Private enclaves

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Date: May 2004
From: Canada and the World Backgrounder(Vol. 69, Issue 6)
Publisher: Taylor Publishing Consultants Ltd.
Document Type: Article
Length: 459 words

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Some people are not shutting cars out of their neighbourhoods but they're closing themselves off in what have been dubbed "master-planned communities" run by private housing associations.

According to the Community Associations Institute, half the new home sales in big dries in the U.S. are in managed communities (47 million, or one in six, Americans) that target various groups from gun enthusiasts (pun not intended) to retirees. Often, homeowners in these communities pay fees for a variety of services ranging from maintaining roads, and parks, to security. Increasingly, residents have to agree to various rules and regulations that govern everything from the size of dog they can own to the colours they can paint their house. Leisure World, California even has its own television station.

Planned communities in some ways go back to small-town times when people worked, lived, and played within their neighbourhoods. People want to he within 15 minutes of their jobs, or shops, rather than spending hours every day sitting in traffic. But, critics say these communities are only for the affluent, and that because they choose to pay for the services in their private enclaves, they're no longer inclined to support public services. That eventually will lead to their further decline, and possibly a kind of "caste society," where poor people are stuck with crumbling public housing, public schools, and public transportation.

Other planned communities are more inclusive, and operate on a cooperative basis. Greenbelt, Maryland, for example, was started by the U.S. federal government in 1935 during the Depression when millions of people were homeless and out of work. The city now has a population of about 21,000 and continues to operate as a cooperative venture with a co-op newspaper staffed by volunteers and run by a board made up of Greenbelt residents. The community also has a co-op cafe, supermarket, nursery school, and bank. Residents include blue-collar workers and university professors living next door to each other. The original town, now known as Old Greenbelt, was designed for residents to be able to go everywhere on foot, and many in the original core still do. The city has expanded on the same principle: newer areas have community centres and neighbourhood associations and other forms of self-government, with committees and organizations that try to involve people from all parts of town.

In Canada, Toronto's St. Lawrence neighbourhood, is a mixed community of subsidized housing, coops, and condominium townhouses blended with market-value housing. Social problems in the community are said to be rare compared with other social-housing schemes that segregate assisted housing from the surrounding neighbourhood. What residents of this community worry about is that it could become less diverse and more elitist as it grows in popularity, and attracts luxury developments for the affluent.

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A118377289