High Density Living as a Reliable Solution to Urban Sprawl. The Case of Sydney, Australia

Academic Paper, 2017

18 Pages, Grade: 2




History of Housing in Sydney

High Density Living Internationally

Impact of Urban Consolidation in Sydney
Urban Sprawl in Sydney

House VS Apartment issues Internationally

Apartment Development in Sydney
Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane




High density living is defined as 30 or more dwelling per hectare and embraces units, flats, terraces, townhouses and villas. Additionally, high density living also refers to apartment units in residential blocks of four or more storey. Majority of high density units do not have their own playing ground and share common facilities such as entrance foyers and stairwells. Urban High density living has been considered as one of the core strategies in managing urban growth (Bunker, Holloway & Randolph, 2005). In Australia, high density is considered as a vital strategy in managing the urban growth and reducing the negative impact of urban sprawl. In recent times, cities such as Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane have been epitomized by growth in the construction of high rise apartments. Many young people prefer these kinds of dwelling since they offer advantages of location with proximity to education, jobs and other services. Various researchers points out that high density living has positive impacts such as efficient usage of land, enhanced social interaction and reduced reliance on automobiles. However, this form of living has also drawn criticism due to noise, overcrowding and limited space. The draft Metropolitan Strategy for Sydney 2031 points out that the populations will reach 1.1 million by the years 2031 hence more houses will be required (Karantonis, n.d). Therefore, this discussion paper provides a focused analysis of Sydney as a model city for high density living, a solution to urban sprawl.

History of Housing in Sydney

Sydney adopted apartment living as early as in 1930s. For example, the Australian soap opera number 96 was developed in the inner city flat which had three or more storey. According to the Gurran (2007), 20.7% of dwellings in Sydney were considered as high density in 2011. This number has increased since 1991 with more than 15.1% dwelling being drawn into this group. Notably, the highest proportion of high density flats is found in councils near the east of the CBD.

In Sydney, high density living extends by more than 20km to the west. Sydney is also experiencing a faster growth in local government areas especially those established at the centre of the middle band. Some of these LGAs include; Auburn, Parramatta (the Parramatta Road corridor) and Canada Bay. All these areas have witnessed increased growth in high density dwelling in the last twenty years (Gurran, 2007).

The current increment in the number of high density living can be attributed to the capacity offered by such housing to accommodate young families. Additionally, the changing lifestyles and structure has forced people live in high density apartments. Majority of high density apartment are located close to public amenities, restaurants, shops and employment offering attractive lifestyle to Australians (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004).

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004 par 2), separate housing was the predominate form of housing among the Australians in 1981. Precisely, about 86% of people were living in separate dwelling. Two decades later, this number was still high with 83% of Australians sticking to separate housing. The number of Australians living in high dense apartments rose from 129,000 recorders in 1981 to about 334,000 reported in 2001.

High Density Living Internationally

According to Morris and winter (1975) theory of housing adjustment, families evaluate their housing in term of cultural and family norms. In situations where the housing does meet the norms, dissatisfaction arises, producing the prosperity of reducing the normative deficient. Modes of adjustment have to be undertaken in order to reduce the deficient. This can be achieved by residential mobility or developing mechanism for both family and residential adaptation (Samaratunga, 2013). The theory of housing adjustment is the most cited in the housing research. Ideally, the theory of housing adjustment examines housing preferences, satisfaction and the nature in which households think and performs in regard to their housing behaviors.

Charles J Stokes theory of slums can also be used to explain the socioeconomic handicaps and psychological attitudes involved in changing the socioeconomic class of low income earners living in the urban areas. According to the theory of slums, various people have divergent reasons for living in slums. Some people live in slums with the hope that their living conditions will improve. In many times, this group leaves slums to improve their economic and social standards. Majority of this group joins high density living in suburbs of big cities. The desire of living in better housing and the hopeless live of slum dwellers forces many to move to high density living (Samaratunga, 2013).

