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Posts from the ‘Planning’ Category

In a Bid to Speed Development, Britain Gives Zoning a Try

The U.K. is poised to pass a radical overhaul of its planning system. Critics say it would only exacerbate housing inequality. 

The U.K. government unveiled plans this month for the most radical overhaul of the country’s planning system since the 1940s. 

To the government, the proposals are a bid to speed up home building and to power the post-pandemic economy. To the plan’s critics, it is a no-strings gift to developers that dilutes planning standards and risks creating the “slums of the future”.

The crux of the plan, published in a white paper outlining proposals for future legislation, is the adoption of a tool that is ubiquitous in the U.S. but currently plays no part in British planning regimes: zoning. This is a major shift. Under the current system, introduced in 1947, the U.K. does not practice zoning. There is no automatic right in Britain to develop any unbuilt land, or to permit changes of use on already developed sites. Planning decisions are discretionary, taken on a case-by-case basis, and granted almost exclusively by local authorities. Under zoning schemes like the new proposal, a city is instead divided up into “zones” that allow different types of development. If a new proposal meets those criteria, it can go forward without getting individual permission.

These proposals would include new construction, as well as extensions and changes to existing buildings. Rules surrounding affordable housing would be changed, while demolitions of unused non-residential buildings would also require no approval.

The point of the changes, the government says, is to loosen up a sclerotic planning system that is beset with delays, allowing British towns and cities a chance to deliver housing more quickly. “These changes will help transform boarded-up, unused buildings safely into high-quality homes at the heart of their communities,” said U.K. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick at a press conference. “It will mean that families can add up to two stories to their home, providing much-needed additional space for children or elderly relatives as their household grows.”

But adding zoning doesn’t necessarily mean easing planning requirements,says Michael Edwards, honorary professor at University College London’s Bartlett School of Planning. “The purpose is to remove the uncertainty, the political risk in proposing development,” he told CityLab by phone. “In most other parts of Europe that have a zoning system, that isn’t entirely how it works. Local politicians and campaign groups have flexed their muscles over the years and found a lot of ways to influence decisions and create quite demanding framework which requires the negotiation of a lot of detail.” The idea that simply loosening planning procedures will solve problems is also flawed, he says. “This plan is wrong from top to bottom.”

The U.K.’s scheme would create three categories for development that apply across the entire country: “growth,” “renewal” and “protection.” Protected areas would face the same oversight as they do now, while those marked for growth would be subject to the least control, with proposals approved automatically if they fit local guidelines. While the plan, produced by the national government, pushes hard for more development land, it would ultimately be up to local authorities to decide how particular areas are categorized. Among the areas the white paper suggests should be classified for growth are sites for proposed new towns, “urban extension sites” — that is, greenfield sites adjacent to existing built-up areas — and ex-industrial areas, as well as districts near universities “where there may be opportunities to create a cluster of growth-focused businesses.”

In some areas, the planning liberalization is going even further, with many demolitions and extensions no longer requiring any approval. Adding two floors to homes built after World War II would be allowed without securing permission, as would extensions above shops and offices. Owners of office or retail buildings that have been vacant for six months or more will be allowed to tear them down to free up space for development without going through the planning process. 

Rules around affordable housing and infrastructure would alsochange. Current laws require developers to provide a minimum percentage of affordable units for each development, and to pay a tax intended to fund infrastructure development before construction starts. Under the new proposals, developers will no longer be expected to construct affordable units, but to pay a new tax to local authorities to fund such housing. Paid after construction, as a percentage of the development’s final value, this new tax would also cover the cost of providing infrastructure to the site. The government argues that this new tax’s ultimate value to local authorities could well be greater than what developers pay currently. It couldalso prevent developers from abusing the system by promising a large number of affordable units and then finding ways to whittle this number down during construction. The change would nonetheless require boroughs to borrow money to install infrastructure, and place the onus for constructing affordable housing on them — either by building it themselves using the tax income or by buying a portion of the developer’s completed units. 

The plan faces strong criticism from architects, local authorities and anti-homelessness advocates. “The  government behaves as though they believe that the housing problems are entirely down to inadequate supply of housing — due to the planning system — but the problems are really on the demand side,” says Edwards, the planning professor. The real cause of the shortage of affordable housing, says Edwards, is not developers prevented from building, but galloping inequality that skews the housing market by encouraging the wealthy to consume more and more property. These market forces incentivize developers to build as much high-end housing as possible. “This is reinforced by wealthier people using housing as a savings and investment device, then hugely amplified by the floods of credit that have entered the system. The resulting price escalations then exclude people from buying. These real problems are things that this government doesn’t want to touch.”

