Breaking the rules? Informal housing, urban deregulation and secondary dwellings in Australia

New article on Breaking the rules? Informal housing, urban deregulation and secondary dwellings in Australia by Dr Pranita Shrestha and Prof Nicole Gurran in European Urban and Regional Studies

ABSTRACT — Secondary dwellings, from ‘backyard’ and basement units to converted garages or ‘granny flats’ are increasingly viewed as a potential source of lower cost rental accommodation. However, in many cities of the so-called global north, secondary dwellings are restricted under local planning rules designed to maintain lower density residential neighbourhoods. This article examines the outcome of planning reform to legalise secondary dwellings as a housing solution, in the state of New South Wales, Australia. Traditionally, secondary dwelling production has been seen as a form of unregulated/informal dwelling type. In response to a chronic shortage of affordable renting supply, this paper considers how the state has undertaken a process of deregulation of planning controls to permit secondary dwelling production. We call this an example of ‘calculated informality’. We examine the case with reference to data on the geography and scale of secondary dwelling production, as well as interviews with secondary dwelling industry groups and local council officers responsible for enforcing planning regulation. Our analysis shows that deregulatory reform enabled an informal rental market in secondary dwellings to grow at scale; however, affordability and secure private rental outcomes remain unclear.

Deal-making, elite networks and public–private hybridisation: More-than-neoliberal urban governance in Urban Studies

New article on Deal-making, elite networks and public–private hybridisation: More-than-neoliberal urban governance by Prof Chris Gibson, A/Prof Crystal Legacy and A/Prof Dallas Rogers in Urban Studies

ABSTRACT — We argue that augmented concepts and research methods are needed to comprehend hybrid urban governance reconfigurations that benefit market actors but eschew competition in favour of deal-making between elite state and private actors. Fuelled by financialisation and in response to planning conflict are regulatory reforms that legitimise opaque alliances in service of infrastructure and urban development projects. From a specific city (Sydney, Australia) we draw upon one such reform – Unsolicited Proposals – to point to a broader landscape of hybrid urban governance, its reconfigurations of power and potential effect on cities. Whereas neoliberal governance promotes competition and views the state and private sectors as distinct, hybrid urban governance leverages state monopoly power and abjures market competition, instead endorsing high-level public–private coordination, technical and financial expertise and confidential deal-making over major urban projects. We scrutinise how Unsolicited Proposals normalise this approach. Commercial-in-confidence protection and absent tender processes authorise a narrow constellation of influential private and public actors to preconfigure outcomes without oversight. Such reforms, we argue, consolidate elite socio-spatial power, jeopardise city function and amplify corruption vulnerabilities. To theorise hybrid urban governance at the intersection of neoliberalism and Asia-Pacific state-capitalism, we offer the concepts of coercive monopoly (where market entry is closed, without opportunity to compete) and de jure collusion (where regulation reforms codify informal alliances among elites connected across government and corporate and consultancy worlds). We call for urban scholarship to pay closer attention to public–private hybridisation in governance, scrutinising regulatory mechanisms that consecrate deal-making and undermine the public interest.

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Mapping the frontiers of private property in New South Wales, Australia in Geographical Research

New article on Mapping the frontiers of private property in New South Wales, Australia in Geographical Research by A/Prof Dallas Rogers, Prof Andrew Leach, Dr Jasper Ludewig, A/Prof Amelia Thorpe and Dr Laurence Troy in Geographical Research.

ABSTRACT — This article addresses the process and patterns by which private property has been applied on the Australian continent. Alongside both lease-holdings that are limited by term or perpetual and squatting practices, identifying and documenting private property in both individual cases and in aggregate over a large geography offers a compelling approximation of the appearance and spread of British–Australian settlement. Plots and patterns of private land ownership can be read in relation to other forms of land use and tenure each subject to specific historical legal instruments and definitions. We explore how, in particular, the first-generation alienation of private property might be constructed, represented, and theorised using a critical approach to GIS tools and practices. What technical considerations are required to identify the extent of a site and map its transfer into private hands? How far can the process of mapping the initial alienation of parcels of Crown land over time expose legacies of colonial practices in present-day methods and serve as a testbed to generate other layers that capture, for instance, patterns of informal privatisation or interact with other phenomena—most notably that of frontier violence—that likewise occur on land, in time? Such work can be located among those wrestling with problems of mapping colonial land occupation with technologies that share a heritage with the surveying tools that allowed that same acquisition and can enhance a critical approach to GIS in relation to appropriation and dispossession of Aboriginal land.

