A massive residential development in a flood-prone inner-city suburb sounds like a recipe for disaster. But good urban design can deliver higher density and reduce the flood risk.
Residents of established middle suburbs are slowly coming round to the idea, but governments and the property sector lack the capacity to deliver compact cities that are acceptable to the community.
Drains take up precious but inaccessible open space in our cities. Converting these to living streams running through the suburbs could make for healthier places in multiple ways.
Planners wish to correct past errors by increasing densities, discouraging car dependency and mixing land uses. But imposing imported strategies on Australian cities is producing unhappy results.
Being crowded into poor-quality high-density units harms residents' health, but design features that are known to promote wellbeing can make a big difference to the lives of low-income households.
The inexorable logic of the market will create suburban concentrations of lower-income households on a scale hitherto only experienced in the legacy inner-city high-rise public housing estates.
In the push for more compact cities, don't forget the ways apartment living is different. And often the downsides of these differences weigh heavily on low-income and disadvantaged households.
Even where communities are mixed, many inner-city families go to extraordinary financial and geographic lengths to ensure their children do not go to school with children from 'the flats'.
Australians are losing the backyards that once served as retreats from the stresses of city living. Our health is likely to suffer as cities become less green and much hotter.
Achieving the goal of sustainable cities depends on rolling back the market after decades of privatisation and deregulation.
Greening cities that are becoming denser is a major challenge. City-dwellers' health benefits from both well-designed green spaces and urban density, so we must manage the tensions between them.
Research suggests stakeholders' understandings of urban consolidation vary. And they often subvert policies to suit their own ends.
As increasing diversity and density come to characterise our cities, how can we build harmonious communities within apartment complexes?
The increasing global focus on essential services and public space as a key combination for successful city-making is relevant to fast-growing Australian cities too.
Exceptional projects can emerge when regulations are sensibly relaxed due to context. A Fremantle project is a model of progressive higher-density possibilities resulting from flexible planning rules.
While some forms of co-living seek to match modern lifestyles and a desire to downsize, other profit-driven models simply exploit a lack of affordable housing alternatives.
The front yards, footpaths and verges of Australian suburbs are spaces overdue for reinvention.
We're still in the early days of understanding how cities work. But we do know that creative, healthy and productive cities have certain things in common – and it's all to do with their 'urban DMA'.
Government and industry need to demonstrate the benefits of well-designed higher-density housing. Rich residential display projects may be the ideal catalyst for creating smarter cities.
Instead of looking up or out, we need a combined approach.