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Helman, Claire.

Montreal, Vehicule Press, 1987. 200pp, paper, $12.95, ISBN 0-919890-74-1. CIP

Grades 12 and up
Reviewed by Susan E. Fowler

Volume 15 Number 6
1987 November

This book deals with fifteen years of conflict over land use in a twenty-five acre inner-city neighbourhood of Montreal. The first-lime author lived near Milton-Park while it was being transformed into Canada's largest co-operative housing project. She has thus been able to write from a more personal point of view about what could have been a very dry listing of complicated legal and financial manoeuvres. Helman uses frequent first-person accounts of those involved in her description of the acquisition of most of Milton-Park by Concordia Estates, a development company with plans to erect a three-phase $250 million complex over ten years. Organized opposition by a citizens' committee was not successful at changing minds about this project at City Hall. However, an increasingly unhealthy financial climate in Montreal meant that Concordia Estates could not proceed any further than Phase One, and began searching for buyers. A rejuvenated citizens' committee, along with increased public alarm about the wholesale destruction of old architecture that was accompanying "urban progress," was successful in having the whole parcel purchased by CMHC. Then began a long, complicated, and expensive process of rehabilitating 597 housing units in 139 buildings (14 co-operatives, and 7 non-profit associations), with only minimal increases in rent.

The book is divided into eighteen relatively short chapters, in chronological order. An appendix deals with the specifics of financing co-op housing. There are numerous black-and-white photographs of public demonstrations, typical street scenes, and personalities described in the text.

Although a description of endless meetings and complicated legal and financial difficulties might not seem particularly stimulating, it must be remembered that the issue of affordable housing in urban areas is a crucial one today. This book would certainly be of interest to students of urban planning. In addition, many urban residents would benefit from the lessons in neighbourhood organization, and the strengthening of community spirit.

Susan E. Fowler, Centennial S.S., Belleville, Ont.
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