24 May 2013

Couple look at apartment buildingA social planning specialist will argue that plans for higher density living must be made with love in order to receive community support at a free public lecture at the University of South Australia on May 29.

Focusing on Adelaide’s 30-Year Plan, which proposes higher density living for many Adelaide neighbourhoods, Dr Wendy Sarkissian will examine the ‘Not in my backyard’ (NIMBY) response and argue that human beings are hard-wired to protect their territories.

Presented by the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Centre, the lecture will detail how planners need to put the community first in every step of the planning process, using what Dr Sarkissian describes as the ‘LOVE’ approach of Listening, Openness, Validation and community Education.

“Community members need to understand the sustainability reasons behind housing density increases. But I think the big mistake being made is that we are trying to educate people first – before we listen openly to them and understand what they have to say to us,” Dr Sarkissian says.

“People have deep connections with their home and their community. We have the strongest place attachment to our 'core territory' of home because it has symbolic and psychological importance. Instinctively, we will defend our homes and neighbourhoods at all cost.

“The so-called NIMBY response is better understood as place-protective behaviour.  

“Unless planners, designers, governments and developers understand and respect this 'instinctive' response, community backlash against higher density housing will continue, as we have seen with Adelaide’s 30-Year Plan as well as in other communities around the world.”

Dr Sarkissian, an Adjunct Associate Professor at Curtin University and an Adjunct Professor at Bond University, says the design of higher density housing also needs to reflect people’s ideas of home.

“Some higher density housing looks like offices or factories – it can be harsh and not domestic in scale or appearance. It rarely ‘fits in’ because many designers, seeking peer accolades, want their housing to ‘stand out’.  In doing so, the result does not look as though it belongs in my backyard,” she says.

“We need housing that is more 'home-like'. And we need engagement processes that reflect greater emotional intelligence than the processes we currently employ.”

Driven by a commitment to community engagement, the Hawke Centre is presenting the lecture in response to the strong community reaction to the Adelaide 30-Year Plan.

“We are calling for further community discussion about the sweeping changes involved in the Plan,” Elizabeth Ho, Executive Director of the Hawke Centre, says.

The lecture ‘Not in my backyard: Community responses to higher density living - is it all in the mind?’ will be held at 6pm on Wednesday, May 29 at the Allan Scott Auditorium, UniSA City West campus, Hawke Building, North Terrace. 

For more information and to register to attend go to www.hawkecentre.unisa.edu.au

Media Contact

Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au

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