Articles on Cities & Policy

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A shade tree makes a big difference to the comfort of this couple. Nancie Lee/Shutterstock

How do we save ageing Australians from the heat? Greening our cities is a good start

Two trends in Australia, an ageing population and warming climate, are increasing the threat that heatwaves pose to our health. Increasing vegetation cover is one way every city can reduce the risk.
Current levels of population growth become a problem for Australians when investment in infrastructure like public transport fails to keep up. David Moir/AAP

Solving the ‘population problem’ through policy

Population growth in Australia is a problem mainly because of the lack of a coherent national policy to manage it. The focus needs to be on maintaining quality of life through sustainable growth.
Granny flats are often the result of informal arrangements between parents and children who assume it will all work out well. Markus J/Shutterstock

When granny flats go wrong – perils for parents highlight need for law reform

Parents and children rarely put agreements about granny flats in writing and almost never consult a lawyer. But when these arrangements go wrong, the consequences can be disastrous and costly for all.
Residents of the outer suburbs like the green spaces and sense of community, but lament the lack of access to transport and other services. theskaman306/Shutterstock

Living ‘liveable’: this is what residents have to say about life on the urban fringe

Much of the growth in our cities is in the outer suburbs, now home to around 5 million people. And that creates problems like traffic that detract from the advantages residents see in living there.
The enthusiasm for recycling water that Australians had at the height of the drought little more than a decade ago has waned. Shaney Balcombe/AAP

When water is scarce, we can’t afford to neglect the alternatives to desalination

Cities relied entirely on conserving and recycling water to get through the last big drought. We now have desalination plants, but getting the most out of our water reserves still makes sense.
The largest desalination plant in Australia, Victoria’s A$3.5 billion ‘water factory’ can supply nearly a third of Melbourne’s needs. Nils Versemann/Shutterstock

Cities turn to desalination for water security, but at what cost?

Sydney and Melbourne are bringing desalination plants back on stream and Adelaide plans to increase its plant's output. Perth depends on desalination. But is it the best way to achieve water security?
Residents evacuated from the Neo200 building in Melbourne were unaware of the fire risk posed by its cladding. Ellen Smith/AAP

Don’t overlook residents’ role in apartment building safety

As more and more Australians live and work in high-rise buildings, their responsibilities and roles in ensuring all occupants' safety must not be neglected.
A cake made to farewell the last tenant to leave the Sirius building, which was built in Sydney at a time when governments saw the need to invest directly in public housing. Ben Rushton/AAP

Is social housing essential infrastructure? How we think about it does matter

If we recognised social housing as infrastructure as essential as transport links, schools and hospitals, not properly investing in it could become unthinkable.
The fire in the Melbourne CBD on Monday was a reminder of the urgency of developing a system that guarantees only materials that meet building safety standards are used. Bekah Jane/Twitter

Cladding fires expose gaps in building material safety checks. Here’s a solution

Fortunately, no lives were lost in the latest cladding fire in Melbourne, but it's a stark reminder of the urgent need to track and verify that building materials comply with safety standards.
The 392 apartments in Opal Tower (centre) were evacuated on Christmas Eve when residents heard loud cracks and defects were found. Paul Braven/AAP

Beyond Opal: a 10-point plan to fix the residential building industry

While Opal Tower residents are more badly affected than most, up to 80% of multi-unit buildings have serious defects. Here's what government can do right now to fix the industry.
Housing affordability becomes less of a concern in the years after buying a house, especially for people who bought a decade or more ago. Paul Miller/AAP

Head start for home owners makes a big difference for housing stress

Affordability is a problem across Sydney for prospective home buyers. But if they are able to become owners, new research shows affordability becomes much less of a problem over five to ten years.
Lochiel Park in Adelaide was Australia’s first large-scale attempt to create homes that use near net zero energy. Stephen Berry

When the heat hits: how to make our homes comfortable without cranking up the aircon

Air conditioning changed both building design and people's active management of home temperatures. A return to houses designed for our climate can keep us comfortable and cut energy use and emissions.
The extra $1 billion Premier Gladys Berejiklian (left) and Social Housing Minister Pru Goward say will be ‘harnessed’ for social housing is actually Commonwealth Rent Assistance for which tenants transferred to community housing providers become eligible. Simon Bullard/AAP

‘Growth’ of community housing may be an illusion. The cost-shifting isn’t

For the first time a state government housing agency has effectively contracted out all its operations in some regions, but will this improve and add to the total social housing stock?

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