aerial-of-sydney-harbourFor the past few months, metropolitan Sydney has been engaged in a healthy debate about whether the pace and scale of development in Sydney and surrounding suburbs are eroding its quality of life, as discussed by John Landis, Professor of urban planning in the US who has just completed a six-month sabbatical at the University of Sydney, who has watched the debate with interest.

He says, when it comes to planning, Sydney gets a lot of things right. Its waterfront and foreshore areas, heritage buildings, amazing views and near-ubiquitous pedestrian access are simply the best in the world. Its vibrant CBD couples the economic energy of a great business centre with the cultural, entertainment, and recreational amenities of a great destination city with ever-expanding residential opportunities.

Sydney’s two major problems, congestion and a lack of affordable housing, are the problems of successful cities, not cities in trouble.

Still, there are many things that Sydney could do better. Based on research, here are five planning ideas to help make one of the world’s best cities even better:

1. Adopt an inclusionary housing law
2. Implement true multi-modal transportation planning
3. Improve the public realm
4. Cumulative impact assessment
5. Planning for growth corridors and heritage neighbourhoods

Sydney’s recent property boom has provided enormous financial benefits to homeowners and private developers while pushing poorer families further down the housing affordability ladder. It is now time to even the scales.

Inclusionary housing, or inclusionary zoning as it is known in the US, requires developers of large residential projects – say, 20 units or more – to set aside a fixed percentage of units – say, 15 per cent or so – for low- and moderate-income households. Participating builders may be granted density bonuses or other planning concessions.

Studies in the US – where about 200 local governments have adopted such laws including, most recently, New York City – have found no adverse effects on overall housing prices or construction levels.

Congestion is an inevitable by-product of growth. Credit is due to the current NSW government for facing up to the region’s transport investment shortfalls, but in the future, it must do so in a smarter and more multi-modal manner.

Road projects like WestConnex may be needed, but they should only be considered as part of a larger portfolio of mobility-enhancing investments, including trains, light rail, buses, and transit-oriented development. The best way to achieve this is to move beyond simply co-ordinating different modes and services, as the Transport for NSW agency cluster does, to true multi-modal planning.

For practical models, the NSW government might look to Freiburg, Germany; or to the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in the San Francisco Bay Area. To read more CLICK HERE.

The 9th Making Cities Liveable Conference; Generating a mood for change will be held next week at Pullman Melbourne on the Park 27-28 June 2016.

The Making Cities Liveable Conference supports improving the quality of life in our capitals and major regional cities, focusing on healthy, sustainable, resilient and liveable cities and will provide a platform to discuss, collaborate and learn. To view the Conference Program CLICK HERE.

To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE.