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Australia is a large country with low population. Due to its geographic characteristics, the majority of its cities are placed along its coasts. The difference in population count in the cities can vary which can create differences between the living experiences in those cities. This paper will compare two major Australian cities: Sydney and Gold Coast, and it will outline their differences and similarities.
Culture and Placemaking
The culture and placemaking of a city can define the living experience of its citizens. The culture of the city can form around its history, its cultural and entertainment sites, such as museums and landmarks, as well as its communities. Factors such as socioeconomic conditions and population demographics can also play a part in the formation of the city’s culture. Placemaking is a complex concept that is focused on the creation of unified communities through city planning and development.
Placemaking is guided by a set of principles that urge its proponents to listen to the will of the community, take account of the way people from the community use public spaces, and to have a cohesive vision of the project, among other things. A study notes that Australia does not have a historical base for placemaking which can be the reason behind the recent increase in placemaking projects (Walters & Rosenblatt 2008).
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Sydney has the highest population in the country. As of June 2016, it has reached more than five million people, which amount to almost 21% of all Australian population. It is the state capital, and its culture is reflective of its status. The city often serves as the location of major cultural festivals, and events such as the Sydney Festival. It is the largest performing arts festival in the country, and it incorporates almost all aspects of art from theater to visual arts.
Museums are plentiful in the city and cover a wide variety of topics. A great number of them are dedicated to visual arts such as the Art Gallery of New South Wales, and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Sydney also hosts the largest library in Australia called State Library of New South Wales. Also, Sydney is often a location of sports events such as Rugby, Australian Football, and Soccer games. The city is a major tourist hub due to its status, cultural, and entertainment options.
Recent placemaking efforts of the city government have received a negative reaction from the citizens living in the urban redevelopment sites. Due to the involvement of private capital in the placemaking projects, the tenants of these areas have a much lesser voice in the matter, and their self-organizing efforts lose political power (Darcy & Rogers 2014). This is alarming as it goes against the main principle of placemaking that states that these projects have to take the opinions of the community into account. However, the city does have a variety of distinct communities such as the LGBT community living in the area of the Oxford Street, and a number of other urban and suburban communities (Williamson 2016).
Gold Coast is a much smaller city. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, it is the sixth largest city in the country, but its population is under 650,000 people. This number makes up less than three percent of the Australian population. In recent years the city became a prime target for rapid development which elevated its status as a tourist destination. The current culture of the city is focused on entertainment activities.
They include music festivals, performing arts festivals, cinema festivals, sports, and recreation. Recreational activities play a large part in the culture of the city, with surfing being one of the primary ones. The surfing culture developed because of the beaches of the massive beaches of the area. This extends not only to tourist activities but to the residents too. Surfing enthusiasts living in the city have formed so-called “surf gangs” which intend to preserve the local surfing culture and its identity (Dredge & Jamal 2013).
As it was mentioned earlier in the paper, the city has recently become a major redevelopment center with a large focus on tourism. The majority of the communities are made up of young people actively utilizing the public spaces of the city. Unlike Sydney, the wishes of the citizens are more prioritized and provide less negative reactions. However, the process has met a variety of challenges with hard and soft types of governance being implemented in various situations. Tourism and public interest are carefully balanced which has led to the preservation of various communities living in the city area (Wyn & Cahill 2015).
The housing markets of a city can provide an overview of the city’s economy. It is governed by a number of factors such as demand for housing, average income, and others. The Australian housing market is unique, however, due to the measures that the Australian government implemented after the global financial crisis of 2008. The global financial crisis has dramatically affected the affordability of housing in many countries, and to combat this effect, Australia implemented a cash grant to first home buyers titled “First Home Owner Grant.”
A few years after the global financial crisis, Australian government lowered the subsidy provided by this grant but decided to keep it in place to make housing purchase more available to the citizens (Randolph, Pinnegar & Tice 2013).
Despite the governmental efforts, the housing market of Sydney can be prohibitively expensive for an average person. From 2010 to 2015, the prices have risen by 75.1%, with the median price being over one million Australian dollars. To allow more people to have access to housing in the city area, a number of solutions were proposed by the government. In 2014, the Community Strategic Plan was established which had a goal of making 7.5% of all city housing affordable through not-for-profit or other providers.
The plan acknowledges the issue of the housing market in Sydney and attempts to provide goals and possible solutions for the problem. However, a number of challenges and difficulties are encountered by the people working on these solutions. The primary one lies in the lack of control over the development of the product because of the outside involvement of the providers. As alternative solutions, a line of innovative solutions was proposed, however.
These solutions include implementation of micro-units and accessory dwelling units. The housing market in Sydney provides only a single type of housing, in a single location, with one ownership model, and the diversity of dwelling units could have a positive effect on the housing market (Christensen 2016).
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Surprisingly, the housing market of Gold Coast is remarkably similar to that of Sydney. The rent and prices for houses are high, and some researchers suggest that it is indicative of the overall stress in the Australian housing market. An analysis of Gold Coast revealed that one in every nine households in the area is experiencing housing stress. This extends even to the areas that are supposed to provide affordable housing in the city area (Rahman & Harding 2014).
The market is expected to grow as 2017 has shown a 20% growth. The global financial crisis had a strong effect on the city’s housing market, with many developers shutting down before being able to bounce back from its effects. However, between 2013 and 2015, the market recovered and had been steadily growing since. The median price for a house in Gold Coast is approaching 600,000 Australian dollars. It is a smaller number than Sydney, but considering the low population of the city, it is quite high. The beaches and coastal property are a large factor in the increased housing prices. The recent push for tourist focused redevelopment has led to the current housing market situation.
This rise in housing prices in not unique to the Gold Coast area, however. The Queensland government has been making major development plans over the last three decades that had a colossal effect on the economy of the region. The rapid development of ambitious goals has quickly increased the prices which have led to an increased anxiety from the citizens of the area. To combat this issue, the Queensland government and the organizations involved in the development projects have focused on speeding up development of new affordable housing in the area. Unfortunately, despite success in Brisbane and other areas, Gold Coast has not experienced a rise in the availability of affordable housing (Steele & Dodson 2014).
This could prove to be an issue in the future of the city, as the market is only projected to grow in the following years, while no additional efforts in creating affordable housing in Gold Coast have been outlined at the moment. The growing focus on tourism and its sustainability have led to a number of improvements to the city’s environment, cultural, and entertainment options. However, it could soon become too expensive for its local citizens. The similarity in the markets of Sydney and Gold Coast is alarming, as the cities have a very different number of visitors and locals.
The differences between the cities are clear. Sydney is a large city filled with cultural spaces and communities. On the other hand, Gold Coast is a tourist destination with a number of youthful communities. The differences in their placemaking strategies have shown that public interest should be prioritized during the implementation of placemaking projects. However, the similar unaffordability of their housing markets suggests that the focus on tourism has a strong effect on the prices of housing.
Despite being a much smaller city, the Gold Coast is just as unaffordable as Sydney. Unlike Sydney, Gold Coast does not have as many programs designed to create additional affordable housing, which could prove problematic in the near future. Both cities, however, have their own cultural identities and communities that reflect their culture and status.
Christensen, PH 2016, ‘Investigating solutions to the affordable housing supply challenges in Sydney, Australia: considering alternative housing typologies’, 22nd Annual Pacific-Rim Real Estate Society Conference, Sunshine Coast, Australia, pp. 1-14.
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