Some statistics do indeed challenge the idea that planning blockages are inhibiting supply. A chief criticism is that developer strategies to hold onto land without developing it play a far greater role in Britain’s under-delivery of new homes than planning permission hold-ups. More than one million homes granted planning permission since 2009 and 2010 remain unbuilt, a phenomenon that the government has acknowledged is partly down to developers “hoarding land.” And while the government claims that the new levy system could actually increase revenue for local authorities overall, critics like the anti-homelessness charity Shelter say that shifting the onus for developing affordable housing to local authorities could result in an even worse provision of housing for low-income people than the U.K. manages currently. The white paper does not state what, if any, proportion of the new tax earned by local authorities would actually have to be spent on providing affordable housing.

Allowing demolition of any building that has been empty in the medium term could also lead to the degradation of currently viable buildings, by providing owners with an incentive to leave them untenanted and in poor condition to free up their sites for development that requires no approval. And with the standard process of planning applications removed, communities would no longer have the same opportunities as they do currently to provide input, and voice objections to development proposals.

Britain has already caught a glimpse of what the new proposals’ effects might be. Since 2013, the U.K. has allowed converting offices to homes without approval. This innovation may have sped up delivery, with 60,000 extra new homes developed from converted offices between 2015 and 2019. It may also have suppressed standards. Free of planning constraints, an estimated 70% of this new cohort of homes were one-bedroom apartments or studios. Some were as small as 16 square meters (172 square feet) and on occasion didn’t even have windows. Often for low-income residents with few other options, some of these new units have become known for their poor quality. One case in Harlow, Essex, led local authorities to accuse developers of “human warehousing.” Critics of the new plan fear that more slum-type housing could be on the way if the new rules are introduced.

 While it is not yet clear exactly how such zoning would be administered, Tim Willis, partner and planning expert at U.K. law firm Shoosmiths LLP has speculated that, under national guidance, local governments would create pattern books of acceptable designs and a model design code for developers to follow. This was recommended in a government report last year that advocated a return to traditional vernacular styles, at least for the outermost shell of new buildings. Planning procedures would not be dispensed with entirely, but applications that adhere to these standards will likely be waved through, with objections in principle to building on greenfield sites, or from local residents, no longer accepted as grounds for rejection. Only proposals that rejected preordained local guidelines would require additional approvals. 

With an outright majority, the Tory national government is in a good position to see their proposals approved by Parliament. But widespread criticism, as well as the fact that relaxations in planning laws may go down badly in Conservative-voting heartlands, may nonetheless see the proposals face some pretty strong resistance along the road, which could affect the shape that a bill to Parliament would take.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-13/britain-proposes-radical-overhaul-of-city-planning?srnd=citylab-design

New Yorkers Flee for Florida and Texas as Mobility Surges

Bloomberg, 31/08/20

America’s real-estate meccas aren’t what they used to be as Covid-19 revives U.S. mobility.

Far more people moved to Vermont, Idaho, Oregon and South Carolina than left during the pandemic, according to data provided to Bloomberg News by United Van Lines. On the other hand, the reverse was true for New York and New Jersey, which saw residents moving to Florida, Texas and other Sunbelt states between March and July.

As August closes Monday with another move-out deadline, signs point to a sharp turn in U.S. mobility. Relocations had reached an all-time low in 2019, according to the Brookings Institution’s tracking.

“We have seen increased mobility across the states — driven by a fear of living in densely populated areas, a realization that the ‘old normal’ of commuting into a city office is still but a distant possibility, and the realization that remote work can be an effective, long-term option,” said Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics.

Four Charts

While official Census Bureau data won’t be able to confirm for several months how much mobility has increased, here’s a few measures of how it’s changing during the crisis:

About one in five Americans either have relocated during the virus outbreak or know someone who has, according to Pew Research Center’s survey published July 6.

The beneficiaries have been competitors to dense cities that seem too crowded in a public-health emergency. Cities in Florida, Texas, California and North Carolina accounted for just under half of New Yorker relocations, data from United Van Lines show.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld deplored the trend in a New York Times commentary on Aug. 24. “Energy, attitude and personality cannot be ‘remoted’ through even the best fiber optic lines,” he wrote.

Do-It-Yourself Moves

Do-it-yourself moves “have increased considerably and consistently over the summer months” for U-Haul International, which rents trucks and vans, said company spokesman Jeff Lockridge, who declined to disclose exact figures.

About a quarter of 2,000 real estate agents surveyed in late June said some home buyers have altered the location of where they are looking to purchase because of Covid-19. Those who shifted were now looking at suburbs and smaller towns, with fewer people looking at central cities, agents said.

Suburban Shift

Home buyers have shifted searches more to suburbs and small towns

Coronavirus flight is particularly high in New Jersey and New York, where two thirds of United Van Lines’ moves are for relocations out of those states.

The number of people looking to move from New York City during the pandemic nearly doubled from a year earlier, while interest in leaving the San Francisco Bay area jumped 31%, said Eily Cummings, spokeswoman for United Van Lines’ parent company, UniGroup.

