Public Housing Redesign


Letter to the Editor:

John Sewell makes an important point (NOW July 14-20) when he says that public housing projects need to be physically redesigned to make them more like ordinary neighbourhoods with through streets, public sidewalks, front and back yards, and better laid out lobbies and hallways. Such changes would be important steps towards creating a sense of neighbourhood and community.

He is kidding himself, however, if he thinks this would address the root causes of drug dealing, prostitution, and street crime. At best, the result would be to shift these activities to another neighbourhood.

No redesign is going to overcome the effects of lack of meaningful work, lack of money, lack of control, and lack of hope. These inevitably breed crime, especially when they occur in the midst of a society whose dominant value system says that the only thing that matters is to get as much for yourself as possible.

Addressing these problems is going to involve a "redesign" of our entire society, not just of housing projects.

There is, however, a much simpler and more immediate solution to the specific problems of illegal drug dealing and prostitution: decriminalization.

Our obsessive and utterly futile "war" against these activities is not only turning tens of thousands of people into "criminals", but is corrupting our entire society. The simplest way to get drug dealers off the street corners and out of public housing is to put marijuana, cocaine, and heroin in the liquor stores.

Ulli Diemer