Over the past twelve weeks, I’ve written about many aspects of the sometimes tense fusion between families, cities and communities in late modern times. I’ve discussed some of the history of cities and suburban families. I’ve pointed out how families are changing in intimacy and structure and how the balance of work and family remains precarious and inequitable. I’ve discussed the need to better plan cities, to stop the unplanned, poorly connected, urban sprawl, and the unsustainable spread of aesthetically poor McMansions. And I’ve discussed the consequences of gentrified cosmopolitanism (and the fight to create and retain the Creative Class), and the struggle to enact any kind of control over the flow of resources within globalised capitalism.
I’d like to finish off this series of blogs with a list of my tips for planning the houses and cities of the future:
- Orient cities to changing families – build the housing and transport that changing families need.
- Integrate work, care, and family needs – into the design of houses (smaller, more easily adjusted/changed), cities (social, green spaces), and transport (to end the family-hostile commuting nightmare that our cities have become).
- Infill – revitalise old areas around existing transport options, particularly along existing transport corridors (light and heavy rail).
- Social centres – If building new areas, build a social centre with shops, facilities, and green spaces within walking distance for people to come and gather and socialise.
- Effective public transport – connect each social centre by non-road public transport – trains and light rail (not buses), and embrace the idea of high speed rail to connect regional centres and satellite cities, funded with public/private ‘value capture’ strategies.
- Mixed use and flexible use – design streets and areas with many functions that balance ‘place’ and ‘movement’ requirements, use spaces for different purposes at different times (parking lots) instead of having dead space, adapt houses to actual needs (apartments and townhouses to suit smaller families, not McMansions)
- Housing affordability – a range of options, part of which should include ending the race to build, buy, and then only partially occupy the biggest and ugliest McMansion (filled with rooms we never use)!
- Attract and retain the Creative Class – encourage diversity, mixing, AND affordability, so as not to drive out poorer workers
- Globalised Capitalism – Space of Flows, needs to be better steered, managed, and regulated democratically, rather than through under-regulated market mechanisms. This is of even greater concern in the post-GFC era of political populism. Slogans and transparently flimsy promises are not only impractical and insufficient, they risk eroding trust in intelligent interventions that might actually work …
Whilst not intended as a prescription for Utopia – and borrowing heavily from the excellent ideas of Jean-Frances Kelly at the Grattan Institute, and Professor Peter Newman in general – I hope these ideas together can present a sense of what we need, what might help, how we might get there, and the biggest challenges we face: globalized rather than democratic control over the resources needed to create future, sociable cities for tomorrows families.