the benefits

This section assumes that you're clear on how we have proposed the suburbs will be shaped. (if not, click on section Shaping Suburbia here)

Wait a minute, all this you are talking about is change and change can be hard – why do it?  
There are many benefits to both the:

a) individual and for the 
b) city 

for making the changes proposed by Shaping Suburbia, and yes, the benefits to the city of course benefit us all too.

a) Individual benefits

Undertaking the changes proposed by Shaping Suburbia:

  • LAND OWNER PROPERTY VALUES INCREASE from their current levels. The nature of increasing the livability of the suburbs opens up development opportunities. in addition to the development opportunities, there is uplift in the value of regenerated areas. Click here to refer to financial section
  • IMPROVED AFFORDABILITY. The strategy of providing an optimum concentration of people allows for a wider range including smaller, more versatile dwellings. Additional housing increases supply and importantly smaller sites mean smaller houses and when both of these are smaller the prices goes down, and affordability improves. 
  • A HEALTHIER YOU.  People walk more in the types of places advocated by Shaping Suburbia. How do we know they are more walkable? click here to find out.  Walking of this type is not 'exercise', it's active living.  The new living patterns create a wide range of implications including significantly, health benefits. These in turn provide many follow-on benefits 
  • BE HAPPIER.  It is possible to measure happiness, and research has shown people have are happier when they live connected lives.  It may straightforward to understand walkability, but people are more socially engaged and more trusting in walkable neighbourhoods too. Source :
  • LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY.  There is less resource-use per person in the types of places proposed by Shaping Suburbia read the reference.  With rapidly increasing electricity prices and growing awareness of the need for all of us to reduce our carbon emissions, it will become increasingly important for all of us to live in built-environments that support the lowest-resource lifestyle possible.
  • IMPROVED HOUSING CHOICE. A key component of Shaping Suburbia's proposition of the 'sweet spot' of residential density, is that you dont need to live in a block of units if you dont want to - you still live in a house.  This is usually a critical purchasing factor for those who choose to live in suburbs. 

b) Benefits to the city (i.e. 'the group' or your community, etc)

Undertaking the changes proposed by Shaping Suburbia

  • MORE PEOPLE FIT IN THE SAME SPACE. This is unarguably a better use of existing infrastructure and good for our city. According to treasury estimates, NSW is growing at about 1000 people per week.  If we dont fit more people in the same space, what then? If Sydney doubles in size, should it physically be twice as large?  Where should it stop?  This benefit also keeps key 'green' sites green for recreation, air quality and for farming - it minimises the pressure and need to take current farming land for housing 
  • WE ALL LIVE MORE SUSTAINABLY. Adopting the types of environments leads to less CO2 emmissions and less pollution per new citizen housed. This is no small thing. The future air quality of our cities has a direct connection with health issues.
  • IMPROVED TRANSPORT OPTIONS.  With the changes proposed by Shaping Suburbia, the increase of the concentration of people to the optimum level allows less car use, better patronage of public transport which in turn leads to reduced congestion and less pollution. 
  • STRONGER COMMUNITIES.  People living in the types of places are travel more by foot and bike, are better connected, know more people in their area and this creates safer suburbs.
  • OUR HEALTH BUDGET.  See above for individual benefits, and of course healthy and happy citizens are good for us all and for our health budget.  Below are hard-data implications for healthier citizens.

more on financial benefits

A report from the Centre for International Economics (CIE), found that placing new homes in existing areas would save $26,000 per dwelling in transport, social and utility infrastructure and environmental costs compared with building in greenfield areas.

Beyond such additional costs for sparsely populated places, on the positive side of the ledger, there are some value benefits in getting the density right. We already know that getting the density right leads to more walkable places.

Initial American findings indicate that people will pay more for houses in more walkable suburbs. Houses with the above average levels of walkability command a premium of about $4,000 to $34,000 over houses with just average levels of walkability in the typical metropolitan areas studied. What type of place would you value for your family?

While this trend may go against the affordability benefit mentioned above, the small sites small house benefit will dominate the walkability price premium.  This means the affordability benefit is dominant.

social benefits too

With the provision of a range of lot sizes including smaller lots, a range of house types and house prices are able to be offered. This almost never the case in traditional suburbia. In fact many local authorities have requirements of minimum land sizes that prevent a range of innovative affordable housing product from entering the market.

Removing such restrictions will allow suburbs to provide new options for such people as single parent families and increases affordability and opportunities for key-worker housing. This is a key contributor to a rich and socially diverse society. 

do you want a garden?

The types of suburbs advocated by Shaping Suburbia still allows for free-hold title. i.e. you live in a house with a garden, and you can even grow your own veggies or run a few chooks if you want to.

