This paper explores the redevelopment potential of ageing and underutilised public housing properties in the middle suburbs of major Australian cities. State governments lack strategies for the renewal of this housing in the current fiscally constrained environment. Responding to this need, this paper presents a design research project that proposes a coordinated, precinct-based regeneration strategy that involves the redevelopment of clusters of public housing lots that are in close proximity to each other. It demonstrates how such a precinct-scaled approach can produce a greater diversity of housing types that achieve higher yields as well as better quality urban amenity and infrastructure. This is in contrast to the inefficient, piecemeal infill housing development currently prevalent in middle suburban areas. The paper describes the results of developing and testing this design research proposal. A mapping survey of the Victorian Government’s public housing portfolio found that around 25% of assets form precinct scale clusters of renewable stock in well-serviced middle suburbs. Integrative redevelopment strategies were formulated for selected localised clusters, including customised arrangements of density, uses, parking and dwelling types. At the same time, targeted public realm enhancements were developed to encourage existing community assets to ‘work harder’. These strategies were trialled and developed through innovative design-led community engagements, and then formalised into detailed design scenarios that enabled the testing of short and long-term viability relative to ‘status quo’ development models. The results of this analysis indicate how the quantity and distribution of public housing stock presents a timely opportunity for broader regeneration of ageing middle suburbs –recognised as vital to achieving sustainable metropolitan housing growth and diversity within equitable and liveable cities. Finally, this paper examines the role for community housing organisations in leveraging public investment in regeneration while preserving affordability in key areas.
The papers presented at the 2015 State of Australian Cities National Conference (SOAC 7) were organised into seven broad themes but all shared, to varying degrees, a common focus on the ways in which high quality academic research can be used in the development and implementation of policy. The relationship between empirical evidence and theoretical developments that are presented as part of our scholarly endeavours and policy processes is rarely clear and straightforward. Sometimes, perhaps because of the fortuitous alignment of various factors, our research has a direct and positive impact on policy. Sometimes it takes longer to be noticed and have influence and, sometimes, there is no little or no evidence of impact beyond or even with the academy. And while there are things we can do to promote the existence of our work and to present it in more accessible formats to people we believe to be influential, ultimately the appreciation and application of our work lies in the hands of others.
This paper is one of 164 papers that have each been reviewed and refereed by our peers and revised accordingly. While they each will have been presented briefly at the SOAC conference, they can now be read or re-read at your leisure. We hope they will stimulate further debate and discussion and form a platform for further research.
Adapted from the SOAC 7 conference proceedings introduction by Paul Burton and Heather Shearer
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.
SOAC 7 was held in the City of Gold Coast from 9-11 December 2015. The conference featured leading national and local politicians and policy makers who shared their views on some of the current challenges facing cities and how these might be overcome in the future.

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