Home / World News / Time to stop name calling and start cultivating seeds of change in density debate

Time to stop name calling and start cultivating seeds of change in density debate

We’ve all heard about the NIMBYs, those who claim to support increased density, just Not In My BackYard, street or sometimes even suburb.

Now, the latest acronym is a corker. Welcome BANANAs — Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

It’s quite an extreme descriptor for those who don’t support increased densification, and is indicative of the emotion involved in the conversations around infill development.

A highly experienced and well-respected planner nailed it back in 2016 when he called out the dumb density that is increasingly popping up throughout Perth.

The filling in of suburban backyards with poorly designed units on battle-axe blocks and cookie-cutter four-unit villas.

Not only can they look awful, they are taking up space along key transport corridors where intelligently designed, higher density should be.

So is dumb density in part why we are now growing bananas?

Our industry has and will continue to deliver some outstanding site and context responsive medium and high-density product.

We need to showcase how great development outcomes can be achieved with the right planning framework, policy settings and design principles.

The State Government’s recent launch of Design WA stage one (apartment design) is very welcome, though we are waiting to see how it will affect the cost of delivery.

The next stages, medium density and precinct planning policy, need to be a high priority, especially when market conditions favour development of this nature.

We know that smart density in greenfields development works, as our members have shown. Brownfields — it’s your time to shine.

We need to change the conversation with our communities. Not just the words, but the tone and intent, to a positive and constructive focus on creating housing choice in every suburb.

We need to offer older people the opportunity to downsize within the local area they know and love and give our children and our grandchildren the opportunity to move out of home, but stay close by.

So what if instead of referring to those who struggle to accept this as NIMBYs and instead of growing BANANAs, we start cultivating seeds? Not another acronym.

The seeds of change have already been planted. They just need careful attention, a bit of positivity and a fertile environment in which to grow.

Tanya Steinbeck is WA executive director, Urban Development Institute of Australia

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