Montreal Declaration written at the conference
“From the Ground Up” taking place in Montreal
on April 12-13-14 2019
The Decline and Rise of Neighbourhoods and Community
Why has our society evolved into a situation of weakened neighbourhoods? How have so many neighbourhoods lost their sense of community? And why have so many people lost their sense of citizenship and their concern for what is happening outside their front door?
For answers we must look at the rise of rampant urbanisation in highly centralized nation-states, based on economies driven by profit, greed, consumption for the sake of consumption, and growth for the sake of growth.
Beyond this, we see the shadow cast by the 400 major transnational corporations that dominate the world economy. The result has been that practically every element of daily and social life has become a commodity.
Countering this powerful trend is the natural human need for social interaction, for neighbourliness and for community. Few people just want to live alone. Most human beings enjoy living with, being with, working with, loving with, arguing with, and creating with and for other people.
These qualities are the roots of community and the basis of democracy. Community and democracy cannot be separated. And community cannot be separated from neighbourhoods which in turn must have a real physical character reflected in social housing, mutual aid and social solidarity.
Land and housing are two of the most important pillars of any society – and a fundamental human need. Land and housing have long served as a major economic engine and one of the primary sources of security and stability for most people. However, land and housing have become a highly volatile aspect of the city due to a historical legacy of displacement and exclusion firmly rooted in market capitalism driven by the real estate industry and discriminatory, inadequate public policy that restricts access for low-income people and discriminated people.
Displacement and exclusion from housing and land continues to be a multi-generational, lived experience in too many urban neighbourhoods. This is no accident. The excesses of the private ownership of housing and land, the speculation and uncontrolled corporate profits driven by real estate corporate developers, has created a market capitalism that feeds greed, speculation and corruption.
City governments weakened by their dependence on property taxes feed this seemingly perpetual cycle. This results in an increase in the concentration of wealth and ownership which results in racial discrimination and further exploitation of the powerless.
As we confront these threats, we must meet the urgent need for community and economic development based on social policies related to land and housing that help create inclusive, participatory, and ecological economies built on locally rooted ownership of neighbourhood-based assets.
The From the Ground-Up international conference provided an overview of strategies and tools. It represents an innovative and potentially new approach – the community ownership of land which establishes social housing based on non-profit and cooperative ownership and management and wherein private property of the land and housing does not exist.
The extension of such a growing third form of ownership into a democratic social economy is the most promising strategy for a re-building of community. Thus a solidarity economy includes the principles of cooperation: equity, democracy, and human rights.
A further step in this evolution toward a democratic and ecological society would be to re-introduce the proposal of municipalizing all urban land, as was once advocated by more than two Montreal municipal political parties, the Front d’action politique (FRAP) et the Montreal Citizens’ Movement (MCM), and in the past the Parti Québécois (PQ).
The establishment of a democratic and egalitarian society requires communities based on new social relations between old and young, men and women, ethnic groups, and most importantly a balance between our cities and Nature. The future lies within us and belongs to us.