The neighbourhoods of Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam with densities 3-5 times those of Melbourne and Sydney offer an insight into how we could transform our cities for the better.
The lure of suburbia clearly remains strong. To deal with sprawl, planners need to increase urban density in a way that resonates with the leafy green qualities of suburbia that residents value.
Residents of the 'leafy suburbs' will continue to fear what they might lose to increasing urban density without an explicit planning approach that enhances green space in affected neighbourhoods.
Endless growth is not a sustainable option for fast-growing Australian cities like Melbourne.
The demands on land and resources from our fast-growing cities are unsustainable, as are the wastes they produce. Yet still our leaders act as if unlimited growth is possible.
Ruth and Maurie Crow with a plan of their linear city.
Image courtesy of SEARCH Foundation
Ruth and Maurie Crow were early advocates of the compact city. They also warned 50 years ago that a clear justice intent was needed to shape cities for their citizens rather than vested interests.
Cars are submerged on a flooded road in the Sydney suburb of Marrickville in 2012.
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.
Lots of parking: the extraordinary amount of valuable land used to park cars in most cities could soon be freed up for other uses.
Cities around the world are starting to rethink the vast areas of land set aside for parking. The convergence of several trends likely will mean this space becomes available for other uses.
The Greening the Pipeline 100-metre pilot park at Williams Landing is the first step in transforming 27 kilometres of the heritage-listed main outfall sewer into a linear park and bike track.
Greening the Pipeline, courtesy of Melbourne Water
Tree plantings are making a visible difference to Melbourne’s west. It's the result of a collaborative model of greening, one that Australian cities need to apply more widely.
A tiny house in the backyard appeals to some as a solution that offers both affordability and sustainability.
Think Out Loud/flick
New research has found a marked increase in people, particularly among women over 50, who are building or want to build a tiny house. However, inflexible planning rules often stand in their way.
Green space, easily accessible to everyone no matter what their income, should be a priority in designing high-density residential areas.
Marcus Jaaske from www.shutterstock.com
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.
Much of what is being built is straightforward ‘investor grade product’ – flats built to attract the burgeoning investment market.
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.
Higher-density developments change neighbourhoods, often in ways that further disadvantage low-income households.
For the first time in Australia, more higher-density housing than detached housing was being built last year. Compact cities have pros and cons, but the downsides fall more heavily on the poor.
When disputes and other problems of apartment living arise, low-income households’ options are often limited.
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.
Residents of high-density housing might value features such as balconies, but when roads get busy this increases exposure to pollution.
Many new housing developments are being built along busy roads and rail lines, but lack design features that would reduce occupants' exposure to harmful traffic pollution.
The vast majority of cranes are used to build apartments.
AAP Image/Paul Miller
About 84% of cranes in Australia are used on residential sites, with commercial projects making up 5% of crane activity. Health, education, infrastructure and recreation projects make up the rest.
Opponents of projects are often scorned as NIMBYs, but active citizenship and local consultation are key elements in creating a city that works well for as many people as possible.
Cities are home to many different people who will not always agree. We need to learn to embrace public debate as an ongoing, constructive process for working through diverse views and values.
Mature gum trees will be important for visual amenity among the higher-density residences being built to house a population growing at 5.1% a year for the next two decades.
The Green Square urban renewal area – expected to be Sydney's most densely populated area by 2030 – represents a new paradigm of urban living.
City residents are embracing the bike as the fastest, most convenient transport in areas like Brunswick, yet an apartment building has been blocked for not providing car parking.
It's up to state governments to ensure urban planning rules properly reflect both the desires of residents in the 21st century and the principles of sustainability.
The arguments for urban densification and urban sprawl both have merit and neither is absolutely right.
It’s a debate that’s been raging for decades and dominates academic and popular urban planning discourse: urban sprawl versus urban densification. Is it better to increase density or to expand at the edges…