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Journal article

‘Greyfields’ in the Australian context have been defined as those ageing but occupied tracts of inner and middle ring suburbia that are physically, technologically and environmentally failing. The research sought to test the potential of an innovative design based approach to create coordinated precincts in these suburbs involving the coordinated redevelopment of multiple, non-contiguous public housing lots (rather than relying on the ‘default’ option of incremental market based development of in-fill housing and piecemeal selling off of public housing properties).

Recent public housing investments (under the Social Housing Initiative) were typically planned with job creation in mind rather than innovative housing outcomes, but innovations were still apparent. Innovations were generally simple such as improvements to parking arrangements and interfaces of private dwellings with common areas and public spaces and arrangements for tenancy mix and social diversity. Innovations were often more apparent when governments partnered with Community Housing Organisations who could access alternative land and funding sources, offer design and delivery expertise and facilitate mixed tenancy outcomes. Innovation also was more likely when there was a ‘champion’ for design quality, relaxation of selected planning controls, and project alignment with existing urban renewal strategies.

The Department of Human Services (Victorian Government) was found to have existing housing assets in sufficient number (more than 6500 DHS properties) in well-located areas of Melbourne’s middle suburbs that were clustered in ways broadly suitable for coordinated precinct redevelopment. Preliminary investigations suggest the same in Sydney and Brisbane.

The coordinated precinct approach could offer an effective model for redeveloping dispersed public housing assets. Integrated redevelopment can achieve substantial increases in dwelling yield—design scenarios developed in this study delivered two to four times the number of dwellings when compared to business-as-usual dual occupancy outcomes. A precinct design approach is potentially more efficient because it allows for non-uniform, flexible siting of higher density buildings, effective program mixes, efficient parking arrangements and a variety of households and tenure types to be accommodated across a neighbourhood. Preliminary discussions with key stakeholders—municipal authorities, community housing organisations and local community members—showed real interest in the benefits of a coordinated precinct-based development approach.

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