Anyone who’s lived in Brunswick for even five years can really see the difference in the street scape - town houses where single bungalows used to be, apartment buildings lining the major thoroughfares and old factories have switched from industrial pasts to residential futures. This isn't a bad thing, in fact it's wonderful that an area can grow and reinvent itself, it can attract new and vibrant people and inspire the lifelong Brunswickas to change their ideas around how to live.
We're very lucky in Brunswick to be so close to the city and yet still have our own sense of community, our own identity as suburbs. It is with this in mind, that I challenge Council to remember that development (and when I say development I refer to new builds, redevelopments and rezoning) should only happen when the community requires and demands it, not when developers think they can make a profit out of telling people how to live.
Do I believe in growth and development? Yes, of course I do. However let me be very clear, our suburbs (and therefore our homes) should not be a gold mine in which very few with deep pockets, profit over a community.
The community should be at the centre of any development project, be that an extra home on a single block or whether that be 300 apartments on five acres. Council needs to approve developments that allow for a diverse community. Approving only certain types of apartment blocks whereby only certain types of people would be attracted to or could even afford is not a sustainable nor an inclusive practise for such a diverse community.
A great strength in Brunswick has been its diverse housing; different homes for families, for couples, for student share-housing and for young professionals. If the Council continues to only approve single or double bedroom apartments, we have to ask ourselves:
Where will the University students go?
Where will families have to move to when they want to have a second child?
Where are the affordable public housing schemes that allow our most vulnerable to stay in their community?
Allowing developers to convince Council that their “cost effective (read: profit making), lifestyle-inspired” apartments are the only way forward not only damages the diversity of the community, but will change the face of Brunswick forever, all the while making rich developers richer.
Let's also not forget the quality of living in some of these “lifestyle-inspired” developments, which include amenities such as: smaller rooms overall with no natural light in bedrooms or bathrooms, kitchens that are so small there is no bench space, no car parking provided, no green spaces and all the while made as quickly and cheaply as possible. Sure, I understand that not everyone has a car and perhaps not everybody prioritises a backyard, but people should be allowed reasonable natural light in their homes or practical places to park and store their cars.
By allowing these types of homes to be built, it is clear these aspects are not considered important by Council. What type of community does this create? It creates an individualistic culture that sees homes as empty shells in which to store belongings and to be upgraded out of at the soonest possible moment, and sadly, in the case of Brunswick, that most likely means leaving the area. Council should be doing everything in its power to create homes that people want to live in and stay in long-term.
Council must also ensure the community still have rights around these types of developments; the right to public consultation, the right to information and the right to appeal and be heard if there are concerns. For far too long Council and certain councillors have ignored the feedback and concerns of its residents when it comes to urban planning. I stand for a more engaging dialogue between Council and residents, as it not only leads to better developments but leads to more connected communities.
Brunswick will continue to grow, and in doing so it faces its own unique challenges because of its proximity to the city and because of the great and diverse people that live here. I want to make sure that we hold on to our fantastic community and not see it disappear because of overzealous and greedy developers and a short-sighted Council.