Planning With Love

Social planning specialist Dr Wendy Sarkissian argues that plans for higher density living needs to be done with LOVE-  Listening,Openness, Validation and community Education.

Focusing on Adelaide’s 30 Year Plan, Dr Sarkissian said residents want to protect their territories and didn’t want higher density living in their backyards, but the community needed to be involved in every step of the planning process.

“Community members need to understand the sustainability reasons behind housing density increases,” she said.

“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. 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.”

She said community backlash against higher density living connected to the 30 Year Plan would continue unless planners, designers, governments and developers understood and respected this instinctive response.

Dr Sarkissian said the design of higher density housing needed 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,” she said.

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

Higher density housing has been found to have many environmental and sustainable living benefits.