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Book Review Forum Podcast in Urban Studies

Book Review Forum Podcast on The Surrounds by Dr Prantia Shrestha, Prof Alison Young, Prof Adam Morton, Dr Tanzil Shafique, A/Prof Dallas Rogers, and Prof AbdouMaliq Simone, in Urban Studies journal

You can read the book review in Urban Studies here or listen to the podcast below

Geographies of COVID‐19 in Geographical Research

New commentary on COVID-19 and geographical scholarship by A/Prof Dallas Rogers and Prof Matthew Kearnes in Geographical Research.

ABSTRACT — The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 has precipitated profound social, economic, and political disruptions and, at the same time, has exacerbating existing geopolitical and socio-spatial disparities. In this editorial, we summarise a diverse range of works on the emergent geographies of COVID-19 that have been published in Geographical Research and are now assembled as a virtual special section. Employing several methodologies and concepts, that expansive body of work provides a way to engage with the pandemic from a range of geographical perspectives. As a collection, it includes work on the geographies of COVID-19 mobilities, COVID-19 governance measures, the urban and material geographies of COVID-19, the spatio-temporalities of COVID-19, and the new spaces of learning and pedagogic practice that have characterised responses to the pandemic.

Read the commentary here

Intersectionalizing Housing Discrimination Under Rentier Capitalism in an Asset-Based Society in Housing, Theory and Society

New article on Intersectionalizing Housing Discrimination Under Rentier Capitalism in an Asset-Based Society by Dr Peta Wolifson, Dr Sophia Maalsen and A/Prof Dallas Rogers in Housing, Theory and Society.

ABSTRACT — Rental discrimination is a key factor in the reproduction of socio-economic inequality under emergent rentier capitalism within the asset society. Our research into the effects of discrimination in the Australian private rental sector shows how factors including age, race, gender and socio-economic status intersect to shape experiences of discrimination. A compounding and exponential discriminatory burden – financial, psychological, and physical – confronts those experiencing discrimination based on more than one factor. Yet, to date, policy aimed at improving housing experiences has largely been ad hoc and carried out in policy siloes. We argue for an intersectionalized approach to housing research, planning and policy, highlighting the conceptual value of intersectionality for responding to structural disadvantage and lived experiences of discrimination amid rentier and asset logics.

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Cities in COVID-19: Reconsidering Urban Form, Mobility, Housing and Planning in Australasia in Urban Policy and Research

New article on Cities in COVID-19: Reconsidering Urban Form, Mobility, Housing and Planning in Australasia by Dr Mohammad Shahidul Hasan Swapan, Dr Ashraful Alam, A/Prof Dallas Rogers, A/Prof Donna Houston, Dr Michele Lobo and Dr Zahra Nasreen in in Urban Policy and Research.

ABSTRACT — Historically, global pandemics have made profound impacts on cities that lasted for generations and pushed us to reflect on and rethink how cities are lived, planned and re-oriented. The many disruptions brought in by each pandemic challenged urban growth patterns, policies and the status quo of that particular time. For example, we observed significant changes in planning and environmental control regulations in London and other European cities in the aftermath of the Great Fire in1666 [‘The great sanitary awakening’ (Winslow 1923)]. The most recent one, COVID-19 has caused unprecedented shifts in our urban life through changing mobility patterns, new forms of urban governance and pandemic response which have prompted critical questions of contemporary understandings and approaches to planning for resilient urban formations not only in relation to the city but also its hinterland areas and beyond, regional and rural centres (Ali et al. 2022, Alam and Nel 2023).

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