So what makes somewhere a good place to live?

So what makes somewhere a good place to live?

Dan Evans 26 May, 2020

If you’re in community planning and want to understand what your residents believe makes somewhere a good place to live, this blog explains why it’s important to put residents’ values and experiences at the centre of your thinking around liveability, how metropolitan and regional Australians’ experiences of their local areas differ and how our new offer – Living in Place – can help you understand and advance the liveability of your local government area in these uncertain times. If this blog has you questioning how well you understand your residents’ values and experiences learn more here about our living in place offer and how our team can help.

While there has been considerable growth in discussion around liveability, an increase in the currency that comes with somewhere being considered liveable, and countless lists that compare and contrast the liveability of cities and regions, there is still no accepted definition as to what liveability actually means, or simple recipe to make somewhere a better place to live.

And, while on the surface this may seem like a failure, the truth is that understanding what makes a town, local government area or city liveable is a deeply personal, human and ever-evolving exercise; informed by individuals’ core beliefs, life-stage, personal experiences, current circumstances, future aspirations, and many other things.

While in that context it makes sense that there is no accepted norm, it also makes sense that any attempt to understand liveability – particularly within local government where decisions directly impact how people experience their communities – must hold what residents themselves believe makes somewhere a good place to live at its core.

Putting the resident at the centre of understanding liveability

Before joining .id I worked with leading social research consultancy, Ipsos Public Affairs, where I authored the Ipsos Life in Australia report – a citizen-centric approach to understanding liveability.

The 2018 Ipsos Life in Australia report showed that while our most basic needs were collectively expressed, where we called home had some influence on whether other attributes were of greater or lesser importance.

Specifically, those who lived in metropolitan areas nominated feeling safe, high-quality health services, affordable decent housing, reliable and efficient public transport and good job prospects as the top five attributes that they believed made somewhere a good place to live. While Regional Australians also placed a high value on feeling safe, high quality health services, affordable decent housing and good job prospects, we (I’m one of them) were more inclined to nominate access to the natural environment as an important attribute, in place of reliable and efficient public transport.

So, while the things we valued most were pretty consistent across metro and regional lines, how well our local areas delivered against those attributes differed considerably.

From a top-down perspective, Metropolitan Australians rated their local areas’ performance better than Regional Australians with regard to the provision of high-quality health services, good job prospects and reliable and efficient public transport. In contrast, Regional Australians rated their local areas as performing better for affordable decent housing, feeling safe and access to the natural environment.

While these few examples showed how Australians’ experiences of their local areas differed across macro metropolitan and regional lines, the real value to inform our understanding of place comes from looking at how we rated our experiences across small areas – SA4s in the case of these reports. Specifically, and using the provision of good job prospects as one example, Metropolitan Australians’ experiences regarding this attribute varied considerably, with residents of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs rating their local area 6.4 out of 10 for that attribute relative to residents of Adelaide’s North who their local area just 4.5/10.

What does this tell us?

We all aspire for the communities we call home and those we represent to be more liveable. Who wouldn’t? And, there’s plenty of evidence to show that liveability is positively correlated with health, economic productivity, social mobility, opportunity and a bunch of other things that make for a good and resilient society. But, liveability, health, economic productivity and the like are all outcomes, not actions. They’re the sum of the parts, not the body of the formula.

Putting a resident centric lens on liveability by understanding values and experiences at small areas allows us to identify the actions required to design and advocate for, administer and monitor policy that will contribute to informing these positive outcomes – the inputs that are required to create those more liveable, healthier and productive communities that we all want to be a part of.

So what can be done?

What can we do to understand and advance the liveability of our local areas and how can .id assist?

We have created a new offer, Living in Place, to meet this emerging need. Living in Place is an independent, robust and repeatable community survey that seeks to understand and advance the liveability of Australians’ local areas.

Living in Place provides a deep understanding as to what your residents believe makes somewhere a good place to live, insight as to how your residents rate their local area’s performance and explicit advice as to the attributes your residents say need to be maintained and improved to advance liveability of your local government area.

Where our existing tools draw from objective data to tell the demographic, population, housing and economic stories of your place, Living in Place brings your residents’ subjective perspectives regarding those items to the table, and, in turn, provides you with additional information to enable more holistic local government decision making.

In summary, while we’re more similar in our values than we are different, we’re more different in our experiences than we are similar. And, in these uncertain times when our local areas’ ability to deliver against the attributes that we believe contribute most to making somewhere a good place to live is being stretched and tested like never before, it’s absolutely critical to have an up-to-date understanding of our local communities’ needs and priorities to not only demonstrate that we are listening, that we have empathy for what they’re going through and that we acknowledge their needs, but to also provide a platform from which we can design and implement small area actions that will set course for stability, and recovery. Employing this ground-up perspective consistently across small areas will benefit the collective, contributing to making Australia a better place to live, for all of us.

Please click here if you’d like to learn more about Living in Place and what it can deliver for your local government area.

Dan Evans

Dan is a social researcher with more than 10 years’ experience investigating community attitudes to and experiences of planning and development, transport infrastructure, public health and a bunch of other things. Dan joined .id in April 2020 to design and deliver Living in Place – an independent, robust and repeatable community survey that seeks to understand and advance the liveability of Australians’ local areas.

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