Illinois, Connecticut and California, three other states with big urban populations, were also among those losing out during the pandemic.

Top Ten Outbound States

Out of every 10 moves, 7 households are leaving New Jersey

The winners among the states, meanwhile, have been less densely populated areas: Vermont topped UniGroup’s list. Idaho, Oregon and South Carolina also attracted more people looking to relocate.

Truck-rental prices provide one clue to how desirable an area is for relocations.

A hypothetical move from New York City to Vermont is priced at $773 compared to $236 for the reverse trip, according to a Bloomberg analysis of U-Haul pricing. This price differential is due to numerous variables, one being that more people are moving out of a city than into it.

With many businesses are arranging for employees to work from home and holding meetings via apps like Zoom that can be done from anywhere, William Frey, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and a demographer for the past four decades, agrees with Seinfeld that cities like New York will be back over time.

“These recent population shifts, if real, will be short-lived and change when the pandemic subsides,” he said. “Young adult Gen Zers could find cities attractive” anew just as cities gained appeal among millennials after the 2007-2009 recession.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-08-31/new-yorkers-flee-for-florida-and-texas-as-mobility-surges

More urban sprawl while jobs cluster: working from home will reshape the nation

The Conversation, 19 August 2020

For most of us the experience of working from home this year has, on balance, been positive – enough that it may well become the norm after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

But modelling by Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies shows there will be costs alongside the personal benefits, with more urban sprawl, job flight to the biggest cities and greater economic disparities between regions.

More than 67% of 1,006 Australians polled in April for an NBN-commissioned survey said they expected to work from home more after the coronavirus crisis ends. Many businesses are sold on the concept too, with mounting evidence working from home can boost productivity.

Offices will not disappear – personal interactions still provide crucial benefits – but working two, three or four days a week from home could be well become the norm in many occupations.

Our modelling of the effects of this has identified two key results.

First, workers commuting less often will be prepared to commute further. This will change patterns of housing demand and labour supply. In particular it will drive more urban sprawl and boost populations of communities within acceptable commuting distances.

Second, while the population will spread out, many jobs are likely to go in the opposite direction, as more organisations set up shop in central business districts.

How we conducted our research

To predict the effect of working from home on housing and jobs, we considered what jobs could most easily be done remotely. Of 38 occupational groups classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, seven managerial, professional and clerical occupational groups stood out as having high work-from-home potential. These occupations accounted for 29% of the workforce at the last census (in 2016).

In our model, where workers choose where to live and work takes into account wages and housing costs in different locations, and the time it takes to travel to work. The modelling assumes that in the seven “WFH occupations” distance from the office will become less important.

Urban sprawl

Our modelling indicates people in WFH occupations will be more likely to live further from city centres if their weekly commuting costs are lower. Other workers and retirees move closer to city centres, but the net effect is still to shift housing demand outward. Nationally, residential areas expand 3.6%.

In Sydney, there is an overall shift in population out of inner suburbs (for example Glebe) and middle suburbs (for example Strathfield) into outer suburban areas (such as Penrith) and towns of the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and the Southern Highlands. A similar outward shift of population is replicated on smaller scales in Newcastle and Wollongong.


Changes in residential population: Sydney
Changes in residential population: Sydney. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

Similar results are obtained for Melbourne, Brisbane and other capital cities. In Melbourne, inner suburbs (for example Carlton) and middle suburbs (for example Glen Iris) lose population whereas populations rise in places like Werribee and Melton.


Changes in residential population: Melbourne. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

In Brisbane, fewer people live in inner suburbs like New Farm whereas more live in places like Greenbank or the Samford Valley.

The pattern is replicated in smaller cities, such as Geelong in Victoria and the Gold Coast in Queensland.


Changes in residential population: Brisbane
Changes in residential population: Brisbane. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

It is a good thing if people can spend less time and money commuting, access cheaper housing, or enjoy more pleasant lifestyles outside of big cities.

But urban sprawl has costs that are too often discounted.

Providing infrastructure for typical greenfield housing developments is relatively expensive. On the urban fringes of our cities, exposure of people and property to fire and other natural hazards has often been inadequately managed. In many coastal regions, urbanisation is driving loss, degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems and decline of native plants and wildlife species.

Costs like these could outweigh the benefits of working from home unless governments can deliver more sustainable forms of urban growth.


Read more: Why coronavirus must not stop Australia creating denser cities


Unequal growth of cities

The second key finding of the study is that more working from home will boost the growth of some cities but depress that of others.

There are advantages to businesses clustering together in central business districts. Working from home will increase their incentives to join the largest clusters in the largest cities.

Willingness to commute further will make these clusters accessible to even larger workforces. Lower demand for housing in inner-city areas will make real estate more affordable for commercial tenants.

