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The Forum > Article Comments > High-density housing reflects dense government thinking > Comments

High-density housing reflects dense government thinking : Comments

By Tony Recsei, published 23/8/2011

Health, environment and infrastructure impacts of high-density housing.

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This article promotes a protectionist stance that seeks to perpetuate NIMBY practices which are environmentally damaging, socially divisive and economically unsustainable for Australia.

First, the entire article is built on the premise that people are being "forced" into high density housing, but no evidence whatsoever is presented for this. Compared to many other countries, Australia has more significant issues caused by urban sprawl.

Second, of course 83 per cent of people prefer to live in a free-standing home. I'd say 83% would want to own a helicopter too. Not everyone can have what they like.

Third, comparing the environmental impact of current public transport with that of current cars or even future cars is syllogistic. We currently have unsatisfactory public transport because our policies support the primacy of the car in Australian life. The solution is better public transport, not more cars.

Fourth, the same argument for public transport is applied to high rise buildings. Of course many buildings are inefficient, does the author really think that new buildings are being built the same way? We need better designs for buildings and retrofits to old ones.

Fifth, higher density housing is more affordable. In this economic climate, it is reckless to promote low density housing, forcing families to spend more of their income on housing and many to take mortgages they cannot afford.

Groups like Save Our Suburbs are often overrepresented by residents of more affluent areas who seek to protect their large properties. And unfortunately housing is often used as a proxy issue for those opposed to "new Australians" who are seen as different and threatening. This attitude is divisive and dangerous.

The author fails on these many fronts and has not even covered other issues such as water use. We continue to open up new estates further away from city and satellite centres and groups like Save Our Suburbs continue to block higher density housing. Backward looking NIMBY attitudes protect entrenched interests and damage Australia, we need solutions that conserve energy and water and reduce the cost of living for all Australians.
Posted by Nicholas Goodwin, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 9:14:57 AM
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I am fairly green in my politics.

To have low density housing I think we would need it to be designed differently if it was to be sustainable. I think this would be easy to do.

High density leads to lots of proplems with noise and needs supportive infrastructure, which developers aren't usualli inclined to provide.

I think co-housing is a promising way forward.
Posted by Evan Hadkins, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 9:22:55 AM
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I am somewhat dismayed at the narrow focus of this article.

There is not even a mention of or an allusion to continuous rapid population growth.

How on earth can this factor just be left out entirely in a discussion about high-density versus low-density urban housing?

For as long as we continue to have rapid population growth in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, etc, there is very little point in discussing the merits of high vs low density dwellings... because we will be getting BOTH!

High-density inner-city dwellings won't prevent the negative aspects of urban sprawl. They will at best reduce the rate of worsening, slightly. And vice-versa.

Come-on, in the absence of concerted efforts to reduce population growth and steer this country towards a stable population, not least in our badly stressed major cities, arguments about housing density are MOOT!

It would appear that 'Save Our Suburbs' is concentrating on the wrong issue here. If they are really concerned about protecting out quality of life, then they need to focus a large part of their energies on the promotion of a sustainable future, not just in our cities but in the whole country. And that necessitates an end to rapid expansionism and the embracing of a stable population.

<... maddening traffic congestion, more greenhouse gases, a creaking and overloaded infrastructure... >

What's the essential factor in addressing these issues? It certainly isn't high density living. And it certainly isn't urban sprawl. It is population stabilisation.
Posted by Ludwig, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 9:54:06 AM
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Nicholas Goodwin claims that the article promotes environmentally damaging, socially divisive and economically unsustainable practices in affluent areas.

I live in a house worth around $330,000 in an outer suburb of Sydney - hardly affluent youd have to agree.

I have two Water Tanks in the backyard fed from rainwater from my roof, one of 5,000 litres and another of 1,000 litres. Hardly environmentally damaging Id say.

I have a Solar Array on my roof that generates more kWhrs of electricity than I use on an average day. Hard to do if you live in a block of units, especially when you have such a limited roof area to share amongst such a lot of people under it.

Like most people in my area, I only need to travel into the Sydney CBD once a month or less. My travel costs are minimal, clocking around 8000km by car each year and using bus and train when suitable.

I have lived in blocks of units before. My experience is that living in a suburban street is a lot more socially cohesive and friendly, with frequent chats with the neighbours, sharing passionfruit off the backyard vine and sharing local news when walking up the street and assisting one another in hard times. Hardly socially divisive.

I think Nicholas Goodwin needs a reality check on how much easier it is for the average Australian to achieve an environmentally sustainable and socially cohesive lifestyle by choosing to live in a suburban house compared with a block of units.
Posted by webd, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 10:09:17 AM
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As cities expand they encroach on productive farmland - and we don't have an awful lot of it. Some creative design is required to ensure that we strike a happy medium between horrible high-rise and stand alone houses on large(ish) blocks.
Posted by Phil Matimein, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 11:02:58 AM
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The author gives no indication of knowing what a decent public transport system is like. So it's natural perhaps that he doesn't realise that such a system reduces traffic congestion. And it needs to be supported by a medium-density (at least) of population. (I assume medium density is the right term, since the author associates high-density with residential buildings which have lifts).

For the record, too, it's important to be aware that medium-density cities can have plenty of green space - it's just not located in everyone's own back yard.
Posted by jeremy, Tuesday, 23 August 2011 11:22:56 AM
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