Want To Join a Rich And Fulfilling Community Life? Try Social Housing

a multiracial group of ladies smile above a colourful quilt
Crescent Hall Quilters at CitySpace photo by Piedmont Council for the Arts is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0
A cheery community of quilters from Crescent Hall public housing in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Any upwardly-mobile strivers intent on discovering the pot of community at the end of a rainbow should disabuse themselves of any idea that financial success and conspicuous housing are the shining pathway. One need only read as far as U.S. Senator Rand Paul’s donnybrook with his affluent neighbour some three years ago, in which one or both were suffering from what can only be called ‘leaf rage’ — at least that was the opinion of the developer who built the luxurious gated community in which they live. For more, read in Boing Boing: Gated community developer blames Rand Paul assault on longstanding fights over lawncare, tree branches

Which is a shame, since it seems that community aspirations are often effectively fulfilled in absolutely the opposite economic circumstances — social housing complexes and temporary relief camps. This not withstanding the fact the the upper political and financial classes, together with their fellow-travelling wannabes — the middle classes — go out of their way to disparage the lower classes as degenerate addicts of one stripe or another who are absolutely incapable of forming meaningful communities.

For the latest sneerings from Australia, consider the One Nation Party‘s one member of Parliament, Senator Pauline Hanson, who characterized the social housing tenants who were involuntarily locked-down in Melbourne as “addicts and alcoholics. . . whose second language is probably English,” then followed it up by sending them all beer can holders and a “no hard feelings” note— pretty much a second slap across the face with the other glove. Read more in the Australian Daily Mail: How Pauline Hanson tried to send stubby holders to say ‘no hard feelings’ to public housing residents after calling them ‘alcoholics and drug addicts’ – and why Australia Post was FURIOUS they weren’t delivered

So, for convenience sake, let’s dismiss the middle and upper classes out of hand as a bunch of hopeless community losers, and look for a some rays of light from those most economically disadvantaged — those who absolutely need community in order to survive and prosper.

That was the August 2020 theme in ArchDaily, which explored the subject in a series of articles, including: Social Housing and Settlements: Potential Promoters of Community Living

For an exploration of ways in which design and planning can support community, also in ArchDaily: Living in Community: 13 Projects That Promote Shared Spaces

. . . and for the overall theme that collects together a further number of intriguing articles on past, present, and future of communities: How Will We Live Together

And speaking of the past and the glory and power of meaningful community, look in your local library for a copy of Rosa Parks: My Story. It does not simply celebrate a moment of accidental resistance that somehow sparked the integration of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama. It fills out that moment to describe how a determined African American community, its members well accustomed to leaning on each other for support, came together in an extraordinary effort to provide the city of Montgomery with no other option but to cease its resistance and provide equality for all on its public transit.