The result is that jobs shift to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra and away from other cities, towns and rural areas.


Read more: The growing skills gap between jobs in Australian cities and the regions


Resident populations will be boosted in smaller cities and towns around these growth centres, but in the rest of Australia, cities and towns will be smaller than they otherwise would be.

With there already being significant economic disparities between city and rural areas, and between different regions, these new trends pose a further challenge for policy makers.

Our modelling of the effects of this has identified two key results.

First, workers commuting less often will be prepared to commute further. This will change patterns of housing demand and labour supply. In particular it will drive more urban sprawl and boost populations of communities within acceptable commuting distances.

Second, while the population will spread out, many jobs are likely to go in the opposite direction, as more organisations set up shop in central business districts.

How we conducted our research

To predict the effect of working from home on housing and jobs, we considered what jobs could most easily be done remotely. Of 38 occupational groups classified by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, seven managerial, professional and clerical occupational groups stood out as having high work-from-home potential. These occupations accounted for 29% of the workforce at the last census (in 2016).

In our model, where workers choose where to live and work takes into account wages and housing costs in different locations, and the time it takes to travel to work. The modelling assumes that in the seven “WFH occupations” distance from the office will become less important.

Urban sprawl

Our modelling indicates people in WFH occupations will be more likely to live further from city centres if their weekly commuting costs are lower. Other workers and retirees move closer to city centres, but the net effect is still to shift housing demand outward. Nationally, residential areas expand 3.6%.

In Sydney, there is an overall shift in population out of inner suburbs (for example Glebe) and middle suburbs (for example Strathfield) into outer suburban areas (such as Penrith) and towns of the Blue Mountains, the Central Coast and the Southern Highlands. A similar outward shift of population is replicated on smaller scales in Newcastle and Wollongong.


Changes in residential population: Sydney
Changes in residential population: Sydney. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

Similar results are obtained for Melbourne, Brisbane and other capital cities. In Melbourne, inner suburbs (for example Carlton) and middle suburbs (for example Glen Iris) lose population whereas populations rise in places like Werribee and Melton.


Changes in residential population: Melbourne. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

In Brisbane, fewer people live in inner suburbs like New Farm whereas more live in places like Greenbank or the Samford Valley.

The pattern is replicated in smaller cities, such as Geelong in Victoria and the Gold Coast in Queensland.


Changes in residential population: Brisbane
Changes in residential population: Brisbane. James Lennox, CC BY-ND

It is a good thing if people can spend less time and money commuting, access cheaper housing, or enjoy more pleasant lifestyles outside of big cities.

But urban sprawl has costs that are too often discounted.

Providing infrastructure for typical greenfield housing developments is relatively expensive. On the urban fringes of our cities, exposure of people and property to fire and other natural hazards has often been inadequately managed. In many coastal regions, urbanisation is driving loss, degradation and fragmentation of ecosystems and decline of native plants and wildlife species.

Costs like these could outweigh the benefits of working from home unless governments can deliver more sustainable forms of urban growth.



Unequal growth of cities

The second key finding of the study is that more working from home will boost the growth of some cities but depress that of others.

There are advantages to businesses clustering together in central business districts. Working from home will increase their incentives to join the largest clusters in the largest cities.

Willingness to commute further will make these clusters accessible to even larger workforces. Lower demand for housing in inner-city areas will make real estate more affordable for commercial tenants.

The result is that jobs shift to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra and away from other cities, towns and rural areas.



Resident populations will be boosted in smaller cities and towns around these growth centres, but in the rest of Australia, cities and towns will be smaller than they otherwise would be.

With there already being significant economic disparities between city and rural areas, and between different regions, these new trends pose a further challenge for policy makers.

https://theconversation.com/more-urban-sprawl-while-jobs-cluster-working-from-home-will-reshape-the-nation-144409

Towards a Better Urbanism

New Geography May 17 2020

The pandemic has brought panic to the once-confident ranks of urbanists promoting city density. At a time when even the New York Times is noticing that density and transit pose serious health risks for any potential re-opening, such people attack their critics as “anti-urbanist” or “sprawl lovers” or “urban gadflies.” Preferring theology over data, some advocate ever-greater density and crowding in cities and mass transit.

But wishful thinking cannot alter the fact that the pandemic has hit core cities with particular force. The concentration of the worst outbreaks in major urban areas—the New York region alone accounts for more than 40 percent of all US fatalities—is a global phenomenon also seen in Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Italy, and Spain. This has cast a pall on traditional downtown-centric employment, dependent on massive subway systems, crowded apartments, and packed workspaces.

