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Sustainable Housing Development in Urban Australia: exploring obstacles to and opportunities for ecocity efforts

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Basic aspects of sustainable housing design such as increasing density, mixed use and proximity to public transport are being adopted increasingly in Australian cities. Sustainable building codes such as NSW's BASIX and Victoria's Green Star rating systems are also being implemented and advanced. More substantial improvements and endeavours such as onsite food production, energy generation and waste treatment, are being seen increasingly as necessary for urban sustainability, yet little is being done to institutionalise or normalise these through Australia's housing system. Similarly, concerns about the social sustainability of housing identify the need for mixed, flexible tenure and dwelling types, with again little uptake despite evidence of demand. Given that we seem to know what needs doing to move towards sustainability, this paper investigates two ecologically and socially sound community-based housing developments in Australia, with a view to finding what helped or hindered these efforts and what may further the uptake of sustainable design. Assessment of the uptake of sustainable planning initiatives reveals the prevalence of a decidedly neoliberal agenda which shies away from the more substantial challenges ecocity design and community-based enterprise may represent. Such community-based initiatives must, however, be supported at a broader scale, to avoid possible outsourcing of governmental responsibility or the relegation of sustainable design to the sole realm of the wealthy.
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Keywords: Sustainability; affordability; cohousing; community development; ecocity; housing

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Macquarie University, Australia

Publication date: November 1, 2005

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