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Perth can learn from other cities’ experiences 18/03/2017

As a relatively young city that has undergone significant growth, particularly in the past decade, Perth can learn from cities around the world that have experienced similar population growth and faced growing demand for more affordable and diverse housing.

As a relatively young city that has undergone significant growth, particularly in the past decade, Perth can learn from cities around the world that have experienced similar population growth and faced growing demand for more affordable and diverse housing.

At the UDIA National Congress, to be held in Perth in early April, delegates will hear how two American cities have successfully managed significant urban issues by thinking outside the box and relying less on rules and regulations and more on innovative thinking and facilitation.

Both the City of Houston and the City of Detroit have focused on not only building more housing, but maintaining affordability and quality of life for residents, something that is critical for Perth as affordability and accessibility of housing remains a significant issue.

The City of Houston added an astonishing 140,000 people to its population in just four years from 2010. That is a 6.7% increase and second only to the growth of New York City for the U.S.

What is different about Houston’s experience in relation to this growth, is that it has managed to lift its housing construction rates significantly to ensure that more than 60% of homes remain affordable to middle-income families.

The Director of Planning and Development at the City of Houston will discuss at Congress how the city lightened regulatory requirements, especially traditional zoning, to achieve this sort of commendable outcome.

The lack of zoning means that housing has been delivered more quickly and efficiently and in a more affordable manner, due to the avoidance of long and expensive rezoning processes.

This is not a case of developers being able to have carte blanche on building, but more a case of working in partnership with the city to recognise areas that could benefit from a speedier process of regeneration and the introduction of innovative design concepts. 

Similarly, in the City of Detroit, areas have been set aside where ‘normal’ development rules do not apply so that revitalisation can occur in a more timely and efficient way. An article by Michael Totty in the Wall Street Journal outlines how Detroit emerged from bankruptcy in 2014 to achieve significant urban growth through the introduction of ‘pink zones’.

Pink zones are areas earmarked by the City, where red tape is reduced so that small businesses and developers can undertake revitalisation projects that benefit the broader community and provide much needed affordable housing.

I look forward to hearing from the representatives of both cities regarding their experiences and how we can potentially harness aspects of their approaches to urban development in WA moving forward.

UDIA National Congress: www.udiacongress.com.au

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