23 October 2012 — Density. Should it be increased? That seems to be the question running on everyone’s mind these days. Should Sydney’s density be increased?

Looking through The Green Paper I was hoping to get a better understanding for which direction the New South Wales Government was aiming to or already head in.

Although the importance of The Green Paper to public consultation, upon research of this topic, it expresses details, which mostly emphasises public transportation, zoning, infrastructure and land use. Although it may be an effective and well-prepared solution, the end result takes much more time, more strategically planning and an increased effort.

Since The Green Paper does not tackle this problem head on, I will be taking you through the important and necessary information you will need to understand about the issue of increased density, what the benefits of increased density are in the foreseeable future, how this strategy has already been implemented in popular cities overseas and what outcomes of this will occur in reaction to the limitation of urban sprawl and the development of high density.

Affordable housing is a topic that is expressed and widely talked about in the Sydney community. Although The Green Paper did not tackle a lot nor discuss the issue of affordable housing in Sydney, it has been or still is a current issue that Sydney is still facing.

(Premier) Barry O’Farrell and the NSW Government plan to increase sprawl provides a negative impact and effect on the notion for affordable housing within close precinct to the city for job commuters. Bad housing affordability affects the most on those on low to moderate incomes who make up over half the number of Sydney households.

Affordable housing also has a major impact on local students as well as ones from overseas. In order to eradicate this issue, lower cost housing and hostels should be designed and build to accommodate for present and future students.

These places should be built near education institutions and within a walking proximity to local centres to provide the necessary convenience to those without cars as well as build the vibrancy of the student life in Sydney, which is so far non-existent. According to The Green Paper the New South Wales Government is proposing a fairer and simpler system of infrastructure contributions to support the quicker increase in housing and improve affordability.

One issue, which impacts people of all ages and is especially important at this point in time, where it isn’t even safe for anymore for a woman to walk home through a popular neighbourhood, is the issue of safety.

In a survey carried out by the Berkeley Group in London, the 598 responses to the survey from the local residents compared against that of the national figures report feeling reasonably happy and more likely to feel safe. The higher-density cities with pedestrian comfortable streets, easy access to public transport and a vast range of centres or services tend to be more accessible, cost effective and environmentally efficient.

The prospect of creating a higher density also has a positive impact of the lack of night life and culture trade off and can be met and maintained with the supply matching the needs of the demand. Places, which endure a more energetic nightlife, ensure a more stable economy a safer environment and tend to have a better public transport system.

The Green Paper proposes that people participate in using public transport facilities however it is the distance travelled and the time taken that makes commuters hesitant to hop on board.

In an article which focuses on the current crisis in Athens, Fergus O’Sullivan still looks at the positive impact high density neighbourhoods can still have at a time such as this.

“Many of its high density neighborhoods are mixed use, with courtyards of offices and workshops often taken over at night by bars, meaning the streets stay busy without disturbing early risers’ sleep,” he says.

“The city’s often narrow streets (which deter excessive car use) are attractively alive day and night almost year round with people of all ages, making Athens still surprisingly safe and well monitored for a city supposedly hurtling towards Armageddon.”

Previously, suburban development in Australia relied on larger properties to attract individuals. With an ever-growing increase in population, people are willing to sacrifice space in which they live in order to be closer to the city.

It is up to the government to develop a more efficient way of detailed planning which can increase our density and provide affordable housing whilst not affecting the overall streetscape and still preserving the character of the local community.

In the past, suburban development in Australia relied to some extent on wide spaces to achieve good amenity. Design creativity is required to achieve similar good amenity at medium and high densities.

More detailed thought is needed about how buildings relate to neighbours and streetscapes, and to maximise landscaping and vegetation benefits at each location. Bearing in mind the need to encourage affordable housing provision, good building design need not require expensive construction and finishes. Sustainable designs should have lower running costs.

Jeremy Rooz is a student at the University of Technology, Sydney