Green or Greed: Density-Done-Well or Developer Free-for-All?

Elizabeth Farrelly
Associate Professor
Australian School of Urbanism, Sydney

Much has been written about high-density and high-rise urban form as the paragon of sustainable development. In a deregulated neo-liberal environment, however, this thinking easily segues into a developer free-for-all, where sustainability rhetoric provides convenient green-wash for what is really laissez-faire development. The danger here is not just ugly cities that exacerbate both private inequality and public squalor, but that the backlash against density re-validates sprawl.

Evidence of this can already be seen in the developments passed off under the heading "all dense development is green and good." Developer-led planning has no concern whatsoever for public amenity or space and little enough for the private amenity it should in theory safeguard. Thus, developers endlessly clone sunless, windswept streets, overlooked balconies and bedrooms, cramped units and low-rent fit outs. This is hardly "sustainable." This bespeaks a profound failure of governance, in response to which government must reconceptualize itself as profoundly and diametrically different from commerce.

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