Urban planning is the orderly development of urban areas, in both cities and towns. Urban planning can have a significant influence on the type, location and affordability of housing.
A number of AHURI projects have examined urban planning processes to assess their impact on the cost of housing developments and to identify mechanisms for improving the supply of affordable housing and the environmental and social sustainability of urban areas.
How do local governments influence housing development in Australia?
- Local governments play a significant role in planning for housing. They can use statutory planning regulations to ensure that an adequate supply of affordable housing is delivered, and they can ensure that housing is located close to necessary services.
- One way in which local governments influence housing is through Housing Strategies. In recent years, local governments across eastern Australia have used housing strategies to identify local demand and supply issues. They are also used to plan ways to meet the specific housing needs of people with special needs — Project 60132.
- The keys to successful implementation of local housing strategies are consistent local leadership, effective partnerships with state governments and private developers, and the ability to leverage internal and external funding. The effectiveness of these strategies could be improved with the development of tools such as local planning policies to support local initiatives, greater state government support, and the building of greater housing expertise and knowledge in the local government sector — Project 60132.
- Planning plays a central role in a number of European and North American states in maintaining and increasing the supply of affordable housing. A range of planning mechanisms can be used to preserve or offset the loss of affordable housing in redevelopment settings, reduce barriers to the development of low-cost housing, and facilitate the increased supply of new affordable housing. These mechanisms include affordable housing targets in new developments, density bonuses and inclusionary zoning — Project 60322.
- Developer contribution charges constitute the largest quantifiable planning-related cost to developers, averaging around $45 000-$100 000 per lot. Other non-financial barriers such as uncertain timeframes, a lack of goodwill between local governments and developers and unpredictable costs are of more concern to the development industry — Project 70393.
How can we improve the environmental sustainability of new housing developments?
- Governments are increasingly looking to improve the sustainability of new residential subdivisions and master-planned communities, whilst maintaining affordability. The two most important factors in achieving these aims simultaneously are increased densities and a trend towards smaller houses. Low technology and passive solar design are also highly beneficial — Project 70137.
Does the geographic spread of affordable housing affect access to opportunity?
- Housing costs vary by location and the location of affordable housing affects people’s access to jobs, and their transport time and choices. AHURI research has found that in large metropolitan centres such as Melbourne and Sydney, most people live and work in a single region or adjoining regions — Project 50024.
- Low-income households tend to move away from those areas with high cost housing and fewer jobs, although housing costs do not appear to be the primary driver for the move. High unemployment tends to be found in older, industrial suburbs rather than all being located at the urban fringe. In contrast, recent years have seen an increase in the number of master designed estates on the urban fringes of major cities, which have reduced the incidence of concentrated disadvantage in these locations — Project 50024.
Does higher density housing lead to the concentration of social disadvantage?
- Largely due to the historical investment in public housing ‘towers’ there is a perception that high-density housing leads to concentrated social disadvantage. However there is no clear link between densification and an increase in social disadvantage.
- In low-amenity, car-dependent parts of middle-ring Melbourne, a rise in largely unplanned sub-divisions of existing house lots is creating smaller, more affordable private rental housing accessible to low income households. In turn, this is resulting in the concentration of disadvantaged people in poorly serviced areas — Project 50224.
How does housing affect regional development?
- Regional investment in social and physical infrastructure can reduce spatial polarisation of different socio-economic groups. Spatially targeted housing assistance has the potential to enhance regional wellbeing, with flow on effects for the entire country.
- Suitable and affordable housing is a vital component of regional development policy and programs. This includes providing a wider range of housing types, specialised housing for cultural groups and people with disabilities and subsidised housing for key professional workers in areas of severe skill shortage — Project 70030 & Project 80031.
- AHURI has investigated rates and reasons for moving between cities and regional areas. Mobility rates are similar however motivations differ. The majority of moves from the city to a regional area are driven by affordability and lifestyle choices. Moves in the opposite direction are usually driven by the search for improved employment opportunities — Project 70175.