Villages in Cities

Community Land Ownership, Co-operative Housing, and the Milton-Parc Story

Reviewed by Phil Koch

Posted September 15, 2020

Villages in Cities is a collection of short essays and historical documents that tell about the remarkable Milton-Parc neighbourhood on the northeast side of downtown Montreal. In the 1960s, a large development company attempted to transform a section of the already densely populated area just east of McGill University, with plans to demolish heritage buildings and to displace residents in favour of building “the city of the twenty-first century.”

Instead, residents banded together to resist the scheme. In 1968 they formed the Milton-Parc Citizens’ Committee to preserve their neighbourhood and to develop needed services; then, after two decades of work, a 1987 act of the Quebec National Assembly created the Communauté Milton-Parc, which extends over six contiguous city blocks and uses co-ownership to protect land from speculation.

The book is co-edited by urban sociologist Joshua Hawley and author-publisher Dimitrios Roussopoulos, himself a co-founder of the Milton-Parc project, and it includes several items by Lucia Kowaluk, a community organizer and social worker who also co-founded the MPCC. They and other contributors have experience with affordable community housing, environmental design, and participatory planning.

In their introduction, the editors suggest that “land ownership has always been central in questions of economic development, justice, and equality” and argue for the need to “decommodify” urban land — in other words, to remove it from market forces and speculation for the benefit of existing and future residents.

While Villages in Cities focuses on the historical accomplishments of Milton-Parc residents during an era that saw several Quebec political parties support this type of endeavour, the editors intend the book to be an inspiration and a resource for community organizers today.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the October-November 2020 issue of Canada’s History.

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