NEWSFLASH! In September I will join The Conversation as its Business and Economy Editor. I have been honoured to work at The Age for the past ten years, originally alongside the legendry Tim Colebatch, and for the past four years as economics editor in my own right.

At The Conversation, my job will be to make the best thinking from Australia's 40 univerisites accessible to the widest possible audience. That means you. From the new year I will also write a weekly column.

On this site are most of the important things I have written for Fairfax and the ABC over the past few decades. I recommend the Search function. The site is a record for you, as well as me.

I'll continue to post great things from The Conversation and other places here, and also on Twitter and Facebook. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Live and let live - as long as it's elsewhere

Tim Colebatch, today:

The NIMBY syndrome (Not In My Back Yard) has won Melbourne. A new survey finds 52 per cent of the city's residents oppose having more people in their suburb, and only 11 per cent favour it.

In a survey with bleak implications for governments, planners and developers trying to create a new Melbourne by building up rather than out, a Nielsen survey for the Productivity Commission has found a clear majority oppose residential redevelopment in their suburb.

The survey, of more 3000 Melbourne residents, found 53 per cent oppose redevelopments that replace single dwellings with units or apartments...

Such redevelopments have generated half of Melbourne's building approvals in the last year. The Brumby government had planned for them to house half the city's growth to 2030.

The ever-widening gap between housing prices in inner, middle and outer suburbs suggests that the big unmet demand for housing in Melbourne is from people wanting to live in inner and middle suburbs. But resident opposition has blocked many redevelopment plans to house them.

The survey, conducted for a commission report that benchmarks the states in planning, zoning and development assessments, suggests the resident activists reflect the views of their neighbours - not only in Melbourne, but almost everywhere.

People in Sydney were even more hostile to redevelopment, while Geelong was the most hostile of all. The only place where supporters outnumbered opponents was Mount Gambier.

Of Melbourne residents against having more people in their suburb, 86 per cent fear it would lead to increased traffic congestion, 56 per cent to increased noise, 48 per cent fear loss of street appeal, 37 per cent more crowded public transport, 35 per cent shadows from tall buildings, and 27 per cent fear it would lower their property's value.

Those who want more people around them say this would create more vibrant suburbs, attract more services, retailers and public transport, and lift property prices.

Some oppose not just redevelopment, but any development. The survey found 29 per cent oppose residential development in new areas - underlining how hostile Melbourne has become to population growth. It comes as the Bureau of Statistics reports that lending to rental investors in Victoria fell by 4 per cent in March from a year earlier.