In 1973, design theorists Horst Rittel and Melvin Webber introduced the term “wicked problem” in order to draw attention to the complexities and challenges of addressing planning and social policy problems. These are not problems which are insurmountable. But they are problems which require an understanding of the constraints which are hampering the actual solutions.
This week, we responded to the The Greater Cities Commission’s bold plan to transform NSW into a mega region of six-cities.
It is an approach which aims to bring the Hunter, Central Coast and Illawarra into the strategic planning mix with the Eastern Harbour, Central Rivers and Western Parklands cities of Greater Sydney.
This vision would see these cities, together enjoy the benefits and of course harness their potential at a global scale, just like the mega regions of San Francisco Bay and the South of England, where up to 40 per cent of national GDP is produced.
But bold vision requires bold leadership and nowhere is that more clearly needed than in our addressing the very real housing crisis in front of us – and that’s what community members have told us.
Public polling commissioned by the Property Council of Australia found people who live within these regions see lack of appropriate housing as a major impediment to their quality of life.
The polling, conducted by SEC Newgate Research, explored key issues facing communities across the six cities – with a focus on housing, jobs, transport and climate vulnerability.
When respondents were asked how they would rate their local area, all aspects of housing and infrastructure delivery, were clear outliers as the worst performing attributes.
Based on a rating out of 100, the availability of suitable housing options received a 50 per cent score, having a diverse mix of housing options for people at different life stages was rated 48 per cent, availability of affordable housing for essential workers scored just 32 per cent, and having suitable housing options for low-income earners was rated the worst at 29 per cent.
We know Sydney will need an additional 725,000 homes by 2036 to accommodate its growing and ageing population, but with only one metropolitan council on-track to meet their housing supply targets – we are nowhere near where we need to be to meet current demand. We need urgent intervention. That’s not just what the experts think. It’s what the public is experiencing.
It leaves a question about what is needed – what solutions are needed – to achieve growth at scale, to meet population growth, but also bring about the vision of achieving the global staties of the ‘Region’ that the GCC is seeking to achieve.
The community want housing supply, affordability, diversity to be front and centre of the Government’s agenda. And they want the right infrastructure delivered to support it, when it is needed.
But what actions do government need to take to confront this crisis?
Setting higher density thresholds around key transport hubs and priority precincts is a good start. The Commission should also work with the NSW Government to increase social housing supply from a low 4 per cent to 10 per cent of total housing stock.
Restoring accountability to our planning system also needs to be a central priority. And accountability requires leadership.
Focus needs to be shifted toward rewarding those local councils that deliver on the community’s housing needs, while penalising councils who refuse to share in the growth agenda of the state.
Let’s stopped being bogged down in the very wicked problem. Let’s start by removing the constraints that prevent our sector from delivering the solutions.