Liveable Cities – Better Blocks

Posted by on Jul 15, 2013 in Blog, Planning | No Comments

Last year Melbourne was again named the world’s most liveable city. This is a title we don’t want to lose. But how do we maintain our ranking, given the challenges we face in the future?

Our population is growing rapidly, the amount of new housing on offer is not nearly matching the extra people we need to accommodate. This has seen demand far outstrip supply, and with that prices and rents continue to rise. It has forced many of us to live further away from where we work and play, to afford a home. A concerning trend in major cities the world over.

With extra people come extra cars, frustrating us all with ever worsening traffic; which we have no choice but to endure on a daily basis. Much of the activities on offer for our spare time are located in the inner city: theatres, sporting venues, major galleries etc. With these venues and events not near to many of us, our local sense of community has disappeared, as we are usually either at home or in the car on our way to somewhere else which offers us something to do. It has seen many of us becoming more isolated, as staying home is often so much easier then facing an hour or more stuck in traffic.

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These are amongst the greatest challenges cities here and the world over face. It is predicted that by 2050, Melbourne’s population will reach 6 million people, it is currently 4.2 million. To accommodate these additional people our cities limits will grow further, meaning the cost of housing will be even more expensive, traffic far worse, and our feeling of isolation even greater. I know all this sounds depressing, but we aren’t doing anything to change it, which to me is even more distressing. Continuing to put this into the too hard basket, does not offer us a solution. The answers to this involves sweeping changes, from taking responsibility of how much space we really need for our homes, to spending far more on public transport systems to alleviate the strain on our roads. These are just two measures that will help, but we need to do even more.

This blog is part one of a series, where I will begin with a small step that we can do now to start to address the issues we face, and will only get worse over time if we don’t bring about significant change.

An organization called ‘The Better Block’ caught my attention, making its way here from its birthplace of America. It is throwing up some interesting ideas into bringing activity and with that a sense of community, back to your neighbourhood, wherever that may be.

With state and local governments not spending on creating activity and facilities for many of us, The Better Block movement has a new approach to transforming isolated and unloved areas. It calls on locals to step up and improve the area they live in.

Coburg was the first to take on the task of bringing green back to City Road. With its footpaths and trees long gone, no doubt council’s attempt at cutting their maintenance costs. The local nursery supplied trees to adorn the street for the day. Residents laid astroturf as temporary nature strips, and installed features to increase existing pedestrian safety. Local business got involved by setting up stalls and activities. The day was a great success, attracting larger than normal numbers from their homes to partake in activities with their community. Feedback was gathered from locals and organizers and relayed back to the council. The benefits clearly demonstrated on the day, gave proof that such changes would benefit the entire community, if implemented permanently.

Take some time to consider what activities and attractions are missing from your suburb. Is your block a hard place? Check out www.betterblock.org to see how you and your neighbours can make change happen, walking distance from your home.

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