Adapting to demographic change will be the key to greenfield suburb longevity: Grattan Instititute
Greenfield suburbs – the fastest-growing parts of our cities – must be built to meet the needs of future generations, not just initial residents, according to the Grattan Institute.
Launching the Grattan’s new report, Tomorrow’s suburbs: building flexible neighbourhoods, Jane-Frances Kelly, the cities program director at the institute, suggested within a generation these new developments would have residents with very different profiles and needs.
"If these suburbs are to thrive in the long term we should make them flexible and able to change right from the start."
"Yet greenfield suburbs are overwhelmingly dominated by family-sized detached houses when they are first built.
"If, unlike older areas, these suburbs can't change over time, they will lack the flexibility to meet the changing life circumstances of their residents.
"If a suburb cannot change as households change, then residents' quality of life will be diminished," she says.
Kelly saus that flexible suburbs contain land that can be used for different purposes, shopping centres that suit a range of businesses and shops, and buildings and homes that can be adapted as people’s needs change over time.
"But the communities being established in greenfield areas lack these qualities – even when they work well for current residents," Kelly says.
Instead, land tends to be strictly separated into commercial and residential uses, shopping centres lack diversity and offer limited scope for setting up local businesses, and there is a predominance of similar lot sizes with detached houses built on them, often right to the edges of the lot.
"A uniformity of housing options can make it difficult for residents to move house – into a smaller home, for example – as their needs shift over time," Kelly.
"If housing cannot adapt, a suburb may struggle to attract new residents, and new businesses. It will miss out on the process of renewal that is essential to successful cities."
Grattan’s report recommends ways to make new suburbs, shopping centres, buildings and homes more adaptable. It shows how a capacity to change has proved enormously valuable in existing urban areas, especially the older core of our cities.
"By pure chance, certain characteristics of these older areas made inner urban renewal easier," Kelly says.
"We are not saying we can reproduce these qualities in greenfield areas, but we can plan for flexibility right from the start."
The five suggested measures for new suburb developments that will enhance adaptability are recommended as:
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