Hooray for the Urban Living Index: A new evidence base to help urban planners & policy makers

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The co-authors of the newly developed Urban Living Index – The Urban Taskforce and McCrindle Research – rightly state that the challenge in planning for Sydney’s future is to ensure that population growth does not compromise its “world-beating lifestyle”. By tracking five key categories that produce a measure of liveability in a city, the Index is a great first step in developing an evidence base to monitoring changes as the Sydney metropolitan area as it grows – both outwards and upwards.

A key theme in most media reporting about the Index is that upwards growth – through increased residential density – is the way to ensure high levels of amenity and accessibility are maintained as Sydney grows, and that a reliance on outwards expansion may compromise such liveability standards. Although the Index broadly shows that denser residential areas rate highly from a liveability perspective, we need to dig a bit deeper to understand what it is about these areas that make them liveable. It is not just a case of these highly rated areas being dense, which is actually just a relative measure of compactness. There are many more factors at play than compactness in making a place liveable and sustainable.

The structure of the overall city, with its public transport and road network and its layout of employment and retail locations, influences transport choice more than most other factors. At the local level, good walking and cycling connectivity to local shopping and public transport services is the key to how we move around. Of course, there is also the influence that individual behaviours, intentions and beliefs have on how a community might inhabit and use places and spaces. Density also plays a role, especially population density, as this helps underpin social and economic sustainability in local areas. But density is not the end game – far from it.

For example, the Index shows that Marrickville has a relatively low high density component for an inner city area (40%) but a very high liveability ranking. On the other hand, Woollahra has a higher high density component (50%) but a relatively low liveability ranking for an inner urban area. If one interrogates the rankings, you’ll see that Marrickville ranks highest for accessibility (which considers the factors I mention above), whereas Woollahra has a relatively low ranking for accessibility. This example, and there are many others across the metropolitan region, shows that higher density areas do not necessarily guarantee higher levels of accessibility.

The upshot of policy makers and planners thinking that increased density inevitably produces more liveable and sustainable urban areas has resulted in, until recently, a saturation of multi-level apartment construction in infill areas. And some of these areas have been bereft of the factors that the Index shows achieves high levels of amenity: within walking distance to rail or priority light rail and bus routes that connect to employment locations; within walking distance to a plentiful supply of local shops and services; well-connected and safe walking and cycling routes; and a range of different residential options that help create a vibrant social mix of different family types.

I think the Index helpfully shows that density is just part of the story. The Index is comprised of twenty separate measures- and many of these are not at all reliant on densification. As I’ve shown above, we cannot simply assume that areas of high density automatically generate liveable and sustainable outcomes. There are simply too many factors at play to make this conclusion.

Dr Michael Grosvenor, Principal MGC

Welcome to our blog...

We have a passion for research that tells a story, that can be presented visually, that brings about change and improves organisations. And we hope these resources help you know the times.

Our Social Media Sites

Facebook | McCrindle Research Social Media YouTube | McCrindle Research Social Media Twitter | McCrindle Research Social Media Flickr | McCrindle Research Social Media Pinterest | McCrindle Research Social Media Google Plus | McCrindle Research Social Media LinkedIn | McCrindle Research Social Media Mark McCrindle Slideshare

