Australia needs to ‘urbanise the ’burbs’, says Mike Day

The leading urban planner says new residents who have been pushed to the outer suburbs seek the ingredients that make inner cities so attractive
Australia needs to ‘urbanise the ’burbs’, says Mike Day
Ed.Square, Edmonson Park. Image: Supplied
Max KwokMay 25, 2021

Australia needs to ‘urbanise the ’burbs’ as the recent property boom and skyrocketing house prices drives more residents to the outer suburbs of our cities, says Hatch RobertsDay partner, Mike Day.

The leading urban planner says these new residents seek out the ingredients that make our inner cities so attractive.

“Many want the urban experience and lifestyle: from the inner-city layout of small parks, mini main streets, and public transport at their doorstep to the bustling cafe and restaurant culture and an integrated community feel”, he said.

According to the urban planning consultancy, the last 30 years saw planners follow the conventional suburban model of separating land uses – houses in one area and shopping centres and business hubs in another, which are only accessible by car.

“With hundreds of thousands of new dwellings set to be developed in the outer city fringes, urban planners, developers and councils need to ensure we get this urban mix right”, Day said.

“We need to foster a diverse range of housing with more compact and attainable homes centred around mixed-use community hubs.”

This is especially true for Australians who are now finding that the community they buy into is just as critical as choosing the home they live in.

Leading property investment expert Michael Yardney has long sustained that up to 80 per cent of the capital growth in the value of a home or investment property will be due to its location.

As a result, new housing estates must co-exist with other land uses and return to old-fashion community life: connected footpaths to community hubs, and schools, shops, restaurants, and facilities within walking distance.

Day offered the example of the new mixed-use project Ed.Square in south-west Sydney’s Edmondson Park as an ideal community.

“One of the first planned neighbourhoods under the South West growth area, Frasers Property Group has successfully created an urban community and neighbourhood feel in Sydney’s outer suburbs.”

With apartments and townhouses within walking distance and minutes from trains and buses, the development encourages residents to rely less on cars – giving the community a sense of identity and soul.

What needs to change?

Mike Day shared five key factors of inner-city neighbourhoods that developers could apply to our outer suburbs:

1. Diversity in housing types

Communities that contain a mix of apartments, townhouses and single-dwelling homes attract residents across all ages and incomes – a solution to Australia’s lack of housing affordability.

According to Day, developers and urban planners need to step away from suburban resident-only enclaves and large homes on large blocks that segregate people from others and their local community hubs.

Instead, he encourages a shift towards modest, compact homes to create strong local connected communities.

2. Integrated communities with centralised amenities

Mixed-use developments blend residential with commercial, cultural, and entertainment uses.

Having local community facilities in a central hub enable residents to walk and cycle to their daily needs – reducing the reliance on cars. It also promotes healthier lifestyles.

Day said new urban neighbourhoods require mini main streets that safely and easily connect shops, parks, schools, and community centres to homes. In doing so, residents can also minimise the cost of owning and servicing a vehicle – which could save them thousands each year.

3. Open green space and ‘destination parks’

According to the Housing Industry Association, backyards shrinking and the average lot size 16 per cent smaller than in 2009. Thus, there is a further need for neighbourhood parks, signature streets, and green spaces for the community to enjoy.

Tree-lined streets and small green ‘destination’ spaces with playgrounds and outdoor equipment are essential. This can reduce the creation of empty ‘cookie cutter’ parks with little purpose.

4. Driveways and garages positioned on small streets at the rear of the home

Townhouses in our cherished inner-city neighbourhoods were designed with small streets behind the home that provided access to driveways and garages.

According to Day, suburban streets should return to this timeless layout to provide more greener, tree-lined streets. It also removes driveways at the front of homes – enabling more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly paths.

5. Separate and wider walking and cycling pathways

Walkable neighbourhoods require wider and separate pathways for pedestrians and cyclists, which increases safety for residents.

It can also motivate more people to reduce car usage – in turn, reducing road congestion and air pollution – and create a sense of community.

Max Kwok

Max Kwok is a staff contributor at Based in Sydney, Max has previously worked at Property Observer where he specialised in content creation and editorial research.

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