Understanding the Concept of Liveability
"When livability became the key word for our regional planning, we knew we would have to find effective ways to deal with many problems...Producing a plan and regulations would not be enough. We had to deal with long-term future livability, but also with people's ongoing satisfaction, their day-to-day experience of living in the region. Tomorrow's livability needed as much attention as the attainment of a better future. "The proof of the planning would be in the living."
Harry Lash, Director of Planning,
Greater Vancouver Regional District 1969-1975,
Planning in a Human Way. 1976, 481
Liveability means different things to different people as their day-to-day experiences will differ according to their circumstances. Liveability should ultimately achieve a balance between the needs of different people and make the use and experience of the city an enjoyable one.
Liveability is not isolated to one aspect of the built environment, but to a multitude of aspects of the built environment and everything else that makes up a persons life. A. Casselati (1997, The Nature of Liveability) summed up liveability in one single sentence:
"Liveability means that we experience ourselves as real persons in the city."
The concept of liveability is simple: it answers the question which places in the world provide the best or the worst living conditions. Liveable city indices have been formulated by various institutions (e.g.Mercer, the International Making Cities Liveable and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to measure the liveability of cities.
A combined list of the various indices, from the various sources above, includes:
- International connectivity
- Quality architecture
- Public transportation
- Environmental issues
- Access to nature
- Urban design
- Business conditions
- Proactive policy developments
- Medical care
- Health care
- Culture & environment
Improving the quality of life and well-being of citizens is an important contributor to city growth. There are various strategies to enhance the liveability of a city. Some cities develop clear visions and strategies for their potential futures, articulating short and medium term responses that contribute to enhancing social, economic, and sometimes environmental conditions, including personal safety and health, transport and other public services. This may include setting up good governance structures that enable the city to bring benefits to its residents by expanding their connection to infrastructure, piped water, sewerage, electricity and communication, and by developing social amenities such as schools and health centres. Innovative and integrated approaches to urban regeneration may also be a strategy.
The City wishes to engage its residents on their experiences and opinions on the quality of life in Johannesburg and formulate ways to improve liveability of the City over the next three decades.
CHALLENGES FACING THE CITY
The GDS identifies several challenges that must be addressed to improve the liveability of the City. These challenges include:
- The environmental impact of the City's traffic congestion and reliance on private transport poses a challenge to sustainable resource management.
- The City needs to cater for the needs of the poor - access to public transport and affordability of transportation is important. Given the vulnerability of this citizen, transport and ease of movement is essential in connecting poor individuals, households and communities to services, facilities and areas of opportunities.
- The challenges of the City's transport system relate to its legacy of apartheid policy. Spatial segregation has resulted in long travelling distances and major portions of disposable incomes spent on transport for a large part of the city's population. The other side of the coin is the reliance of the city's middle income earners on private vehicles with resultant increase in traveling times and cost, pollution and congestion.
- Population densities in Joburg are low and the development patterns created by urban sprawl are not supportive of efficient transportation systems.
- Private developer led housing developments (townhouse complexes) have created islands of exclusion adding another layer to an already fractured and divided city. Johannesburg has the highest number of road closures and secured estates in South Africa.
- Albeit a slow rate, the growth rate of the city increasingly places pressure on providing housing (in all income brackets). The City is also faced with the challenges of improving the living conditions in existing areas where there are still backlogs in terms of housing provision. Housing solutions need to acknowledge and respond to changing demographics and increased diversities. The City requires a different approach to housing development and increased focus on various tenure and rental options.
- Joburg is facing the challenges of water supply, water demand and water quality
- Joburg's economy is resource intensive and needs to move to more renewable resources
- The management of solid waste needs to be changed
- The City will experience the impacts of climate change, most visible in increased flooding
- The City has a significant funding gap , which, unless bridged, will imply adverse consequences for long term service delivery.
The 2040 GDS document proposes a series of goals and objectives to address the challenges identified above. The following describes some of the GDS goals:
Goal: Building liveable communities and thereby improving the health and well-being of all our communitiesObjective 1: Reducing urban sprawl
The objective is to reduce urban sprawl by using incentives, mechanisms, land use controls and planning to densify strategic locations in the city.
