Conference paper
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Abstract: Australia’s major cities face a number of growing challenges, such as accommodating population growth while containing urban sprawl, catering for an ageing population and keeping housing affordable. Cities must reduce their ecological footprint to remain liveable, resilient and economically competitive. Yet accommodating increased densities in urban areas is a fraught issue that often sees planners, developers and local communities in conflict. Meanwhile, housing affordability is in crisis, fuelled by an inadequate supply of housing close to jobs and a taxation system that favours investors. The Reserve Bank has suggested “the answer.. lies in more innovative and flexible use of the land that we have so that the marginal cost of adding more stock of dwellings is lower.” This paper explores a model for compact urban living that helps to address a range of these challenges. It’s a mainstream, small-scale adaptation of the ‘co-housing’ concept: single-dwelling suburban blocks are adapted to accommodate 2 or 3 smaller dwellings with some shared spaces, reducing the overall physical and environmental footprint per household. Households are likely to come together through their own social networks. This is just one solution in a broader suite of necessary planning approaches, but is affordable, in step with changing household structures and social trends, and may hold a key to ‘humanising’ density increases in urban/ suburban areas. It may also help to enable an informal ‘sharing economy’ that could reduce living costs and improve economic resilience. Despite the potential, this model is not well enabled via current regulatory systems. This paper explores the opportunities and barriers, with a focus on the NSW planning system, and recommends greater flexibility in some key planning instruments

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