Last week, Jonathan Sri became the first Greens councilor elected in Queensland. Here he outlines a Green vision for a city that responds to the will of the people.
The Greens spoke of a vibrant, sustainable city – a cosmopolitan Brisbane with an efficient, affordable public transport network. They talked of human-scale, walkable suburbs, with separated bike lanes, tree-shaded streets and veggie gardens along the footpaths – social neighbourhoods, with lively public spaces, a bustling night-time economy and a healthy respect for music and the arts.
Most importantly, we envisaged a city where housing is both well-designed and affordable, where residents – not property developers – have the final say over how our neighbourhoods evolve, and where rising rents don’t fracture and fragment our communities. Because if the benefits of urban development flow only to the rich and powerful, such ‘development’ can’t accurately be described as genuine progress.
Unfortunately in Brisbane, most big urban planning decisions are taken out of residents’ hands altogether. This means planning decisions tend to favour the short-term interests of elite developers and investors rather than the long-term interests of ordinary Brisbanites.
There’s an injustice at the heart of Brisbane’s construction boom. Low-rent sharehouses and boarding houses are being demolished to make room for apartments that are often too expensive (and inappropriately designed) for poorer residents.
Property investors collect empty homes like trading cards, often choosing to leave new apartments vacant rather than renting them out cheaply. The supply glut of apartments hasn’t significantly improved housing affordability (and unfortunately, under current political and economic conditions, a sudden property market crash would likely hit the poorest the hardest).
Frustratingly, the increased rates revenue that council collects from new apartments isn’t necessarily reinvested in the neighbourhoods that are directly impacted by the development. It goes into general revenue, and is largely spent on mega-projects that might impress the media (and the corporations who tender for these mega-projects) but don’t materially improve the lives of ordinary residents. To read more click here.
The 9th International Urban Design Conference will be held in Melbourne in November. To express your interest in the 2016 Conference CLICK HERE.