On Saturday, October 29 from 1-4pm, CRIHI invited eight neighbourhoods in Riverbend & Terwillegar to a workshop and conversation called ‘Homes4ourNeighbours’ at Riverbend United Church.
There were about 25 people in attendance, including 15 interested neighbours. This event provided good information on affordable housing, shared frontline stories and experiences, and then gave neighbours a safe place to share their worries, concerns and ideas on how neighbours can respond to new proposals and new neighbours.
Although this event had a modest turnout, there was a good cross-section of people and opinions engaged, including representatives from two community leagues (the Ridge and Riverbend), members of the Terwillegar Homeowner Association, Brander Gardens ROCKS, faith leaders, and neighbours at large. It was also a respectful conversation, taking place under rules that stated: Everyone has wisdom. We need to hear everyone’s wisdom for the best result. There are no wrong answers. And everyone will both hear and be heard.
In our December issue of the Neighbourly, and in this post CRIHI summarizes three (out of seven total) key points of conversation and what the group heard from each other. The full report is available below and includes summaries of the presentations and several additional points of conversation. CRIHI thanks our hosts at Riverbend United Church (pictured) for their provision of space and refreshments!
Here are three points discussed by the group:
NUMBER ONE: We need quality consultation!
Several participants in the group shared their frustration at poorly done consultation. If the developer doesn’t have a good process for engaging the community, and is unable to address reasonable concerns, that will trigger much higher levels of fear, worry and concern in the local community.
The group highlighted two positive examples of consultation done well: The Right at Home Society for its planned development of the Westmount Presbyterian Church site development in North Glenora. They spent one year in dialogue with the existing local community. It was observed that it takes a strong commitment to dialogue as communities do not naturally want to be inclusive of new/different neighbours. The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta was also highlighted as a positive example in the development of a Permanent Supportive Housing project in the Bonnie Doon area.
A healthy conversation with a diverse group of voices was identified as necessary at both planning tables and in consultations. They also advise Developers to give neighbours some choices, and to take their input into account when fine-tuning a project.
NUMBER TWO: This is What a Healthy Neighbourhood Response looks like:
Assuming the development/property management agency has engaged properly with the existing community, such a response should be:
- Inclusive of many perspectives, recognizing that not all are in agreement (accepting that some views may be supportive, others that are opposing, and still others that are questioning)
- Willing to be part of the process and to dialogue – meaning there is opportunity for all to be listened to and to be heard – to give and take. Requires respect as not everything may go ‘our way,’ but it doesn’t mean we haven’t heard or been heard.
- Welcoming of new neighbours, even if a process or development does not unfold as it should. Positive example: The existing community in the Haddow neighbourhood has come to a broad agreement they will accept and welcome the future new residents of the Haddow First Place development, even though the poor consultation process sparked strong resistance to the project.
- Connected to a neighbourhood’s story – where the look and feel of a project fits the surroundingneighbourhood so that community culture is maintained and enhanced and positive outcomes and opportunities are perceived and known.” Related idea: A neighbourhood could benefit from the development of a “charter” of what is community (a community charter of neighborliness).”
- Aware of the need across the city, and our community’s responsibility to help in meeting that need. Ie. “Our responsibilities include that with the inner-city expanding, we need to promote Affordable Housing in all areas of the city” (From a Terwillegar resident)
NUMBER THREE: The Need to be Good Neighbours
“Our responsibilities should be to welcome and include our new neighbours, be open-minded without prejudice – we should assume they are good people – there are a lot of ways to get to know folks”
“We need to find ways to get to know our neighbours. An offer of free topsoil has enabled my family to get to know many neighbours whom we had never met.”
“As in the “Welcome Home (Program),” we need to welcome new neighbours to our neighbourhoods.”
“The success of “Brander Gardens Rocks” results from its being based on a reciprocal relationship between the residents of that Community Housing project and the existing residents of the surrounding community. Over the years, attitudes have changed from “us and them” to just “us” and from “we can do it for them” to “we can do it with them.” “Just because a person has a lower income doesn’t mean they don’t aspire to a better life. Many of these people want to give back.”
Existing neighbours can organize community dinners and block parties to welcome newcomers.