Cities & sustainability III

Written by  //  May 24, 2023  //  Cities, Sustainable Development  //  No comments

Homes for People
How Nordic policies can improve
Australia’s housing affordability

28 April 2022
More affordable housing with less homelessness is possible – if only Australia would learn from Nordic nations
There is almost a universal consensus among economists, for example, that negative gearing favours the interests of investors to the detriment of others, but both major parties are scared to change the policy.
One way to break the policy stalemate is to consider policies shown to have worked in other countries. To facilitate this, the Nordic Policy Centre – a collaboration between The Australia Institute and Deakin University – has published an overview of housing and homelessness policies in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland.
Of particular note among the wide range of housing policies in these nations is the prominence of housing co-operatives, which assist both renters and those wanting to own a secure, high-quality home. …
We identified who’s most at risk of homelessness and where they are. Now we must act, before it’s too late (25 November 2021)

24 May
Canada’s housing crisis demands better buildings — here are the changes that could improve apartment and condo life
Marianne Touchie, Associate Professor, jointly appointed in the Department of Civil and Mineral Engineering and Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Toronto
(The Conversation) As Canada grapples with an ongoing housing crisis, the need for more housing — particularly in cities — is becoming increasingly apparent. To effectively address this challenge, Canada needs to focus on constructing more multi-unit residential buildings, like apartments and condominiums.
This is especially important because Canada becomes increasingly urbanized with each passing year. In 2021, 73.7 per cent of Canadians lived in one of the country’s large urban centres.
But Canada doesn’t just need more housing — it needs good quality housing. And the multi-unit housing sector is plagued with performance issues that negatively impact residents.

17 May
Dementia friendly neighbourhoods (audio)
How do you help older people, and particularly those with dementia, to remain independent for longer?
(BBC/People Fixing the World) In Singapore, where dementia affects roughly 1 in 10 people over 60, the government are betting that the re-designing neighbourhoods with an aging population might just be the answer.
Reporter Craig Langran visits the Singaporean suburb of Nee Soon – an area of public housing which has been overhauled by a team of healthcare experts, designers, and residents – and looks at some of the other innovations in elderly care taking place in the country.
And we look at a village in France where everything has been designed especially for people with dementia.

13 May
Istanbul Gets Caught Between Housing Crunch and Earthquake Risk
(Bloomberg CityLab) Decades of bad building practices have left Istanbul with a vulnerable housing stock:  Some 200,000 buildings could sustain at least moderate damage during a severe earthquake, according to experts. Applications to tear down and rebuild unstable homes have tripled since two massive quakes killed more than 50,000 people three months ago. But such efforts are being hampered by soaring housing prices and political squabbling between the Turkish government and city officials.

11 May
White House Unveils a New Climate Fix: Building Codes and Energy Retrofits
Green building standards for new homes are intended to kickstart the push toward a clean-energy economy.
(Bloomberg) The Biden administration announced a plan on Thursday to adopt new building energy standards for homes built and financed by the federal government, a move that officials said will result in energy savings of more than 35% for families.
The new building energy codes would apply to an estimated 170,000 new homes per year, including newly built or financed subsidized housing, both urban and rural — much of it meant for families of limited means who could particularly benefit from energy cost savings.
To complement the new construction push, the White House also introduced an $830 million purse for clean-energy building retrofits for existing homes, funded by the Inflation Reduction Act.
These updated building codes and retrofits are meant to set a higher bar for energy efficiency, performance and resilience for homes and apartment buildings alike.

6 May
As economy recovers from pandemic doldrums, big employers step up push to get back to the office
Royal Bank and Amazon among companies requiring more face time at work
(CBC) From a strong job market to the World Health Organization officially downgrading COVID-19’s status as a global health emergency, signs that the economy is recovering from the pandemic are everywhere.
But there’s perhaps no clearer one, in hollowed-out downtown cores across the country, than the sight of millions of office workers returning to cities after spending much of the past three years working from home.
The trend is undeniable. Cellphone data suggests that Canadian cities are now about half as full of people during the workday compared with before the pandemic. That’s well up from under 10 per cent observed at various points since 2020, when the pandemic began and lockdowns were implemented.
While Canadian cities are still laggards compared with those in the United States, a number of major employers are trying to do what they can to close that gap.

