In mid-November, the Office of the Victorian Government Architect hosted a symposium, ‘Housing Melbourne’, in association with Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research and the UK Prince’s Foundation for Building Community.
The OVGA has a strong and deep interest in housing issues and worked with researchers from Swinburne University’s Institute for Social Research (ISR) to develop the content of the day’s proceedings. Attending the symposium were policy makers, industry experts, academics, planners, architects and other property and development professionals.
A key objective of the day was to cut across professional silos, knowledge disciplines and sectoral boundaries and thereby enable the cross-disciplinary conversations and integrated thinking required to find solutions to a number of intractable housing problems. Among these persistent problems three were identified as being of particular interest:
• appropriate, well-located housing is increasingly unaffordable for a growing number of low and middle income earners;
• current patterns of urban growth are unsustainable and threaten Melbourne’s liveability;
• the provision of quality, affordable multi-unit housing is extremely difficult to achieve.
The challenge put forward was not simply to seek the means to increase the quantity, improve the quality and expand the diversity of new homes being built in Melbourne – a tall order by itself!
What was also being sought was a more positive, coordinated and effective role for the processes of housing provision (both new supply and redevelopment) in playing their part to transition our existing urban region to a more sustainable future and, in the process, develop communities that enhance the quality of life of both new and established residents.
Supported by improvement in the efficiency and sustainability of housing development being made possible through construction innovation by the local building industry, these new approaches offer an integrated response to the persistent problems of declining affordability and managing Melbourne’s transition to a more sustainable urban form. More importantly, they can help build community by putting urban change into the hands of people who have an on-going stake in the liveability and success of their neighbourhoods.
In conjunction with the Royal Visit, the OVGA welcomed the participation at the symposium of Prince Charles, and representatives from The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community. Foundation CEO, Hank Dittmar, spoke about community empowerment and decision making and the value of sustainable urbanism. He also presented a scale model that the Foundation had prepared for the event, demonstrating more intensive redevelopment of a suburban precinct using a terrace housing typology