To deliver on their economic, social and liveability promise, our cities must deliver on choice - choice in employment and ways of working, in education and learning, in housing and lifestyle, in energy and transport services. This gift of choice is grounded in economic competitiveness and equitable outcomes.

Some old and some new challenges for urban planning

Despite domestic and global headwinds, the Australian economy has remained relatively robust. As we move into 2023, high inflation, rising interest rates, ongoing pressure on housing affordability and increased levels of public debt continue to define and shape our cities. Add to this the decline in consumer spending and investment activity as global economic slowdown begins to take hold. Migration has also returned to pre-pandemic levels, placing greater strain on housing and amenities in our metropolitan and regional areas.

Housing is at the heart of city transformation

Now, more than ever, we need to act to elevate the productivity, accessibility, and equity of our cities. Central to this is housing that supports our economic, social and environmental shifts. Importantly, Federal and State Governments are taking action to incentivise community housing providers and institutional capital to deliver social and affordable housing at scale and in the right locations. 

A key challenge will be ensuring new housing supply remains affordable in the long term. For social housing, delivery partnerships must evolve beyond simply the provision of housing to contracting for outcomes that lift the long-term economic and social wellbeing of tenants.  Community housing providers and the wide network of support service providers will be critical to this transformation.

Placemaking must deliver value

Beyond housing, intentional and inspired placemaking – via great urban design, co-location of key services and amenities, urban greening and development of vibrant ‘third places’ - is a non-negotiable. Integrating customised services, products and experiences will expand and diversify choices and continue to drive the evolution of vibrant, diverse and liveable neighbourhoods that support social connection and belonging, as well as economic prosperity. This will not only provide greater opportunities for existing communities, but will ensure our cities remain attractive in a global market for talent.

In turn, creating value for people who live, work and enjoy a place also serves as a catalyst to stimulate local economies, attracting investment and supporting sustainable growth. In this context, Australian governments will continue to be challenged to prioritise investment funding between major interventions and incremental enhancements to achieve outcomes at the level of place. Supporting a clear understanding of the trade-offs of different investment strategies, through data-driven evidence and strategic modelling tools (such as agent-based models and digital twin technology), will continue to be vital.

The shape and success of our cities and places are impacted by a broad suite of influences – governance, economic focus, government and private sector investment priorities, natural features, demographic characteristics, amenity and accessibility amongst others.  Recognising this, we need a multidisciplinary approach to activate and realise the social benefits and value of our places and cities and to enable us to pivot as disruptions continue – balancing stakeholder and community needs with economic and industry challenges, while driving speed of delivery and outcomes.

Collaboration is key to realising outcomes

To deliver and realise tangible outcomes in our cities and places, collaborative, strategic planning that modernises the traditional approach built on jurisdictional and stakeholder lines of accountability must become the norm. This requires coordination between all levels of government and the private sector, particularly to supply well-located land, and the strategic sequencing and co-location of services and infrastructure. Thus, stakeholders across sectors collaborating to create communities that are connected, inclusive, liveable, productive and sustainable.

For emerging industries and those charged with facilitating land supply and project approvals that will enable the shift to net zero, this means integrating land use plans with economic and industry strategies to ensure that the transition can occur at the pace required to achieve our climate policy ambitions and capture opportunities from growing private investment tied to energy transition.

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