 

  • Improved communication: When board members and their property management partner are on the same page, it's easier to work together and achieve common goals. 

  • Better budgeting: A SCP can provide a framework for budgeting, ensuring that the community's financial resources are being used wisely. 

  • Enhanced quality of life: For example, a SCP that includes preventative maintenance provides a safer and more enjoyable environment for all residents. 

  • Improved property values: A SCP includes action items that help the community look and function better. This gives residents confidence in their investment and increases the desirability of the area. 

Example strategic community planning tool 

Download our “Getting Started: Strategic Community Planning” mini-worksheet to get a head start on your own planning today! Click here to access.


FirstService Residential is simplifying property management.

Our FirstService Residential Texas family enjoys peace of mind knowing they’re in good hands. They can count on our 24/7 customer service for tailored solutions that take the balancing act out of property management. And our service-first philosophy means we don’t stop until what’s complicated becomes uncomplicated. To make life, simplified. 

If your association is not currently managed by FirstService Residential Texas, we would love to learn more about your community. Just click Contact Us below. We look forward to meeting you!

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Tuesday January 30, 2024