Last 150 Articles


Melbourne shopping meals aussie culture Christmas lunch Channel Seven futurist 2017 speakers know the times Research Executive Australian Bureau of Statistics royal family research data Love group session year 12 Aussie sydney speaker school visualisation brand Duchess of Cambridge area forum investing tableau social media new office in the media SA internships demographic trends healthy future high density emerging trends Hornsby Shire Council keynote speaker student unemployment debate celebration forecast DIY ease of travel hobart equip 2012 experience engagement internship educhat optus facts Australians 1975 church publication real demographics fears events marriage population growth anzac JOMO affordable weather research pack hills shire work-life WA school satisfaction huffington post faux-cilising hopes January 26th housing market cash media activity bureau office opening Aussies pharmacy year 7 census hello fresh buildings seasons middle class victoria Western Australia investor training tuesday tv presentations medicine 2020 23 million global stay home future proofing Geoff Brailey entrepreneurial eliane miles easter domestic cooking investment ACT 24,000,000 Caregiver families Netflix monarchy organisational culture digital schools students demographer Financial Planning Week twentyseventeen food living Australian demographics communities New Zealand 2014 cancelling plans Tuesday Trends friends youth Merry Christmas ideas community ultimo authenticity program click VIC house baby South Australia infographic rise of local local communities home owner social shifts increasing densification product Queensland: QLD weekly earnings australian communities forum economy relevant litter household kate middleton brands low density christmas energy NEETs neutral bay REIV Conference quote ipswich pharmacies professional development wage thought leadership states life Northern Beaches Wagga Wagga market research mccrindle presentation sector wide baby boom ACF Real Estate motivate father's day water salary baby boomers mythbusting McCrindle Speakers employment city woolworths leadership responsive vegetarian trends analyst overcast rich mentor perth population mccrindle in the media 24 million outsourcing religion Northern Beaches Christian School English Australian communities media emerging generations communications teach university dare to dream australians staying home more public speaking TAS social research Deaths Kirsten Brewer Sydney happiness growth REIV National Conference award selfie personalities teachers optimistic local group education research owning a home social trends social social life FPA australia The ABC of XYZ visual safe proactive cultural diversity high school moreton bay suburban living capital cities research services children society wolloomooloo environmental scanning moderators guide DESTEL spend interactive child care future of education clothing PSI income forecasting social change online shopping Tasmania generation Z housing trend tuesday criminal FOMO Financial Planning Association of Australia rising house prices sentiments earnings Christchurch society trends conference speaker Res Vis goals System's Architect tattoos cloudy days national private wealth non profit research couple workplace mccrindle tea baby name winter blues customer young australians manly Sydney keynote speaker newspaper fresh rain Wodonga Australian Census 40 million millennials households list renter of the future townhouses housing affordability Territory government data analyst pyrmont home Channel 7 event economic report Australian Trends etiquette entrepreneur recap mythbusters Queensland HSC Gen Y ACF 2016 unaffordable property price google for education The Daily Edition population milestone social lives social commentator finance suburbs mccrindle research world youth day high density living dessert office bondi teleworking earning public holiday parenting "know the times" post rationalism goal divorce rate define Adelaide organisations balance Word Up teacher eliane marriages intern family winter sports shifts gen z Financial Planning Association potts point holiday cartodb going out conferences cost of living Generation Y learning nfp trends of 2017 CBD Wellington study jobs mining boom cancelling event social commentary waverton entrepreneurs of today leader earn 10 years employers learning styles millionth skills analysis builders tips daily commute entertainment education future report high density apartments educated staying in media commentary state Australian Families young people house price rise long weekend wealth faux-cilise language brand experience ethnography jobs of the future panel baby name trends property market career housing trends Kiwi coffee in depth interviews innovation marketing infographic wall schools personal growth national crime rates mother's day focus group princess charlotte parents not-for-profit professional data visualisation EFF social researcher Royals wealth and income daily telegraph future-proof sun australian communities trends report brisbane tertiary education Australian schools office space teaching apartment logan networking darwin ashley fell sydneycity house prices ageing population Gen X IT Specialists wages village education future statistics survey design mover and shaker baby names geomapping insights new york times future proof renting consumer land of the middle class suburb population map trends Australian Home cost Do It Yourself 2013 ashley mckenzie google Births sunburnt country christianity media release professional speaker education sector norwest data leadership workshop resilience rent emerging technologies resource research visualisation identity priorities social researchers communication mortgage rule keeper vegemite the australian dream news New Zeland supply and demand retirement social enquiry Valentine’s Day future of work Bathburst keynote offenders Population Clock challenge snapshot cancel plans easy rider millenials graphs sunny days charity wealth distribution focus groups social impact crows nest budget men alpha work mates narcissism future university degree learn sydney event communicate affordability Christmas season storytelling average aussie environment 2015 urban housing growth generation Real Estate Institute of Victoria crime learner culture demographic transformations the changing face of baby name predictions careers generation alpha February 16 Myth poker master greatness school students consumerism socialites internet hornsby 1994 repayments relational 1980 ABS home ownership grandparents Australia Day 2017 technology New South Wales innovative lalor park faux-ciliser australian social research business index debt royal urban taskforce politics workshop sector slideshare annual income optus my business awards capital city Canberra business shbc 1968 rental stress aged care divorce global generations NT Northern Territory Charlotte urban living Tuesday Trend survey mateship collaboration staff ageing tea meetings stats thrive Assistant Store Manager trend prince george national wealth community event dreaming lifestyle holidays 2016 gender Scouts wedding participants demographic cold qualitative research Social Trend Australian Communities Trends case study social analysis blaxland researcher financial dreams volunteers education Mark McCrindle typical australian socialising paying to work women residents not for profit Northern beaches Event results wealth and income distribution summer financial NSW financial independence world community engagement conference presentation conference work aged care puzzle deloitte Australian Dream financial future online royal baby sydneysiders SMSF students change sustainable small business property Christmas presents Australia Day workplace culture acf15 commute Education Future Forum growing population house price urban living index gold coast gen alpha collaborative cars royal influence mobile engage curiosity menai GPO follow plans transport video trends of 2016 generations names workforce TDE Crime Rates Engineering Manager megatrends World Water Day poor friendship shopper's pick insight marrickville wellbeing generational trends Generation X toys omnibus dream global financial crisis youth unemployment sector wide study