The Connexions Annual:
Introduction to Community, Urban, Housing
We humans have lived, worked, and played in community groupings
since the beginnings of our history. Our communities have been crucial to us not only for our physical survival,
but also as the source and ground of our social life and our values. Our sense of belonging to a community,
of community as a bond between us, has held us together and enabled us to live and act in common. The health of
community networks and community-feeling are vital indicators of
Today, communities everywhere are in crisis. Industrial societies
have proven themselves to be remarkably efficient destroyers of traditional communities, without, however, being able
to offer viable alternatives to replace them. The automobile especially has led to the shattering of human-scale,
face-to-face communities. Where people once lived within walking distance of their workplaces, their churches, and
the local markets, they now tend to be dispersed and anonymous.
`Home entertainment systems' -- television, radios, stereos, etc.
-- have further contributed to atomization and the erosion of community networks and collective
traditions, as have countless other patterns of modern life.
The erosion of community has also eroded much of the basis for potential
movements of opposition and change. Successful movements for change require that people know and trust
each other, through working together, living in the same neighbourhood,
or through voluntary association. Without the existence of natural
communities, this becomes much more difficult. Indeed, those in
positions of power have often consciously pursued a strategy of
encouraging divisions along the lines of race, gender, language,
ethnicity, and religion, precisely in order to prevent people from coming together in unions or in community groups to
challenge their dominance.
It is no surprise, then, that we are seeing everywhere the signs
of a social breakdown which can be linked to the breakdown of community and shared values. The dominant value system
can increasingly be reduced to the idea that the only thing that
matters is to get as much for yourself as possible. The real estate
speculators and the street criminals both live by this motto, and both contribute their share
to making cities less liveable. Governments at all levels make planning and transportation decisions which only worsen
In the face of all this, people are attempting to organize resistance
and to work for alternatives.
One key issue bringing people together is concern for the environment:
the air we breathe, the water we drink, the noise and the toxic wastes in our neighbourhoods. Another crucial
issue is housing. All across Canada the number of homeless or inadequately
housed people has been increasing. Unemployment, skyrocketing prices,
a failure to build affordable housing, and government policies of `de-institutionalizing'
those in need of care, like psychiatric patients, by dumping them on the streets, are all contributing to
the crisis. Community based organizations know that the disappearance
of secure and affordable housing is a major contributor not only
to homelessness, but to many of the other social problems with which
they are trying to deal.
One response has been to initiate non-profit housing projects and
to urge governments to do the same. Increasingly, co-operatives
and community and church groups, rather than private developers
or governments, have taken on the task of building low-income housing,
albeit with much slimmer resources.
Some groups have also raised the vital, but explosive, issues of
land ownership and control. They argue that land and housing should not be commodities bought and sold to enrich
a few. They have proposed heavy taxes on speculators, and they maintain
that land use should be guided by planning based on human needs
and respect for the environment, not simply determined by whether
someone can make a profit.
Groups across the country are working on these issues. Most are
locally oriented, and some are also seeking ways of joining with
others to increase their impact and potential.
Contact information for Ulli Diemer:
Aussi disponible en français:
Connexions: Introduction la Communauté, l'Urbanisme et le
También disponible en español: El
Anuario de Conexiones: Introducción a Comunidad, Urbano,
Other Overview Articles from the Connexions Annual:
to the Connexions Annual
to the Arts, Media, Culture section of the Connexions Annual
to the Community, Urban, Housing section of the Connexions Annual
to the Development, International section of the Connexions Annual
to the Economy, Poverty, Work section of the Connexions Annual
to the Education, Children section of the Connexions Annual
to the Environment, Land Use, Rural section of the Connexions Annual
to the Health section of the Connexions Annual
to the Human Rights, Civil Liberties section of the Connexions Annual
to the Lesbians, Gays section of the Connexions Annual
to the Native Peoples section of the Connexions Annual
to the Peace section of the Connexions Annual
to the Women section of the Connexions Annual
and Reading List from the Connexions Annual
Other Resources and Links:
Online: Selected Community, Urban, Housing Links
Links - Connexions
Directory A-Z Index - Connexions
& Broadcasters Online - Volunteer
Opportunities - Publicity
& media relations resources