Are new suburbs flexible enough?

New research by the Grattan Institute in Victoria suggests that flexible suburbs contain land that can be used for different purposes, shopping centres that suit a range of businesses and shops, and buildings and homes that can be adapted as people’s needs change over time.

“But the communities being established in greenfield areas lack these qualities – even when they work well for current residents,” Jane-Francis Kelly,  Cities Program Director, said.

Instead, land tends to be strictly separated into commercial and residential uses, shopping centres lack diversity and offer limited scope for setting up local businesses, and there is a predominance of similar lot sizes with detached houses built on them, often right to the edges of the lot.

“A uniformity of housing options can make it difficult for residents to move house – into a smaller home, for example – as their needs shift over time,” Ms Kelly said.

“If housing cannot adapt, a suburb may struggle to attract new residents, and new businesses. It will miss out on the process of renewal that is essential to successful cities.”

You can download the report here:


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