Introduction The title of a concluding chapter of the proceedings of a seminar on people's participation in housing the poor, "Participation is difficult but necessary" (Anzorena, 1980), is an adequate reflection of the prevalent view on community participation in low-income housing policy and projects. Generally speaking, acknowledgement made of the practical problems involved in the practice of participation is accompanied by optimism or sincere belief in its potential. In most of the relevant literature, it seems as though there are only practical (and solvable) problems to tackle. Case studies in which governments and communities (qften with the assistance of non-governmental organisations) have wholly or partly solved critical obstacles to community participation dominate the empirical documentation.