Is an Emblem of Sydney's Past the Key to its Future?

Tim Williams argues that Sydney's ubiquitous and beloved terraced housing provides an exemplary model for developing environmentally efficient and livable communities. So why is their construction being stymied?

A mainstay of Sydney's housing mix until World War II, terraced housing "is characterised by small lots, attached housing, and street frontage," describes Williams. "Because it was designed before the advent of the car, it was pedestrian focused and close to transport. It is less land hungry than later housing models, but provides a form of higher density living far more desirable than badly designed apartments."

So why is it so difficult to build this housing form so prized by home-buyers and praised by New South Wales Planning Minister Brad Hazzard? According to Williams, "The answer turned out to be simple: Current council restrictions make terraces all but unviable. If a developer wishes to build terraces, they will typically require a rezoning and a sub-division application, which often take years to process. Some councils even require terraces to have underground or off-street parking, making them either prohibitively expensive or simply not terraces at all. The result of this baffling approach is that developers end up building either McMansions in sprawling suburbs or high-rise apartments. The former isn't sustainable and the latter isn't popular."

Williams calls on the state government to "hold a design competition to update the terrace in line with modern family needs" and to "encourage small lot, terrace or semi-detached housing within a 600-metre radius of every train station," in order to support a return to this time-tested precedent and more effectively meet Sydney's housing needs. 

Full Story: Acceptable density: reinventing the Sydney Terrace for the 21st Century


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