The need for housing in many cities is determined by various factors. Firstly, good shelter is seen as a vital element in assuring privacy. Many people living in slum lack privacy since they have to share essential facilities. However, with high density living, people are assured of housing that caters for all their needs. Secondly, the need for security is essential to many urban dwellers. A housing structure must offer protection, freedom from fears and stable living conditions for one’s family (Samaratunga, 2013). Thirdly, many high density living comes with comfort, reputation, prestige and dignity. People prefer living in these units so as to enjoy their freedom and earn respect from their colleagues. Additionally, high dense unit comes with identity. People live in such houses in order to create a mark of identity for themselves. Ideally, an address offered by many housing units gives an individual a distinct identity. Fourthly, high dense units come with the benefit of self-expression and socializations. People live in high dense units in order to relate with their friends and their neighborhood. Finally, the aesthetic nature that comes with a high dense living motivates urban dwellers in making them their homes (Samaratunga, 2013). The rising number of high rise building in the globe can also be attributed to their sustainable rent. For instance, the median weekly rent for high rise units in 2001 was ($330) while for separate houses was ($600) and that of other higher density dwellings stood at ($353). Additionally, many people prefer renting houses rather than buying hence leading to the increment of high density living in the globe (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2004).

The increasing number of high density housing internally can be attributed to a desire to establish sustainable communities. Precisely, housing is a critical element in complex urban structures, and many city planners have a challenge in accommodating large population in small areas. Ideally, both horizontal and vertical development of the available urban land is vital in making the growing population sustainable. In order to utilize the available limited land to full capacity, a change in the housing pattern has been regarded as the best option in accommodating a greater number of people (Department of Planning, 2005).

Urban planners see high density living as the cure of avoiding the random sprawl of slums. They also argue that high density living will reduce the necessity to travel hence minimizing the energy consumption. This will lead to a reduction in pollutions since people will be living closer to their work places. Other advantages such as increased opportunities for interaction, diversity and improved access to community services will also come with high density living. Further, these buildings will also reduce the demand for public transport, car travel and the demand for parking grounds. As a result, congestion and traffic jam witnessed in many cities will reduce (Department of Planning, 2005).

The cost of building housing units is low compared to other urban houses. This is because high development of density housing can utilize scarce land in the most effective way reducing the land cost dramatically. Additionally, efficient architectural designs employed by many developers can aid in reducing the cost of infrastructural services (Samaratunga, 2013).

In Sydney and internationally, there is a perception that poor housing is a product of failed policies, inappropriate regulation, bad governance and the fundamental lack of political good will. Many governments have developed slum reduction initiatives in an effort to improve the quality of life for their people. With the aid of international bodies such as UNCHS and World Bank, improving lives of slum people is seen as the first step in making many countries economically, environmentally and culturally sustainable.

Impact of Urban Consolidation in Sydney

The first consolidation policy started in 1980 and 1981 following the government promulgation of environmental plans that supported dual occupancy. These policies gave the council the power of giving consent to development planners willing to erect two dwellings on a single block. Lack of response from these policies provoked the government to propose a state planning policy in permitting medium density housing in all residential places (Freestone, Butler-Bowdon & Randolph, 2006). The three major goals of living in high density housing included; affordability, sustainability and reducing the urban sprawl.

Precisely, the goal of urban consolidation in Sydney have been pegged at raising the number of housing units in a limited land so that they have more efficient usage of services. Additionally, the urban consolidation is aiming at reducing the overall impact on the environment while maximizing on the available land required for housing the ever increasing population. The government of Australia adopted market led consolidation by making use of the already existing residential and non-residential space and converting them into high density residential housing under ownership of private individuals. However, this process deemed unsuccessful during the initial phase since it involved unsettling of the existing residential neighborhoods majority who were poor residents (Freestone, Butler-Bowdon & Randolph, 2006). Further, these building were considered as unattractive. It was also argued that urban consolidation was the only option of reducing air pollution especially in the western Sydney which was becoming a major concern.

The government of Australia has argued that urban consolidation will reduce the cost required in infrastructural development and make full use of the existing community services. Additionally, urban consolidation will lead to low usage of fossil fuels minimizing carbon gas emissions and hence spare the environment. Evidently, the usage of fossil fuels also emits greenhouse gases which have far-reaching consequence to the environment (Searle, 2004).

High density living will also conserves both the water catchment and agricultural land since many people will be able to live in a small space. However, it should be pointed that urban consolidation can lead to spread of disease due to proximity and a high number of people. High density living have high rates of crime level hence comprising the safety of urban dwellers. Though many people are moving to high density living, some researchers argue that there has been increased traffic and overcrowding of community services (Searle, 2004). Additionally, other researchers argue that the tall building will clash the already existing neighborhood and damage the city character and image. People will be unable to move to these building to increased population leading to mental and physical illness.


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High Density Living as a Reliable Solution to Urban Sprawl. The Case of Sydney, Australia
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Patrick Kimuyu (Author), 2017, High Density Living as a Reliable Solution to Urban Sprawl. The Case of Sydney, Australia, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/423918


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