Ian's Rant 09 – Property Developers

Modest house on a modest block

Do property developers have more rights than residents?

Outer-Suburban Over-Development

I live in an outer-suburban low-rise suburb. Deliberately! I couldn't stand living in one of those inner-city suburbs where every residence is multi-storied, where gardens are non-existent, where you breathe on your neighbour's walls just inches away from your own.

Lately however, the property developers have begun targeting our area for what is termed "increased density housing". In other words, cramming more houses – and hence more people – into the same area.

For some reason, governments think this is a good thing. Probably, the sums seem great, housing more taxpayers and collecting more rates for little extra expenditure. That is, until such time as they realise that such policies can't be sustained long-term. The infrastructure – which was never designed to handle those new numbers – eventually can't cope. We are already starting to see rationing of essential services like water and electricity. Will we ever see increased spending on that infrastructure? It can scarcely cope with today's demands, let alone tomorrow's.

What I can't figure out is how property developers are still able to get away with subdividing and overdeveloping our suburbs. Residents are objecting to the erosion of their way of life. Councils are echoing those concerns and rejecting development proposals. Then the property developers simply take their case to VCAT and are invariably given the green light!

What gives the property developer – who is just a person after all – more rights than the many people who are objecting? The developer's motive is financial, whereas those objecting are motivated by intangibles like neighbourhood character, privacy, amenity.

I guess it's inevitable that each generation only objects to those changes that fall too far out of their range of experience and comfort level. I wasn't around to hear whatever objections were raised when my suburb was originally built. However, I'm sure there is a difference between a new development – where empty fields were turned into suburbs – and proposals that re-develop parts of existing suburbs in such a way as to erode part of that suburb's character, which ultimately impacts on all existing residents.

If we continue to allow short term profits to erode long term way of life, we are doomed to follow in the paths of other countries whose overcrowded residents currently look favourably on Australia's way of life. Should we indeed follow their trends, our enviable open spaces will be a thing of the past.

– Ian Fieggen, Jul-2005

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