Objective 2: Adopt incremental tenure approach
There are two critical issues that need to be addressed with regards to informal settlement upgrading. Firstly the location of the settlement, upgrading on the periphery of the city come at huge social costs to communities the high cost of transportation exacerbates poverty in informal settlements. The second issue is ensuring tenure but tenure that is far more flexible and does not lock the urban poor into a serviced RDP stand. The incremental upgrading tenure approach is critical in this regard and must be adopted as an approach and method for ensuring better well located settlements and tenure that can be strengthened and upgraded over time.
Objective 3: Increase small-scale rental supply
Affordable rental to households earning less than R 3500 a month will be a priority in the future, giving residents far more rental choices and options. This would involve harnessing the power of small-scale renters across the city. This would involve developing regulation and incentives for small-scale renters. These interventions may range from adjusting town planning regulation for backyard shacks in township areas, to providing incentives for increasing supply of garden cottages in suburbs to improving quality of rental stock inner city suburbs. Small-scale rental already supplies accommodation in townships. In the future the potential for broader reach both in terms supply and economic opportunity will be maximized the City must develop innovative regulations for standards and service levels. The scale of affordable rental has been limited but would be increased over the coming decades. This is important to ensure more housing choice and mobility in the City.
Objective 4: Transform our townships
49% of Johannesburg's population lives in townships there are significant opportunities for increasing small-scale rental in township areas while simultaneously improving the quality of the built environment in townships. The city will scale up its efforts to transform townships. This would involve developing transformative plans and using finance e.g.: Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant and private sector capital to drive new capital investment in townships.
Objective 5: Building an Inner City for the future
The inner City of Joburg is the most strategic resource. The inner city represents many of the liveable urban features we aspire to building by 2040. It offers appropriate densities, high levels of economic intensity and is the most walkable space within the city. There have been considerable positive developments in the inner city, inner city regeneration has managed to transform the inner city in a relatively short space of time. However as we imagine the future of the Inner City current regeneration efforts need to be scaled up. The focus to transform the inner through major improvement and investment in infrastructure, new housing and turnaround of 'bad buildings'- the City needs a major capital works programme to generate jobs and drive new growth in the construction sector. This would involve major turnaround of the inner City of Joburg, expanding development on the periphery of the CBD and driving private, public sector investments in the CBD and inner city. The City has developed its Bad Buildings Strategy which addresses inner city blight. This strategy will be implemented building sustainable housing management in the inner city. The most important opportunity is developing appropriate land use controls and spatial strategies that achieve the vision of a more compact city within one generation. Building a more strategically dense and compact city is important for a number of reasons particularly in a city that has continued to sprawl over the past decade. Apartheid planning in Johannesburg perpetuated low density and promoted the high consumption of land. Townships on the periphery of the city has increased the per capita cost of land infrastructure and services but also were developed with sub-standard infrastructure. Building a more compact city of the future would restructure Johannesburg's Apartheid city building a more equitable and integrated neighbourhoods currently still deeply divided across race and class.
Objective 6: Promote compact and dense CBDs across the city
Localized CBDs will be developed and promoted with increased densities, mixed use developments and potential for City Improvement Districts. Townships are currently characterized by medium population density in single dwelling low rise housing. The built form may change over time with consolidation and parcelling of individual erfs.
UNPACKING THE LIVEABILITY CONCEPT IN THEMED DISCUSSIONS
The concept of liveability will be explored during the course of the week through various discussions. Four themes were identified to engage the city's citizens and stakeholders on, namely:
These four themes are:
- Living space and shelter
- Public environment, activities and facilities
- Movement (Mobility and Accessibility)
Living space and shelter
According to the UN-HABITAT, urbanization is the second biggest challenge facing Africa after HIV. The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Dr Anna Tibaijuka, said that Africa is urbanizing faster than any other continent and by 2020 51% of its population will be urban. Thus the urgency of new and sustainable housing solutions in Africa's cities has been highlighted by UN-HABITAT.
Urbanization is a key concern in the City of Johannesburg as it directly impacts on the quality of life of the citizens of the city. Johannesburg continues to attract migrants seeking economic opportunities, access to services, political asylum and refuge. This migration brings cultural, political and social plurality in the City, creating a multitude of economic opportunities and challenges as people try to find their place in the city. One of the most pressing challenges in the City of Johannesburg is creating urban living spaces that allow for this multitude of expressions.
It is estimated that Johannesburg has around 3.8 million people, which figure will double by 2040. 15% of these households live in informal settlements. Providing shelter for our people goes beyond the bricks and mortar of building structures, it also involves building a shared sense of belonging.