26 April
Return of the child-friendly city? How social movements are changing European urban areas
Urban development and social norms concerning childhood have led European cities to a situation where streets are no longer places for children and young people.
Many experts and interest groups have voiced their concerns about this and explained why closing the streets to children is bad policy. Children’s physical activity levels are alarmingly low and limiting their sense of safety and autonomy also hampers their mental and social wellbeing. These trends are endangering the health of an entire generation and compromising their ability to uphold societies and economies with grim dependency ratios.

11 April
Australia’s New City Tackles Climate Change From the Ground Up
Bradfield City in Sydney’s west will sit next to a new airport
Area has recorded some of the world’s hottest temperatures
Carbon-neutral buildings and tree-lined streets are at the heart of plans for a brand new city in a pocket of Australia where temperatures can be among the hottest on earth in the summer and climate change looms as a major threat.

6 April
Paris’ Failed Romance With Scooters Is a Warning
The 15-minute city is going to take things a little slower in its bid to go carless.
29 March
Parisians are heading to the polls to vote on an unlikely subject: electric scooters.
(Bloomberg) The public will decide in a referendum on Sunday whether to ban shared e-scooters citywide. The result could make Paris the world’s biggest city to kick rental scooter operators out.

17 March
‘A gas-guzzling villain’s lair’: welcome to LA’s grotesque new high-rise
This is (W)rapper, “an outrageous creative office tower”, in the words of its leasing agents, set to “reawaken the Los Angeles skyline”. It is also the bombastic tombstone of a bygone era, a carbon-guzzling monument to a time when architectural ego trumped the interests of people and planet.

27 January
Featuring Sauvé alumnus Yaniv Rivlin
Tel Aviv’s E-Scooter Transformation (video)
(Bloomberg CityLab) High-tech workers have been flocking to Tel Aviv for years, and many move around by electric scooter, bicycle and other forms of micromobility. The company Bird has recorded more than 10 million shared rides in the last four years, and some 550,000 unique users. That’s changing the face of the city: Bike lanes line roadways, allowing riders to zip past gridlock, and streets are filled with pedestrians and spaces for e-scooters.
Tel Aviv plans to more than double its bike paths to cover 350 kilometers by 2025 — part of a long-term mission to make one of the world’s most congested cities car-free and pollution-free. It’s also part of the city’s strategy to attract more high-tech workers and keep them there.

26 January
Zimbabwe Plans a New City for the Rich
Zimbabwe’s leader is seeking investment for a new national capital with luxury homes just down the road from an impoverished and overcrowded Harare.
By Ray Ndlovu and Archana Narayanan
(Bloomberg CityLab) Zimbabwe’s political leaders have a remedy for the collapse of the capital Harare: Build a new “cybercity” with as much as $60 billion of other people’s money.
The development in Mount Hampden, 11 miles northeast of Harare, is slated to be the site of the national parliament, headquarters of the central bank, the high and supreme courts, mineral auction centers, a stock exchange, a presidential palace and luxury villas.
The planned development in Mount Hampden reflects “a ruling elite preoccupation not to interrupt their lives by having to see dirt and poverty,” said Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In 2005, Zimbabwe’s leaders cleared slums and informal businesses in cities with earth-moving equipment in a program called Operation Murambatsvina, which means “move the rubbish” in the Shona language, displacing 2.4 million people. Now, rather than attempting to address underlying issues, officials are opting to move the capital entirely.


