“A healthy social life is found only when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living.” Rudolf Steiner
Today’s typical subdivisions are mostly devoid of a sense of community. Fenced yards and gated neighborhoods feed isolationism, uncooperative lifestyles, and intolerance. They discourage communications and understanding between various income, social, ethnic, and racial groups. And most have restrictions about the appearance of a home’s exterior, dictating “lawnscaping” designs and restricting edible and other beneficial landscaping concepts.
Do you know your neighbors? Do you live in a community where you can walk or bike to shopping and community services? Or do you drive everywhere, disappearing into the garage with perhaps no more than a nod to the folks next door?
The last fifty years of development have degraded our sense of community. We live behind locked doors in gated communities. This has, in turn, impacted our sense of well-being as individuals, families, and in society as a whole.
The trend is shifting! More and more towns are being planned with a greater sense of community. “Smart Growth” and living in community principles are being applied, and the result is a more engaged, active, and happy citizenship.
Take the development by Village Homes in Davis, California, where the primary focus of the development plan was on community engagement.
The amenities include shared ownership of common areas and common spaces, shared laundry space for some units, shared gardens, community gardens, community fruit and nut trees and vineyards, and bicycling (much of the City of Davis commute is by bicycle) and orientation directed toward walking.
In comparing Village Homes to the surrounding contemporary development (standard suburbia), a study found the residents of the Village Homes development knew 42 people in their neighborhood, compared to 17 in other areas. The average resident identifies four of their best friends in the community, compared to 0.4 for people in the conventional development. This community spirit and people orientation has also virtually eliminated crime (only 10% of the city average).
The density in Village Homes is almost double surrounding areas, but the quality of life is much higher. This is reflected in increased home value (a $10-15 per square foot premium: 1999) and much quicker home sales.