By Natalie Rayment
Sara Maxana posed a serious question to the world’s NIMBY practitioners when she spoke at the world’s first YIMBY conference in Boulder Colarado.
Sara was telling her own story and how she would love for her children to live in the city they grow up in. Before her divorce they were one household, now two, and by 2026 will be four, when her two children are ready to start their own households. They are the face of growth in her city.
One of the local anti-development activists in Seattle calls development a cancer. Sara put it to them, “Does that mean my children are the cancer? Because they are the real face of growth in any city”.
Sara tells the human story of growth. It is the new tech workers who have found a job in her city. It is the young couple who want to live close to facilities, lifestyle precincts and good schools and it’s her own family.
In response to the increasing housing crisis, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray gathered a stakeholder group of community leaders to help develop a bold agenda for increasing the affordability and availability of housing in the city, which culminated in a published report with 65 recommendations, titled “HALA – Seattle Housing Affordability and Liveability Agenda”.
Recommendations varied widely, and included increased land zoned for multi-family housing, more variety in housing types in single family areas, parking reforms, tax exemptions, approval process improvements. Ultimately it had a simple message – “abundant housing for everyone”, with the aim of creating 50,000 new units, 20,000 of which would be affordable.
Facing this housing crisis, Sara’s key message is to become a bridge builder, not a steamroller. She wants to share her powerful story and bring the community on the journey with her, to create new local policy makers in her city who understand the facts and recognise the human face of growth.
Our take home message from the #YIMBY2016 conference is that we too need to change the narrative about development and urban policy in this country. As Sara reminds us, it is time we talk more about the characters in the story of growth, than the change in character. She asks ““when does the car parking spot in front of my house become more important than the opportunity to make a new friend?”
Our question would be – “Is it time we start talking about the number of stories in a new building, the stories of the newcomers, and not only the number of storeys?” The real story of growth, the human story, is not being told in Australia.
#yimbyqld is about changing the conversation about urban policy and growth in our State. It is about informing the community about the planning process, leading the conversation about growth and the benefits of good development, and inspiring good development in the right places. #yimbyqld is about changing the urban narrative. Join the conversation at yimbyqld.com.au and on Instagram and twitter.