Such places promote what demographer Wendell Cox calls “exposure density.” This is particularly lethal for low-wage workers forced to take packed transit lines from crowded apartments to packed workplaces. It is not surprising that, in the shadow of the pandemic, a recent Harris poll found that almost two-in-five urban residents are considering a move to a less crowded area. The latest consumer survey from the National Association of Realtors also found that households are “looking for larger homes, bigger yards, access to the outdoors and more separation from neighbors.” Even many diehard city residents, suggests the New York Times, are now putting bids on suburban houses further from the city.

The demise of the high-rise office tower

Economic necessity has long defined how cities are organized. In the pre-industrial past, they grew up near coastal ports, rivers, or along trade routes such as the Silk Road. They housed those needed to run the state and maintain trade as well as servicing the luxury needs of the rich. Later, the industrial revolution forced cities to grow radically, as manufacturers depended on easy access to vast numbers of workers, who often suffered from severe social and health effects as documented by Friedrich Engels in his influential book, The Condition of the Working Class in England.

The past 50 years has seen the demise of the industrial city as production has shifted to developing countries or more remote locations, and the rise of an urban economy based on elite “producer services.” These industries, including finance, media, software, accounting, and law, depend on the migration of talent from elsewhere, both domestically and abroad. In modern times, the most prominent physical expression of urban greatness—once cathedrals or great public works—has been the office building. This same pattern has extended outside the West, notably in the Middle East and East Asia, which now boast most of the world’s tallest buildings.

But this configuration is now faced with the challenge of “social distancing.” Before the pandemic, companies coped with high urban rents by using far less space per new job—down from 175 square feet of space per new employee in the 1990s to 125 in the late 2000s and barely 50 square feet today. Social distancing requirements will force employers to offer more space per employee, which will in turn see their costs rise. Elevator traffic will slow, and private offices, once considered passé, may soon be in demand, as executives seek greater isolation from their employees.

Read the rest of this piece at Quillette.

Joel Kotkin is the author of the just-released book The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute — formerly the Center for Opportunity Urbanism. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin

Marshall Toplansky is a clinical assistant professor of management science at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics. He is a research fellow in the school’s Hoag Center for Real Estate and Finance and is formerly managing director of KPMG’s Lighthouse Center for Advanced Data and Analytics.

https://www.newgeography.com/content/006647-towards-a-better-urbanism

Why coronavirus must not stop Australia creating denser cities

The Conversation 14 May 2020

Stay-at-home orders have meant many people are happy to live in dispersed suburbs with free-standing, single-family homes. Quarantine feels less daunting with a backyard, plenty of storage space to stockpile supplies, and a big living room for morning stretches. Before the crisis, though, Australia was slowly moving toward urban density.

More apartments with communal amenities, rather than privatised space, were being built, creating less dependence on driving. It is easy to think these urbanites are now glumly looking out their windows towards the more spacious suburbs, wishing they had made different choices. Yet, despite the impacts of restrictions, Australia’s future is in urban density and not the suburban sprawl of the past.

The benefits of density done well

Before the world changed and Australians were ushered inside en masse, the country was making great strides toward creating more compact, walkable cities. Denser neighbourhoods provided multiple benefits:

better access to transport alternatives to cars
the creation of vibrant commercial districts
increased ability to house more people during affordability and homelessness crises.

Nationally, we were building almost as many apartment units as single family homes. In cities like Melbourne and Sydney, apartment construction even surpassed stand-alone houses despite lax quality regulations and design and construction flaws.

Density was achieved not just through towers for Asian investors in CBDs, but more subtle alterations such as townhouses and small blocks of flats. Residents moving into these neighbourhoods affirmed a sense of environmental consciousness, based on driving less, but also the belief in tight-knit communities with small businesses, parks and thriving street life.

Beware the siren call of suburbia

With the onset of COVID-19, it seems Australia’s new-found love of city living might be over, reverting to the suburban norm. The suburbs always offered a sense of safety, now more than ever.
Yet much of this is illusory. People still have to go shopping and, in many cases, to work, where they could be exposed to the virus. People have just as much control over their physical space in an apartment as in a house. (The exception is the lifts, but distancing measures and gloves can easily reduce risk.)

Australians may be tempted to re-embrace suburbia out of nostalgia for pre-virus safety, but they should remember what brought them to cities in the first place. As the architect Robin Boyd bemoaned way back in his 1960 critique of suburbanisation, The Australian Ugliness:
… the suburbs’ stealthy crawl like dry rot eating into the forest edge.
With 60 years of government policy propping up sprawl through freeway construction and tax breaks like negative gearing, it continues to be its own kind of infection scarring the landscape.

Don’t blame public health failures on density

Despite re-animated fears of living closer together, many countries that have successfully contained the coronavirus have some of the most densely populated cities in the world. These cities include Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei. They have done this not by separating people but by increasing testing and contact tracing.

What is needed during a pandemic is not panic but effective public health. Prosperous, well-managed city governments are often best placed to offer these services to the community.

