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Every day, my family gets a phone call (or two, or three) from real estate agents trying to push us out of our home. “Would you like us to evaluate your house? No obligations! No string attached!” or, “Did you know that we did a good job selling no.39? You should consider letting us sell your house,” or, “Did you know that house prices in your area have never been higher? Now’s a great time to sell!” We get the same thing in our maiboxes, too. Day in, day out.

The irritating thing is that these real estate agents aren’t just being shady — they’re actually pressuring us on a daily basis because it is my council’s policy to push us out of our home. The area in which I live has been designated an “urban village”. Council has decided that houses are unwelcome here; they want blocks of flats two or three storeys tall, at least fifteen dwellings apiece. Our house, which is old and situated on a huge block of land, is extremely attractive to developers — and, hence, to the council.

My council pursues this policy on the grounds that Melbourne 2030 demands it. Melbourne 2030 outlines how the state government, a couple of years back, wanted our capital city to develop for 2030. The city will be housing a million more people, and the state government didn’t want Melbourne to sprawl any further outwards than it already has. The answer? Higher density development. Fewer houses, smaller blocks of land; more flats, and more units. Having developed this brilliant vague policy, the state government sat back and let councils implement it. As a result, where I live is now being targeted for redevelopment. Aggressively.

I don’t exactly have anything against high density development. I definitely don’t have anything against the high rates of immigration making this development necessary. What I have a problem with is the haphazard way the government is planning Melbourne’s future. Their idea of improving transport is to build a new tollway. Their idea of improving public transport is to advertise it. Even the development itself has been left largely to councils; the government’s taking a hands-off approach. The plan isn’t a plan so much as an idea. Maybe just a suggestion. It’s not been thought through and I can’t really see it working.

To take my area as an example, our train line is “at capacity”. This means that, if I catch the train to the city, I have to resign myself to the fact that I will have to stand. There is no chance of me getting a seat1. Coming back from the city I can get a seat, but the aisle gets so congested that I can barely make my way from my seat to the door when I have to get off. This is before the “urban village” becomes a reality. When all these hundreds of new people come to live on my street, how are they all going to fit on the train?

For Melbourne’s population to grow, public transport has to be improved. A better solution might even be to improve transportation across the whole state and encourage people to move to regional cities instead — places like Geelong, Ballarat or Bendigo. Smaller towns, too. Implementing such a strategy would be difficult, however. Industries would have to be moved there to create jobs, public transport within those centres would all have to be improved, telecommunications infrastructure there would have to be upgraded so it no longer sucked, and so on. There’d have to be a whole change in philosophy — state governments’ policies are usually based on the premise that the rest of the state is adjunct to the capital. It’s not going to happen. Wouldn’t it be better to take some of the pressure off Melbourne to accommodate a million new people, though?

While Melbourne 2030 has not been thought through, it is still rigorously enforced. We get these phone calls, these pamphlets, and these letters every day. People have actually moved away because they got too stressed out defending their right to sunlight, or car parking space, or just to remain where they were. Near the railway station, there’s even a four-storey building. My suburb is changing, and it seems that the rest of the city will follow. And so I wonder… what is the best way of tackling this looming issue?

  1. Thinking about it, I DID get a seat at 7.30 one Saturday morning. But I had to sit next to someone I didn’t know to sit there. The train was still pretty full.

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