Tag Archives: local

A Tour of Social Housing in Rome Created in the Early 20th Century

(If you are looking for my paper on cleaning up the Grand, protection of local aquifers and the Regional Plan, as mentioned in the Record, scroll down, it is the fourth entry.)

At the International Making Cities Liveable Conference, I was pleased to tour the Housing Districts of Testaccio and San Saba with Ettore Maria Mazzola, Architect & Urbanist, Professor, University of Notre Dame, Rome Global Gateway. Ettore Maria Mazzola has also acted as a consultant for the Mayor and City of Rome. As a member of the new Housing Master Plan Committee, this area will be on my mind as we decide how to create and improve social housing in Waterloo Region.

Similar to Waterloo Region today, the City of Rome, Italy exploded in population between the unification of Italy (1861) and 1930. The population of the city of Rome increased from 200.000 to 1.200.000. Most of the people came from rural villages in Italy.  this created a shortage of housing. It was decided that the area around the artificial Testaccio hill would be used to create housing for the poor. In antiquity the area was a dump for broken amphorae and in later times an area for butchering and tanning.  The area of San Saba was also developed.

The municipal government of the Rome of the time owned and built this social housing. Instead of creating a slum, Roman architects such as Gustavo Giovannoni, Quadrio Pirani, Giulio Magni, and Innocenzo Sabbatini developed a new way of creating housing integrating a mix of uses. They were able to harmonize “the construction of large volumes” with “a proper scale that does not harm the landscape”, as well as “the necessity to build rapidly” with “respect for the human dignity of the future residents”.

These neighbourhoods create a good example for the “new urbanism” with density and mixed use. Some of the housing complexes had bicycle rooms and bake ovens. Each development was built with a central courtyard to remind the residents of their homes in the hill villages.

Maria Montessori created the first daycare or early learning center in this area. The concept of free play and learning by choice instead of strict rows and rote started here.

Today this social housing has gentrified and is no longer home to the poor. It is still a beautiful example of housing.

Stay tuned for public consultations on Region of Waterloo social housing  in the coming months. As can be seen by the pictures below, just building more affordable housing, while laudable, isn’t enough. We must also build liveable communities.


How one man’s creative, coherent view transformed social housing in interwar Rome

Specific Interesting Photos of the Housing.


Door to an original bicycle storage


Fire station


One of the original Maria Montessori Preschools for the poor


Early 20th century social housing


Early 20th century social housing


Bake house


Housing built around a piazza to remind residents of their villages


Piazza in the center of the housing complex


Windows of different sizes to visually break up the wall

The New Face of Farming In Waterloo Region.

Barries farm

At Barries asparagus farm with Mr. Barrie and some of his products

A few posts ago, I discussed my reading of the book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” Not wanting to be one of those “city folks with a garden” who get all their agriculture info from books, I jumped at the chance this year to take the Waterloo Federation of Agriculture’s farm tour.

First of all, don’t mention “Factory Farms” in a bus full of farmers! Intensive farming is also a sensitive phrase. They also rolled their eyes (I saw you guys) when the owners of Oakridge said people used to come in looking for meat from happy cows. Pesticides are a hot topic. One said to me that the world could not be fed if pesticides were discontinued. Another noted that in the case of animals and anti-biotics, he would rather eat from a healthy animal.

Onto the trip.

Farms are experiencing land pressure from commercial/industrial/residential development/hobby farms/gravel/environmentally protected areas.

It is hard to make a living on a farm, especially with one crop like asparagus. A lot of farmers and/or their spouses are working off the farm as well as trying to run the farm. We visited three farms where the owners are making a go of full time farming.

First we visited Barries asparagus farm. Their famous asparagus is only available for approximately 6 weeks in the spring. They are thriving on asparagus only by partnering with local canning and manufacturing enterprises to put asparagus in all kinds of products such as salsa, pickles, crackers. The Barries run a store on their property to sell their goods and the food goods of other local or nearly local farmers. These small enterprises need the help of municipalities willing to permit it! They barter with the other farm stores, trading corn and even coffee for asparagus products. I found Barrie asparagus in my local farm store, Herrles, famous for their corn (and the golden beets are great too). Barries is so successful that they renovated the old homestead into the store. http://www.barriebrothers.com

The farm next door, Herman Poultry Barns, run a conventional farm, raising and selling broiler chickens to KFC,Maple Lodge and Swiss chalet. Their chickens are sent to a distributor in Toronto. So when you go to KFC and Swiss Chalet, there is a good chance you are eating local! Who knew?

 The chickens are grown for 34 days in an open barn (not caged), before sold. They have to have low dose antibiotics as any chickens in numbers are prone to disease. I know my daughters’ three chickens had to have feed with antibiotics in it when they were chicks. That’s why she calls her eggs “free range” not “organic”.  The Herman chickens are fed from corn grown on the farm. The land is fertilized with leaf litter from the Region of Waterloo leaf collection program and chicken manure.  At the end of the 34 days when the chickens are gone, the two barns are cleaned and sterilized before a new batch comes in.  Herman’s uses solar walls for energy efficiency and have worked on environment improvements for manure management. The farmer is able to make a living from his conventional farm.

Our final stop was Oakridge Farms. Mark and Cindy Gerber run an enterprisse that champions “fair trade” for local farmers. Chicken, pork, game, and the Gerber’s beef is sold by asking the farmers to look at their costs and a reasonable return and that is what the meat will be sold for. The meat I bought seemed the same price as Sobeys regular prices. Each freezer has the name of the farmer and a picture of the family raising the meat.  This method stops the ups and downs that farmers experience selling on the open market.

The Gerbers raise Angus beef that is drug free and fed on oats, barley and grass. All the meat is frozen right after butchering to cut down on disease or you can go out on the kill day for fresh. http://www.oakridgeacres.ca/

Our final stop was at FS Partners, Ayr branch, a farm service supplier. They are a coop who buy cash crops like corn and wheat from farmers. They sell soybeans all over the world but they cannot be genetically modified as they sell to Europe and China who do not accept GMO soybeans for human consumption. For the farmers they work with flexible financing and sell their product. they also sell seeds, marketing and chemicals  to conventional farmers. They are a division of Growmarket Agriculture Cooperative in the States and compete with the world. Today it is a global market and the farm service sector must be nimble. Farmers are competing with the cost of fertilizer in China, for instance.

Emerging trends in farming are larger farms, part time farmers, an aging population, and lack of succession planning. Also new technology the up and down of commodity prices, environmental concerns, consumer buying habits and traceability.

Here are two good websites about Canadian farming.

http://www.foodlink.ca for Waterloo Region local farming and farm products.

http://www.farmissues.com/ Includes a pdf of a great booklet on Canadian farming under resources. For instance, Did you know?

1 98 % of Canadian farms are family owned.

2. More traditional farms will not feed the world

3. Hormones are not used in dairy cows, poultry and pigs in Canada

4. Farmers have reduced pesticide use by 52% since 1983.

5. Organic farms are the fastest growing segment of Canadian agriculture.