Negative examples like the United States, where the Trump administration has devolved responsibilities to states and cities, provide even more proof of why cities have to be at the forefront of public health campaigns, whether or not they choose that role voluntarily. The same could be said of Australia, where state governments in Victoria and New South Wales took the lead on restricting gatherings as the national government dithered.
Now, more than ever, we are appreciating urban life from afar: making lists of our favourite restaurants, changing our Zoom background during “virtual happy hour” to the interior of our local pub, and yearning for social connections that have migrated online.
We should listen to our desires and use this moment to double down on urban density when the crisis subsides, by funding mass transit and providing incentives to construct apartments rather than free-standing suburban homes.

Low-density living is less sustainable, less affordable and less fun. We should all remember that, despite currently having to keep our distance from one another.

https://theconversation.com/why-coronavirus-must-not-stop-australia-creating-denser-cities-137487

Our cities owe much of their surviving heritage to Jack Mundey

The Conversation 11 May 2020

Jack Mundey, who has died at the age of 90, was a pioneer of the Australian heritage movement. As well as contributing to labor and environmental politics, Mundey reconceived of the ways that Australians related to their cities and heritage places.

As the NSW Builders’ Labourers Federation (BLF) secretary, Mundey created the “green ban” (a term first used in 1973). No union member would work on a site subject to a green ban.

These bans were placed to give communities a say in development and to protect heritage and the environment. At a time of historically high union membership in the construction industry, a green ban effectively prevented development from proceeding.

By painting the traditional union “black ban” in a new colour, Mundey and the BLF created a new conception of urban and labor politics which highlighted community heritage concerns. As Mundey explained:

The adjective “green” was more apt than “black”. It also explained our wish to extend our help to other citizens, not to unionists alone.

Applying the first ban

The first green ban was applied in Sydney at Hunter’s Hill in 1971. A group of women founded “Battlers for Kelly’s Bush” to campaign against a proposed housing development by Melbourne firm A.V. Jennings. The housing estate was to be built on the Parramatta River at Kelly’s Bush, the last undeveloped open space in the area.

It was a typical housing project in this era of suburban expansion. But the rise of resident and civic groups fighting for heritage across Australia shifted the development terrain.
The Hunter’s Hill residents heard Mundey’s claim that workers “had a right to express an opinion on social questions relating to the building industry”. After a meeting between Mundey and the Battlers, a green ban was applied, eventually foiling the development. Kelly’s Bush was saved.

It did not matter that Hunter’s Hill was a solidly middle-class suburb. The green bans would be instituted on behalf of a range of communities.

A time of public revolt

Australian cities underwent dramatic change in the postwar period. Funded by a long economic boom, it was the era of modernist architecture and planning. Many parts of cities would be redeveloped following wholesale demolition.

Although goals of postwar urban planning for the welfare state included housing for all, full employment and exciting new environments, sizeable cracks in the vision were appearing in the 1960s. Planners and architects were increasingly criticised for being technocratic and adopting overly scientific and rationalised modes for urban design and development.

Their efforts were too often disconnected from communities and needlessly destroyed historic and natural environments. Widespread demolitions of commercial and public buildings in Australian CBDs and of terrace and free-standing homes in the inner suburbs were increasingly seen as unacceptable by the community.

More broadly, the late 1960s and early 1970s was a dramatic time for Australian social movements. Second-wave feminists, anti-Vietnam war protesters and historic and environmental conservationists rubbed shoulders during street marches. The federal Liberal Party had been in power for two decades and there was a great deal of energy among progressives for change.

An expanding movement

The Australian heritage movement was gaining momentum. National Trusts had been active in designating heritage places from the late 1940s. By the late 1960s, thousands of historic places were identified by National Trust classifications, metropolitan planning schemes and sympathetic governments and property owners.

However, a new generation of heritage activists had come to see the Australian National Trusts as narrow in their architectural interests, tame in their advocacy methods, and led by a coterie of elites. Green bans were seen as a more effective means of safeguarding heritage and were swiftly expanded from Hunter’s Hill.

Mundey and his fellow unionists Joe Owens and Bob Pringle, as part of the broader green ban movement, engaged with the ten inner-suburban Melbourne resident groups that comprised the Committee for Urban Action, established in 1970, and the 40 such groups that in 1971 had formed the Coalition of Resident Action Groups in Sydney. From Woolloomooloo and Pott’s Point to Fitzroy and Collingwood, residents took to the streets to protest comprehensive urban renewal and freeway construction plans.

Unions backed these citizen movements by placing green bans on these neighbourhoods. The green bans extended across Australia’s historic suburbs into the CBDs.