The manner in which our City houses people is key to providing a liveable city. The city expressed its commitment to building sustainable human settlements in an urban environment that is still divided across racial, class and nationality lines. Building social cohesion across diverse communities, with different cultures, ways of being, and ways of living in the city is a task the City of Johannesburg accepts as a future World-Class African City.
Public environment, activities and facilities
This theme embodies major components of the liveability concept. It focuses on activities, celebrations, festivals that bring all of its inhabitants together, events that bring opportunities for its citizens to be together. The role of the public realm as a place of social learning and socialization that is indispensable for children and young people will be explored. It explores aesthetic considerations, beauty, and meaning of the physical environment as a high priority. "The physical and social environments are two aspects of the same reality. Just as it was a mistake to think that city inhabitants can have a good civic and social life in an ugly, brutal and physically inhospitable city."
In terms of looking at the public environment in terms of livability the City needs to focus attention on how this built environment element can add to enabling people to enjoy not only the outdoors but to bring people together and integrate and build a city community. Possible areas of focus for this can be aesthetics and urban design elements combined with architecture and the interaction between these elements. Not only should livability be contained to the enjoyment factors of the public environment but should further assist with social learning and teaching and add to activities which enrich peoples' lives and add to forms of learning.
Facilities throughout the city should play a similar and supporting role, as that of the public environment to the citizens and users of a city. Accessibility, ease of use and convenience factors must be taken into account when planning and providing these facilities and their various services to the end user.
Urban mobility is a key concern in cities as it impacts on the liveability of the cities. Motorized transport has a very negative effect, including green house gas emmissions, congestion and air pollution.
Urban form and density and environment-friendly public transport systems strongly influence energy consumption at the city level. Cities that are more compact, use more clean energy and are less dependent on motorized transport are not only more energy-efficient but contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions.
Transport and communications systems are fundamental to development. The construction and maintenance of roads, highways, airports, railways and other forms of transport systems determine, to a large extent, whether cities will success economically. Investments in transport infrastructure and related reforms in the sector, including finance and regulations, deliver major economic development benefits, contribute to poverty alleviation, and improve the quality of life of citizens. (UN Habitat,:32).
Transport connectivity is the most important driver of city growth. Investment in transport not only increases overall productivity of economies, but they also contribute to the reduction of socio-economic disparities across space and people. Transport connects areas with economic potential to isolated places that otherwise would be left far behind. (p.32)
Investment in transportation infrastructure plays a critical role in determining whether a city will grow or decline. In analysing international growth trends, it was clearly demonstrated that more than half the cities grew economically because of investment in transport infrastructure (roads, ports, airports, etc.) (Un Habitat report, 2008: 28)
Managing transport in large metropolitan areas is especially essential for the advancement of the urban economy and for giving residents access to jobs and services throughout the region. However, transport services are often implemented, finances, managed and regulated by different governing institutions and levels of government. Coordination of these processes relies on complex intergovernmental policy networks and organizational management.
Access to services such as water, electricity, telecommunications and transport as well as the quality of the infrastructure and service are key indicators to measure a city's liveability for its residents.
A well serviced city provides an environment conducive for business and good quality housing solutions. Access to services raises the living standards of citizens and the quality of services influences citizens' experiences and ease of living.
On the other hand, a city's inability to provide adequate urban infrastructure increases the risk of the city being mired in pollution, disease and social ills emanating from underserved areas.
The availability and quality of infrastructure has a severe impact on other quality of life indicators: health (increased risk of disease and health hazards), environmental health (air pollution, climate change; inadequate solid waste management, water quality), risk to life and property (flooding; fire hazards).
Investment in infrastructure can have a marked impact on the development trajectory of an area - evidence suggests that investing in the tarring of roads in Soweto has had a substantial impact on improving the quality of life of its residents for a number of reasons.
The concept of equity is an important one to introduce in the discussion around infrastructure, as Joburg is faced with disparities in terms of its access to infrastructure and the quality of infrastructure between various parts of the city and communities. Equity concerns leveling the playing field so that disadvantaged groups benefit from a larger share of public resources than the rest of the population until they "catch up", after which they can share more equally in the overall pool of resources.
Planning for infrastructure investment of the future to improve the liveability of Joburg for its citizens, implies considering and implementing alternatives ways to provide infrastructure more sustainably.
Through these discussions the participants' understanding of the themes will emerge and innovative solutions can be explored with all stakeholders in the City's future.
Join in the conversations about Joburg's future, my city our future!