Sure you get bigger gardens in traditional suburbia, but Shaping Suburbia is about finding an intelligent, informed balance between lots of things in your life.

getting around

Shaping suburbia has focussed on walkability of suburbs as a key indicator for a range of things that make great suburbs, but there are  also great benefits to living in very walkable places. 

Of the following typical options, the "bike/walking" journeys are the least carbon intensive means of getting around.

Source: Australian Greenhouse Office

less cars are good for us all
  • In Sydney, the health costs of motor vehicle emissions are estimated to be between $600 million and $1.5 billion per annum
Source : Health Impacts of Transport Emissions in Australia: Economic Costs, Working Paper 63.  Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics. Canberra, 2005

  • The Centre for International Economics put the cost on Sydney's reliance on cars at $18 billion in 2005, made up of congestion, accidents, air pollution, greenhouse emissions and government subsidies.  This is projected to rise by 32.5 per cent to nearly $24 billion in 2020. Thats $24 Billion.
Source : A city going nowhere fast. Sydney Morning Herald 23 January 2006

If you want to read more about Cars and Suburbia, click here

happiness and suburbia

While the health and physical benefits of more walkable neighbourhoods may be quick to intuitively grasp, a new study has shown that people who live in walkable communities are happier, more socially engaged and more trusting that those who live in less walkable areas. This study has some profound implications for our cities. 

social networks and suburbia

Active people demand less of their environment than car travellers and make their neighbourhoods more liveable. Active travel can also be good fun. Walking, cycling and public transport provide opportunities for social connection and inclusion with neighbours, friends and other community members. Neighbourhoods are safer when more people are on footpaths, streets and in parks.

More active people are happier, healthier population from the day they start moving. They see doctors less often. They need less medication. They demand less of the healthcare system. They use cars less often, have less congested roads and benefit from less greenhouse emissions and air pollutants. Such people are also more likely to be both employable, reaping benefits for business, and employed, reaping tax benefits for government (i.e. all of us). The ageing of the population will be less of an issue if the ageing population is active.

Source : "Why Active Living - A health, Economic, Environmental and Social Solution" Premiers Council for Active Living, NSW 2010

get active

If you dont think where and how you choose to live is connected to  how active you are read this now.


There are lots of ways of being active.  Its no news to anyone that we chould all go to the gym more often, but having an active life or "active living" is a way of integrating the activity we can all benefit from into your every day life. 

Simple things such as walking to the shops, cycling to work, walking to school or even catching public transport are all ways of building-in the activity as part of your day rather than adding another thing into your busy day and calling it 'exercise'.  There is a rapidly growing body of evidence which shows that being active in everyday life not only has substantial positive impacts on our individual health, but also offers environmental, social and economic benefits.

There are Significant health benefits in even small increases in physical activity:

Source: Bouchard C. Physical activity and health: introduction to the dose-response symposium. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 2001; 33: S347-350

More active people are happier and healthier from the day they start moving. They see doctors less often. They need less medication. They demand less of the healthcare system. They use cars less often, have less congested roads and benefit from less greenhouse emissions and air pollutants. Such people are also more likely to be both employable, reaping benefits for business, and employed, reaping tax benefits for government. The ageing of the population will be less of an issue if the ageing population is active.

Source : "Why Active Living - A health, Economic, Environmental and Social Solution" Premiers Council for Active Living, NSW 2010
Also :  Bauman A, Miller, Y. The Public Health Potential of Health Enhancing Physical Activity. Meyer & Meyer Sport (UK) Ltd, 2004.

Beyond the expected physical benefits of being active, incorporating regular activity into your day has also been shown to have a number of surprising mental benefits including reduction of the likelihood of Alzheimer's diesase.

Source : The Memory book:Everyday habits for a healthy memory Second Edition Judith Wiles & Janet Wiles
  • Increasing your walking per day decreases your likelihood of obesity

ource : Am J Prev Med 2004;27(2):87–96) © 2004 American Journal of Preventive Medicine,
  • The number of nearby amenities for a location is the leading predictor of whether people will live a 'walking' lifestyle.
Source :  

  • A recent study has found that every extra hour in a car per day was associated with a 6% increase in the likelihood of obesity.  Conversely each additional kilometer walked per day was associated with a 4.8% reduction in the likelihood of obesity.
  • Strategies to increase land-use mix and distance walked while reducing time in a car can be effective as health interventions
Source : Am J Prev Med 2004;27(2):87–96) © 2004 American Journal of Preventive Medicine,

  • Physical inactivity contributes to the deaths of 
    over 13,000 people a year in Australia
Source :  
Begg S, Vos T, Baker B, Stevenson C, Stanley L, Lopez AD. The Burden of Disease and 
Injury in Australia. Canberra, 2003