Perth’s Palace Hotel and The Mansions in Brisbane were subject to these efforts. In Sydney, Mundey was arrested during protests at The Rocks. In Melbourne, the City Baths, Mac’s Hotel, Victoria Market, Gothic Bank, Regent Theatre, Windsor Hotel, Princess Theatre, Collins Street and the Rialto precinct, and Tasma Terrace all received the attention of the union movement. (The Victorian National Trust would find a new home at Tasma Terrace despite the Australian National Trust movement’s reticence about supporting the radical green bans.)
The Victorian Housing Commission’s high-rise housing program was brought to a sudden halt. Corrupt Melbourne unionist Norman Gallagher, who notoriously clashed with Mundey, took part in applying green bans in his city.

Unions backed these citizen movements by placing green bans on these neighbourhoods. The green bans extended across Australia’s historic suburbs into the CBDs.

Perth’s Palace Hotel and The Mansions in Brisbane were subject to these efforts. In Sydney, Mundey was arrested during protests at The Rocks. In Melbourne, the City Baths, Mac’s Hotel, Victoria Market, Gothic Bank, Regent Theatre, Windsor Hotel, Princess Theatre, Collins Street and the Rialto precinct, and Tasma Terrace all received the attention of the union movement. (The Victorian National Trust would find a new home at Tasma Terrace despite the Australian National Trust movement’s reticence about supporting the radical green bans.)
The Victorian Housing Commission’s high-rise housing program was brought to a sudden halt. Corrupt Melbourne unionist Norman Gallagher, who notoriously clashed with Mundey, took part in applying green bans in his city.

https://theconversation.com/our-cities-owe-much-of-their-surviving-heritage-to-jack-mundey-138293

POPULATION GROWTH CONCENTRATED IN AUTO ORIENTED SUBURBS AND METROPOLITAN AREAS

New Geography 14 January 2020

The suburbs and exurbs continue to dominate population growth in the nation’s 53 major metropolitan areas, according to a City Sector Model (Note 1 and Figure 9) analysis. We traced growth between the 2010 Census and the American Community Survey 5-year data, from samples taken over the period of 2014 to 2018. The middle-year was 2016 (Note 2).

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The inclusive apartments of the future need visionary backers

The Fifth Estate, 10 December 2019

Property consultant Abdul Khan told Tomorrowland19 about plans for a new style of sustainable housing, with apartments to suit everyone from youth with disabilities to retirees looking to downsize. But will politicians and developers back this vision?

About 70 per cent of future residences in Australia’s cities are designed to be high-rise but we are not planning for them to be sustainable nor particularly inclusive, says Khan, owner and director of ASK Property Consultants.

Khan was a lead sales consultant for Diversified Property Group’s Bel Air development, a sustainable residential housing project in Kellyville in Sydney’s north west that was completed several years ago.

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How to Cut 10,000 Parking Spaces Without Anyone Complaining

Citylab.com June 5 2019

A new short film celebrates bike-friendly Amsterdam’s no-drama strategy for eliminating car parking: “It’s not a big deal here.”

Visitors to Amsterdam may notice something new in coming years: more Amsterdam, and fewer cars.

Earlier this year, local leaders announced plans to scale back parking in Amsterdam’s core by about 1,500 spaces per year. As a new video by Streetfilms documents, visitors and locals alike can take in more of the city’s iconic canals, bridges, and gabled architecture with fewer vehicles blocking the view. The streets “are yours again,” Katelijne Boerma, the Dutch city’s official bike mayor, says in the film.

Some communities have already begun to re-envision their newly liberated outdoor space. As an indication of what’s possible, in the Frans Halsbuurt neighborhood, a whole grid of streets is almost totally free of parking, replaced by a bevy of rosebushes, benches, and slides. There is also more room for bikes, on which 65 percent of the city’s daily trips are made. Parked cars “are like fences,” Boerma says. “It really divides the neighborhood.” With their removal, she says, people have more of a chance to move.

As CityLab reported earlier this year, Amsterdam is using a few different strategies to systemically whittle down its parking stock. Residents with downtown parking permits will no longer be able to station their vehicles where they please; instead, they will have to pay a higher fee for a specific location. Permits that once belonged to people who move away, give up their cars, or die will not be reissued. Historic street renovations will present another opportunity to pare back parked vehicles. All told, the city believes it can eliminate as many as 11,200 parking spaces by the end of 2025. Yet even as it does so, it is not denying anyone the right to park.

The disappearance of so many spots might feel like an assault on drivers. (That’s likely how this narrative would unfold in the average North American city.) But according to Zeeger Ernsting, a city councilman who has helped lead the initiative, the parking purge hasn’t been all that controversial. There are still more than enough parking permits to go around, he says in the film. And the issue has barely come up in local newspapers—perhaps because so few Amsterdammers drive in the first place.

