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Communities of the future to be centralised

05 December 2019 Lyall Russell
Roberts Day Mike Day

As more people look to live in smaller homes, and trade in their wheels for a travel card, mini cities in outer suburbs are going to become the urban planning trend of 2020.

“Next year is the start of a new decade. What takes place in the next 12 months will set a precedent for the next 10 years,” multi-award-winning urban planner and designer Mike Day said.

“As our population grows, and innovative new technologies and ideas emerge, future generations will look back at the 2020s and point to it as a decade that reshaped our cities — especially our outer suburbs — more than any other decade in the last century.”

The RobertsDay co-founder and director believes the most significant changes will come as a result of population growth, a desire for more compact housing, few people owning a car and thirst for communities that emphasise health and wellness.


These factors are behind Mr Day’s 10 city forecasts for 2020 and beyond:

1. “Mini Melbournes” will emerge in our outer suburbs. 

Mr Day believes inner neighbourhoods in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are in demand not just because of their location. Their layout of small parks, little main streets, terraces, shop-top housing, laneways and public transport at their doorstep are highly attractive to residents. From 2020, designers and developers of fast-growing new communities in outer suburbs will use inner-city area templates to create equally attractive new communities, which will “urbanise the burbs”.

2. The growth of “mixed-use” developments and the emergence of “overlapping use” buildings. 

Next year, more mixed-use developments will emerge to create self-sufficient communities framed around walkability. Good recent examples are Kinley, Williams Landing and Burwood Brickworks in Melbourne and Fairwater in Sydney. Also, state government planning systems are already beginning to change and promote “overlapping use”: the creation of residential properties on top of retail and commercial sites, and vice versa. The most common examples will be residential apartments constructed on top of shopping centres. It will also help to reinvent shopping centres.

3. Climate, environment and health will direct planning decisions. 

Australia is one of the 193 countries that adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations General Assembly for 2030. At the same time, the public is beginning to expect organisations to have a stronger purpose by responding to climate change. In 2020, air quality, water quality, waste management, green spaces, public spaces, public health and more will impact developer and urban planning decisions, Mr Day said.

4. Lower rates of private vehicle ownership. 

We will see a shift away from car-centric communities as more Australians in their teens and 20s will defer — or opt out of — getting a driver’s licence if they reside in a compact, connected, mixed-use, walkable neighbourhood.

This will be primarily due to the cost of owning and maintaining cars and traffic congestion. The RACQ has estimated that a small car costs more than $6,000, and a medium-sized car more than $10,000 a year to run — this is equal to servicing approximately $100,000 of a mortgage, Mr Day said. “Affordable living” is now the catchcry, rather than “affordable housing”, as the cost of transport in the growth areas of our capital cities far often exceeds the cost of housing.

5. Growth in sustainable and affordable mobility on-demand in our suburbs. 

The slowing interest in car ownership is also due to growing and popular on-demand technology-supported transport options such as Uber and electric bikes and scooters, and affordable public transport initiatives such as trackless trams. Trackless trams cost taxpayers just one-tenth of the outlay required for traditional trams, enabling governments to afford to place them in outer suburbs, not only inner cities. This will help support growth in more compact housing in 2020.

6. Townhouses are the big trend for 2020.

With home buyers’ growing lack of trust in new apartment blocks, due to recent construction crises, and their desire to have a direct street frontage and an urban courtyard, more developers and house builders will produce townhouses. The unique benefits of townhouses are that they can be strata-free, enable residents to engage with each other on streets reclaimed for walking as cars are garaged at the rear, more than occupants of apartments and houses.

7. An increase in transit-based walkable neighbourhoods. 

Pedestrian friendliness will be a significant benefit that property buyers will start to look for. With this will come an increase in public spaces, and will give communities a sense of identity and a soul.

8. A good Walk Score will add $30,000–$50,000 to individual property values. 

If you haven’t yet heard of Walk Score, you will in 2020. This is a system, with a score from 1–100 that measures the ease of walkability of any address to residents’ daily needs, such as schools, shops, parks and places of work. A Walk Score of 70, for instance, indicates that there is transit and therefore is the threshold that a resident at that address can access essential amenities without the need for a car. Just like a property’s proximity to good schools, a high Walk Score value will be an asset that will add value to a property. Every point above 70 is worth between $700–$3,000 in value for a property. More than 30,000 real estate agents in North America and Australia use Walk Score, and local property buyers and renters are already beginning to seek properties with a score of over 70.

9. Separation of roads, bicycle paths and pedestrian paths.

Segregation of roads, cycleways and pedestrian paths has been established and is working in Europe and will begin to grow in Australia’s major cities, Mr Day said. Banning cars entirely from CBDs, which has been debated for years, is an overreaction. As the health and wellness of residents will become a significant focus for urban planners, designers, councils and developers, we will see the emergence of walking and cycling “superhighways” (continuous paths) from next year to foster physical activity and social cohesion.

10. A return to smaller homes and centralised amenities for communities.

Homes have doubled in size in the last 20 years, as we’ve tried to cram home theatres, pools, coffee hubs, offices and gyms into them, Mr Day said. This has had the effect of segregating us from our local neighbourhood centres or “hubs”. Next year will see the trend towards smaller homes that are connected to amenities in centralised community locations within walking distance. People in their teens and 20s, the elderly and those of modest means are less able to afford cars, driving the need for such amenities near homes.

Communities of the future to be centralised
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