  • Inadequate physical activity is a serious health problem that results in poor health outcomes including a greater risk of obesity, heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and depression. These chronic conditions impose enormous direct and indirect health costs – heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes cost well over $4 billion nationally in direct costs; obesity costs as much as $2 billion. Of these direct costs over $1.5 billion is attributable to physical inactivity.
Source : "Why Active Living - A health, Economic, Environmental and Social Solution" Premiers Council for Active Living, NSW 2010
Also : The cost of physical inactivity – What is the lack of participation in physical activity costing Australia? Medibank Private. August 2007. 
Also : The Growing Cost of Obesity in 2008: Three years on. Report by Access Economics for Diabetes Australia. 2008. Available from

The solution to these problems is to create supportive environments and policies so that people find it easier to incorporate physical activity into the routines of daily life.

  • Physical inactivity is a major contributing factor to obesity – more than a third of NSW adults are overweight, and 19 per cent are obese.
Source : Centre for Epidemiology and Research. 2008 Report on Adult Health from the 2004 New South Wales Population Healthy Survey. NSW Department of Health, 2009
  • Did you know that the average resident in a walkable neighbourhood weights 3.2kg (7 pounds) less than someone who lives in a sprawling neighbourhood?.  A recent study connects the walkability of a neighbourhood with body mass index (BMI) of the people that live there, normalised for other factors such as age,  socioeconomic status etc.
Source :
Also : "Walking, Urban Design and Health: Towards a cost benefit analysis framework"
  • Approximately 25 per cent of school students are either overweight or obese – this figure has doubled in the past 20 years
Source : Schools Physical Activity and Nutrition Survey (SPANS) 2004: The Short Report. NSW Centre for Overweight and Obesity. Sydney, 2006

cycling and health

Shaping suburbia advocates suburbs that are both walkable and bike-able too.  Cycling is a great way to build activity into your day.  Its not just fun, its transport.
  • Regular riders have 30-40% decreases in mortality 
Sources :  Andersen LB, Schnohr P, Schroll M, Hein HO: All-cause mortality associated with physical activity during leisure time, work, sports and cycling to work. Archives of Internal Medicine 2000, 160:1621-1628 
Also : Matthews CE, Jurj AL, Shu X, Li HL, Yang G, Li Q, Gao YT, Zheng W: Influence of exercise, walking, cycling, and overall nonexercise physical activity on mortality in chinese women. Am J Epidemiol 2007,
  • Regular riders have a decreased risk of diabetes
Source :  Hu G, Qiao Q, Silventoinen K, Eriksson JG, Jousilahti P, Lindstrom J, Valle TT, Nissinen A, Tuomilehto J: Occupational, commuting, and leisure-time physical activity in relation to risk for type 2 diabetes in middle-aged Finnish men and women. Diabetologia 2003, 46:322-329

  • 'Commuter' cyclists have less likelihood of being overweight or obese
Source :  Wen LM, Rissel C: Inverse associations between cycling to work, public transport, and overweight and obesity: findings from a population based study in Australia. Preventive Medicine 2008, 46:29-32

  • Health benefits of increased physical activity – reductions in chronic diseases (CVD, diabetes & obesity) and improved mental health 
  • Transport benefits – reduced congestion, car space requirements and costs 
  • Environmental benefits – reduced air, noise and visual pollution
  • Energy use reductions – less fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Community strengthening –  increased social interactions
Sources: Wen LM, Rissel C: Inverse associations between cycling to work, public transport, and overweight and obesity: findings from a population based study in Australia. Preventive Medicine 2008, 46:29-32.
Also : Chertok M, Voukelatos A, Sheppeard V, Rissel C: Comparison of air pollution exposure for five commuting modes in Sydney - car, train, bus, bicycle and walking. Health Promotion Journal of Australia 2004, 15(1):63-67. 
Also : 

  • The Inner Sydney Regional Bicycle Network has been determined likely to generate net economic benefits of $507 million, yielding a cost benefit ratio of 3.88 : 1
Source: "Inner Sydney Regional Bicycle Network - Demand assessment and economic appraisal" prepared by AECOM for the City of Sydney, April 2010
Also : "Evaluation of the costs and benefits to the community of financil investment in cycling programs and projects in NSW" Price Waterhouse Coopers, February 2009
Also : "Methodological Guidance on the Economic Appraisal of the Health Effects related to walking and Cycling" World Health Organisation Europe 

  • Commuter cycling creates considerable savings (estimated at $237 (AUD) millionper annum) to the health budget
Source :  Bauman A, Rissel C, Garrard J, Fishman E, Speidel R: Cycling- Getting Australia moving: Barriers, facilitators and interventions to get more Australians physically active through cycling. Melbourne: Cycling Promotion Fund 2008 downloads/CPFHlthRpr08V3prf1.pdf, (accessed Aug 2008).