“The funny thing is, I read about this,” A. Henry Cutler, the founder and director of Workcycles, a local bike manufacturer, says in the film. “But I didn’t read about it in the Dutch press. I read about it on Twitter from you guys. It’s not a big deal here.”

https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2019/06/amsterdam-parking-spots-removal-cars-bikes-parks-playground/591067/ :function(

Of all the problems our cities need to fix, lack of car parking isn’t one of them

The Conversation May 17 2019

Parking is a fiery issue in Australian cities. That’s because cars dominate our cities, supported by decades of unbalanced planning decisions favouring space for cars over other land uses or forms of transport. Parking is even an issue in the federal election, with both the Coalition and Labor promising to fund more spaces for commuters.

The issue of parking flared up again recently in Melbourne’s inner north. Moreland City Council wants to scrap minimum parking requirements for new apartments around its increasingly dense activity centres.

Victoria’s planning minister, Richard Wynne, gets the final say on this plan – and it might be a “no”. He said last month the practicalities need more thought and that Moreland must “strike a balance”.

Wynne is right, but not in the way he implies.

Australian cities are generous to cars

Minimum parking requirements were introduced across Australia alongside the rise of cars in the 1950s. These set rigid ratios for parking spaces in different types of new developments.

For example, the Western Australia State Planning Policy requires at least at least 0.75–1 parking bay for every one-bedroom dwelling in an apartment building, plus at least one visitor parking space per four dwellings. A review of parking policy in Western Australia found these requirements are largely based on small, outdated surveys in the United States and do not reflect actual demand for parking in Australia.

A result of these policies is a glut of parking in Australian cities. The local council area of the City of Melbourne has over 215,000 parking spaces. However, 40-60% of households in the area do not own a car and around a third of apartment parking spaces are not used.

Removing minimum requirements is an effort by local governments to allow the varying needs of local communities to determine parking outcomes.

But what about tradies, emergency workers, the disabled?

Often proposed changes to parking are criticised for being unfair to people who may rely on cars. It is great that these questions of equity are raised (including by the planning minister), but some of the common concerns are misplaced.

Firstly, developers are sensitive to market demands and will continue to provide apartments with parking for those who need it. When London removed minimum parking requirements in 2004, new developments still provided car parks – just at half the previous required rate.

Closer to home, the inner-city councils of Sydney and Melbourne have already removed some minimum parking requirements – and many new apartments still provide parking spaces.

Secondly, while apartment dwellers with insufficient off-street parking are often blamed for clogging up on-street parking in residential areas, they are rarely to blame. A recent study in Melbourne found residents of detached houses use 77-84% of on-street parking. Many of them have garages, but choose to use them for storage or living space.

Apartment dwellers were less likely to use on-street parking and more likely to have unused spaces. And more parking in apartment blocks isn’t helping people access our cities, even by car.

Finally, providing more housing options without rigidly attached parking spaces will encourage people who don’t actually need to drive to choose to drive less or switch to other forms of transport.

Removing minimum parking requirements will not mean that people who need to drive for work, medical or other reasons can’t find homes with parking spaces. Indeed, if we make it easier for those who don’t need to drive to get around in other ways, congestion could be eased for those workers who do need a car.

Pro-car planning policies are unfair to those who can’t drive

Policies that encourage dependence on cars marginalise people who can’t or don’t drive. These groups are often disadvantaged in other ways. For example, people with disabilities tend to rely on public transport, not cars, to participate in society.

In Australia, households in the most disadvantaged areas are the most likely not to have a car. Older Australians are also less likely to drive. Rates of driver licence ownership decrease from around the age of 60.

Providing quality public transport and walkable streets – not an oversupply of car parking – is critical to ensure children, young and older people and those with disabilities can get around independently.

Minimum parking requirements prioritise cars as the default transport option. The results include increased congestion, urban sprawl and air pollution.

Parking requirements also make apartments less affordable. Land construction costs per parking space average between A$50,000 and $80,000, as well as using valuable space at an average of 21 square metres. A parking space is bigger than a bedroom – and nearly half the size of a typical new Melbourne apartment!.

Design cities around people, not cars

Australian planning policy has favoured cars over other forms of transport for too long. This needs to change if we want our cities to be healthy, liveable and easy to get around for everyone.

Moreland’s plan to scrap minimum parking requirements may sound extreme, but it isn’t going to take existing parking spaces away, or mean all new developments will have zero parking.

The practicalities of on-street parking policy are important, but mandating the supply of more off-street parking isn’t even the best way to meet parking demand.

If we continue to plan our urban areas as if everyone needs a car (or multiple cars) to get around, we will rapidly run out of space. And the space we have left will be unpleasant to spend time in. This means more time spent in traffic for drivers and ugly, hazardous and polluted streets for locals.

Sidestepping this difficult issue in the name of “balance” isn’t fair or practical. Improving public transport in these corridors is in the state’s power and would be a much more constructive response.

https://theconversation.com/of-all-the-problems-our-cities-need-to-fix-lack-of-car-parking-isnt-one-of-them-116179

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