21 December
To attain global climate and biodiversity goals, we must reclaim nature in our cities
Emma Despland, Professor, Biology Department, Concordia University
(The Conversation) At the 7th Summit for Subnational Governments and Cities, an official parallel event to the COP15 biodiversity conference, cities were brought to the forefront of conversations on how to protect life on Earth.
As a researcher of terrestrial ecosystems, I believe that we cannot think of nature as something set aside in wildernesses, far from human activity. We need to conserve some elements of nature everywhere, including in the cities we live in.
Cities are growing rapidly and covering more and more land. They are often built on the most fertile land, near rivers or coastlines. This is also where most of the biodiversity lives. It is, therefore, crucial to conserve nature in cities.
To add to this, some ecosystem services that humans rely on only operate within short geographical limits. Healthy soils and wetlands absorb rainwater and snowmelt to buffer floods, while trees filter pollutants from the air and alleviate heat waves. All these services are most effective when nature is close to where people live, making it crucial for cities to preserve their nature.

3 December
Xueman Wang: Our program Cities4Biodiversity under the Global Platform for Sustainable Cities just finished its meeting in Paris on Urban Nature and Biodiversity with the participation from 50 cities in 22 countries. We were all impressed by Paris’ green vision and the commitment to bring nature to cities and convert the abandoned railway to a green belt that enriches biodiversity.
Nov 28 – Dec 02
C4B 2nd Deep-Dive Learning
– Theme 1: What are urban nature and biodiversity?
– Theme 2: How to manage urban nature and biodiversity & How to manage “urban trees”?
– Theme 3: How to incorporate urban nature and biodiversity into spatial planning and urban form
– Theme 4: How to incorporate urban nature and biodiversity into project financing

16 November
Global climate finance leaves out cities: fixing it is critical to battling climate change
Astrid R.N. Haas, Fellow, Infrastructure Institute, School of Cities, University of Toronto
(The Conversation) Climate finance …is being discussed as part of the Paris Agreement negotiations, and is a key theme of the COP27 conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
This finance can come from a variety of sources – public, private, or other. But it is specifically earmarked for activities and investments linked to mitigating or adapting to the effects of climate change.
The current architecture of the institutions and funds that provide climate finance is, however, not designed to work at a sub-national level. Therefore across the globe, cities are being left out. This situation is even more pertinent for African cities as Africa is both the fastest urbanising continent in the world and among the most vulnerable to climatic change. Yet the continent is receiving, by far, the lowest climate finance flows overall.

12 November
Putting a price on nature can help municipalities adapt to climate change
How a small town is saving millions on climate adaptation by embracing nature’s services
(CBC What On Earth) … In 2012, Gibsons changed the definition of infrastructure to include “natural assets.” By putting a value on things like wetlands, forests and coastlines, a municipality like Gibsons can make a financial case to invest in, protect and restore these ecosystems while also benefitting from the services they provide.
The town valued the water management services White Tower Park could provide at $3.2 million — which was about the same cost as engineering an equivalent system.
“It’s not about putting a dollar figure on the environment,” said Emanuel Machado, the town’s chief administrative officer. “But the reality is that decisions are made with data, particularly with financial data, and if you want to provide … a business case in this for a natural alternative, then you have to understand the value of that service.”
As communities across Canada face increasingly frequent and severe impacts of climate change, some are turning to nature as a way to help adapt. Gibsons has inspired other municipalities, including a Canada-wide Municipal Natural Asset Initiative, to look to local ecosystems as part of the solution.

The Municipal Natural Assets Initiative (MNAI) is changing the way municipalities deliver everyday services, increasing the quality and resilience of infrastructure at lower costs and reduced risk. The MNAI team provides scientific, economic and municipal expertise to support and guide local governments in identifying, valuing and accounting for natural assets in their financial planning and asset management programs, and in developing leading-edge, sustainable and climate resilient infrastructure.
To provide community services in a cost effective and sustainable manner now and in to the future, local governments are looking for ways to improve management of the critical assets that supply these services.
Asset management—the process of inventorying a community’s existing assets, determining the current state of those assets, and preparing and implementing a plan to maintain or replace those assets—allows municipalities to make informed decisions regarding a community’s assets and finances.

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