Residents' associations are organisations formed by groups of people from a specific geographic community who come together to address issues within their local area and act as a voice for their local community. In one form or another they have existed since the mid nineteenth century. In many cases they were founded within newer communities, for example as new settlements were built in British Commonwealth countries, and in the UK many residents' associations were formed by the newcomer-residents of the housing estates that proliferated between the World Wars.
The majority of associations are structured to include a chair, vice-chair, secretary, treasurer and committee members. These positions are decided by way of nominations at an annual meeting when they can be challenged/altered.
Some associations meet to address one specific issue (and quite often some major and controversial local issue is the stimulus to form an association), while others address a wider spectrum of matters. Some residents' associations decide to run candidates for local office to increase their leverage, such as the Residents Associations of Epsom and Ewell which has controlled the local authority since the 1930s, while others decide to remain as advocacy or action groups independent of any political process. While generally eschewing national party politics, since the reform of UK electoral law in 2000 several British residents' associations have been obliged to register as locality-based political parties to enable them to participate in local elections for borough and county councils.
Membership of a residents' association is normally open to all local people residing in a defined area such as a housing estate, a large residential building, a suburb or an electoral district of local government. They are generally wholly inclusive.