Sustainable Cities Collective has re-launched as Smart Cities Dive! Click here to learn more!

Is Age or Race Distribution the Answer to Melbourne's Social Housing Ills?

Melbourne has a history of social housing much like any first world city. This mostly consists of an industrial revolution followed, typically, by a mass influx of people to the city from the country. This increase in population would then give rise to an ever increasing lower class that could suffer from social issues such as crime, poverty and drug abuse. To counter this, local governments develop new housing projects that may at least provide these new lower class city residents with safe accommodation at a government subsidised price.

Historically, the major problems that arise after this can be absolutely detrimental to families and to the generations that follow them. The most prevalent of these problems is the decrepit nature of the social relationships experienced in these estates. This can arise from alcohol/drug addiction and drug dealing. These two factors also then point towards violent crime, poor living conditions, and property damage.

Melbourne Social Housing History built in the 60's

A Social Housing Project in Richmond, Melbourne

Melbourne is no stranger to these failures. The housing commission, over the years, has supported over 15% of all occupied dwellings in Melbourne, and with this comes trouble. A recent news report stated that police had been called over 14,000 times during the last five years from housing estates in Melbourne. That sounds like trouble to me. This is, using Hardin's (1968) description, a "tragedy of the commons," resulting from a breakdown in the social relationships around the use of a shared resource. The "commons" in this situation are a small number of public housing tower blocks located in Inner Melbourne. The government, as well as the public, have sometimes expressed a certain cynicism about these housing projects.

A forward thinking Melbourne may change the game by adopting a method of integration that allows a social mix between unemployed and employed residents. The mix can go as far as racial distribution to age distribution. This solution can remove the "tragedy of the commons" effect by surrounding the unemployed with positive people and as such a new social atmosphere can emerge that can help develop the underprivileged into active citizens.

Could this more integrated housing help make obsolete previous housing issues?

A new development of Mixed Housing in Fitzroy, Melbourne

This new concept may radicalise the social rehabilitation process and allow a relatively burden free future from population influx – from a housing aspect. Success with this project would mean that people could eventually move out of the system; freeing up space for other underprivileged people. All this seems very positive but one can only wonder how this might affect the positive citizen who may be exposed to negative behavior and how this might affect land prices in the area. These factors do not seem to be measured and evidently a risk is being taken.

Again, as crisis emerges, the government is forced to take risks to alleviate self-induced problems, and with these risks come potential failures and successes. Which category do you think this plan will fall under?

Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Kunal Matikiti.