City Futures Blog

News and research in housing and urban policy, from Australia’s leading urban policy research centre.

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City Futures Research Centre: 10 years young and going strong

Posted by on November 30th, 2015 · Cities, Strata


As November draws to a close, it seems fitting to reflect briefly on a particularly busy and important month for the City Futures team. This month saw CFRC celebrate its 10th anniversary, a real testament to the hard work and persistence of a great many people over the past decade. The milestone provided a perfect opportunity for a party, held on Monday 9 November and featuring speeches by the NSW Minister for Planning, the President and Vice-Chancellor of UNSW, and the Dean of the Faculty of Built Environment. Congratulations to everyone involved with getting CFRC up and running and ensuring it is still thriving today – particularly the Centre’s Director Professor Bill Randolph, who has been at the helm throughout.

The anniversary event marked the beginning of an action-packed week, with the Cities@UNSW lecture series highlighting the Faculty’s urban expertise and hosting a number of high-profile guests. Tuesday featured a lecture on campus by Professor Nick Gallent of University College London (UCL), exploring the development of England’s neighbourhood planning movement. Describing it as “a logical extension to local experiments in community appraisal and planning”, Prof Gallent suggested that the approach has the “potential to deliver tailored interventions and resolve local planning conflicts”.

Prof Gallent was back on deck on Wednesday to launch the new Master of Urban Renewal and Housing degree, which focuses on ensuring that our housing policy enhances quality of life and social equity, while also maximizing urban productivity. The launch featured a thought-provoking trio of presentations exploring the challenge of improving housing affordability in some of the world’s most expensive housing markets. In addition to Prof Gallent on London’s housing problems, we heard from Professor Alex Schwartz of the New School about the New York situation, with our own Professor Hal Pawson examining the Sydney scene. The presentations highlighted the complexity of the housing affordability issue, with political and economic trends at both the local and global scales leading to unique yet equally problematic outcomes in each city.

Thursday night saw Professor Mike Batty of UCL offer his perspective on how big data is reshaping our cities, which has already been reviewed by our new research fellow Simone Leao. And on Friday we rounded out the series with Prof Schwartz exploring the role of public housing in NYC, one of the few US cities that hasn’t drastically reduced its public housing levels in recent years. Prof Schwartz argued that NYCHA is the best managed public housing authority in the country, despite funding cuts and a backlog of capital works that would take “to infinity” to address at current funding levels. Unfortunately, however, “there’s a perception [in the US] that all public housing is a failure…[and] New York is a victim of that perception.” While too soon to tell whether a new funding model could change this, the model’s design means it may ultimately “end the public housing program by ‘saving’ the housing and its occupants from continued disinvestment”.

This stimulating series of events wasn’t the end of the excitement for November, however, with last Wednesday seeing the launch of our Renewing the Compact City report. The report is the final output of a two-year ARC Linkage project with government and industry partners, examining the prospects for equitable and viable renewal of Sydney’s strata-titled properties. The project has proved particularly timely given that new laws on strata renewal were passed last month, and the research team was able to provide input into the legislation’s development. The project has also been covered by various media outlets including the SMH, the Conversation, Domain and the Fifth Estate. It’s been very rewarding to see our work having this kind of impact, and a great incentive to get geared up for an even busier year in 2016!

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