Milton Park Community Project – Montreal, Canada
Milton Park is a district in the central area of Montreal, composed of approximately 150 old buildings, mostly built at the turn of the 20th century. The district population moved throughout the years from 600 dwellings into a few thousand low-income and middle-income residents. Because of the lack of investments in maintenance, the buildings fell into disrepair. During the 1970s, Montreal’s downtown area went through a renovation process, which Milton Park district would be a part of it. During that period, a private developer bought 90 per cent of the area and the renewal project consisted of demolishing buildings of the district and building high-rise structures, offices and commercial buildings. This process would result in the gentrification of the area, transforming housing in the region as unaffordable for the original residents.
As a response, the local community organized themselves in a way to find a long-term solution and avoid evictions of the local residents. With time and support from the government and professionals, the community organization raised funds and bought the buildings and land. The 25 members organized themselves into a condominium structure governed by a declaration of co-ownership; regulations were made, and secured the tenancy for all residents, and created the largest renovated cooperative housing structure in North America – every tenant was handed back their home after renovations. As a consequence of this process, the local residents could remain in their homes, which have been property of the family for generations. This process promoted financial and social stability and continuity of the families, and evictions for lack of rent payment were almost non-existent. The maintenance of the district helped to prevents the gentrification of the area and the demographic mix transformed the city center a safe and livable space for people.
The project brought alongside it many interesting aspects:
- Community mobilization: community management and governance processes, born out of mobilization to save the neighborhood.
- Change of priority: living, rather than profit priority of housing and land use, through a system that ensures long-term affordability, prevents gentrification, safeguards local heritage and has inclusiveness as a common good.
- Environmental: no waste generation, as the main goal of the project was the renovation of existing buildings rather than demolition and reconstruction, making use of existing resources and maintaining original structures where possible.
- Affordability and inclusiveness: rents at the district are significantly more affordable than in surrounding areas (on average twice as low). Access is easier for very low-income people that wish to move into Milton Park, as only disadvantaged socio-economic groups are eligible to take up freed or new apartments.
- Organization: The creation of a Community Development Corporation to manage the commercial spaces in the district and control the type of businesses to match with the residents’ needs. Surpluses are either reinvested or given as subsidies for projects that benefit the whole community
- Social: The Milton Park Community Project maintained a demographically mixed community that facilitates integration between diverse groups and eliminated the risk of eviction or relocation to areas that offer fewer social, economic and educational opportunities.
World Habitat Awards Website – Winners and Finalists – Milton Park Community. Available from: <http://www.worldhabitatawards.org/winners-and-finalists/project-details.cfm?lang=00&theProjectID=A2D28B30-15C5-F4C0-99EA98D136E0639A>. [3 December 2014].