Conference paper

The Contemporary Commons: Understanding Competing Property Rights

Cities and towns Urban planning Property Land use Local government Australia
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The city comprises a milieu of competing and complementary property rights, ranging from the individual to the communal. Whilst property rights provide a coherent legal, economic and social framework for the relationship between people, place and property, they are often misunderstood and misinterpreted by the multiplicity of stakeholders sharing the space that is the contemporary metropolis. The competing demands and expectations on space, exacerbated by the needs of urban consolidation in the evolving Australian cityscape, add to the confusion. The heterogeneous nature of the commons, both in composition and extent in different urban contexts, is discussed as a central issue in competition for property rights. The paper explores frameworks for identifying appropriate divisions between individual property rights and those of communities and society in general. It also discusses the appropriateness of controls, markets, voluntary agreement and other mechanisms for allocating property rights in urban development contexts. By combining planning, economics and property theory perspectives, this paper identifies research gaps relating to the contemporary commons, providing an agenda prioritising property rights for future research funding.  


The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.

This paper was presented at SOAC 3 held in Adelaide from 28 to 30 November 2007.

SOAC 3 was jointly hosted by the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and Flinders University.

Themes and Key Persons

SOAC 3 focused on the contemporary form and structure of Australian cities.
The conference proceedings were grouped into six key sub-themes, each the focus of one of more conference sessions:

City Economy - economic change and labour market outcomes of globalisation, land use pressures, changing employment locations.

Social City – including population, migration, immigration, polarisation, equity and disadvantage, housing issues, recreation.

City Environment - sustainable development, management and performance, natural resource management, limits to growth, impacts of air, water, climate, energy consumption, natural resource uses, conservation, green space.

City Structures – the emerging morphology of the city – inner suburbs, middle suburbs, the CBD, outer suburbs and the urban-rural fringe, the city region.

City Governance – including taxation, provision of urban services, public policy formation, planning, urban government, citizenship and the democratic process.

City Infrastructure – transport, mobility, accessibility, communications and IT, and other urban infrastructure provision.

Paper Review Process

Conference papers published from SOAC 3 were produced through a process of integrated peer review.

There were originally 147 abstracts proposed, 143 were invited to submit papers and 107 papers were finally published.

Publication Details
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