Coming up with a list of the world’s most popular cities is a hard task. And yet, we see data on this topic all the time.
The Economist publishes one every year, and so does The American Journal of Foreign Policy.
And along with these studies, a range of think pieces and videos providing counter-arguments are also published.
Amongst all of this chatter about which city wins the global crown for livability, Australians still bring themselves to argue the eternal question:
Which city is better to live in: Sydney or Melbourne?
I know what you’re thinking. As a mortgage broker in Sydney, I’m going to convince you to commit to a life by the beach and invest in the Sydney property market.
But in the interest of keeping you on your toes, I’m not going to this time.
Because the Sydney versus Melbourne debate is old, and quite frankly, boring. If you type in Sydney or Melbourne into Google, you can read a whole bunch of lists on the subject.
Or watch YouTube videos comparing the Opera House to the Yarra River.
Today, I wanted to ask you to stop asking which city is better to live in based upon cafe culture, weather and yes, house prices.
I want you to start thinking about we can improve Sydney so that it’s built to improve our quality of life, not to provide as material for Listicle or Instagram fodder.
It’s not about which city is best for us. How we can make Sydney more livable, and in turn, more affordable?
The way we live is shaped by our city’s infrastructure — that’s our public spaces, our buildings, our utilities and legislation that serves a city. All of these can act together as the foundation for a thriving, livable city, but they can also see swarms of people leave Sydney in droves in search of greener grass.
Communities all around Australia and the world experiment with upgrading their urban environments in many different ways to make their cities more livable. The changes don’t have to be radical. But we do need to stop comparing Sydney to Melbourne.
So in the interest of starting another conversation, let’s talk about how we can ensure a positive, happy and thriving future for Sydney siders.
Customise Sydney’s solutions to fit the city’s particular situation
When people visit Sydney, they’ll often compare its infrastructure and culture to Melbourne’s. But to build a space that people want to live in, it’s a case of mapping objectives to challenges so that we can adapt to our own needs. Each city in Australia, let alone the world, has a different set of requirements they need to follow in order to improve the quality of living.
For example, let’s take Sydney’s food culture. In an effort to replicate Melbourne’s and compete on a national level, Sydney would need to open up more retail space within suburban communities. But in a time where access to the best restaurants and cafes drives house prices up, is that really what the city needs? Should we be focused on emulating cafe culture, over say, accessibility and housing affordability? Nice restaurants and gelato certainly make a neighbourhood more attractive and can improve the local economy. But what a neighbourhood really needs goes beyond a nice latte.
Replicate what fits and what works
Perhaps a statement that’s slightly contradictory to the point above, if something is working in one neighbourhood or city, it will also likely work in a nearby or similar neighbourhood, district or city.
Take for example the Opal Card, inspired largely by Melbourne’s Myki Card system. The Opal Card is a seamless payment method for transportation that is pleasant, easy and tourist-friendly. What else can we take from similar cities that have similar needs and requirements?
Engage Sydney’s citizens with information on urban processes
Smart, livable cities need smart, engaged citizens. The more Sydney-siders engaged in making our great city more livable, the more invested we’ll become in the outcome. It’s not just a matter of turning up to vote at the local election – Sydney citizens need to be engaged at a grass roots level on changes within their community. Councils and local parties need to think more about how they can get their residents involved beyond letterbox dropping, and think about how they can influence the most hyper-connected demographic of all: generation Y.
Create change ourselves
Cities all around the world have begun to embrace alternative modes of transport, like walking and cycling. And while Sydney might not quite yet be on par with, say, Copenhagen or Berlin in terms of safe cycling, there are small, incremental changes taking place. Sydney’s citizens are realising that it’s not entirely up to their governments and councils to make overnight changes in transportation, and instead, we can empower ourselves to create improvements. By building resources like Sydney Cycle Ways to educate cyclists on safety and bike routes, or participating in ride share culture, we can learn how to make these changes ourselves.
Make Sydney safer for women
Urban spaces are, by and large, designed to suit the needs of men. The need for women-focused solutions becomes clear when you look at how they’ve been ignored in building a city’s infrastructure. Many aspects of Sydney don’t consider safety for women, like public transport and access to public spaces late at night. And unfortunately, it’s these areas that have lower house prices and higher poverty rates.
In improving Sydney’s urban environment, like stroller access and safety on public transport, Sydney can respond to female concerns and transform the city into an accessible, enjoyable and affordable place.
Rethink what home ownership in Sydney means
Long gone are the days where buying a home was the duty of a young, married couple. If you’re a member of Generation Y, home ownership is not out of your reach simply because you’re on a single income. That’s why property share loans exist. Rethink what home ownership means to you, and consider the value and convenience of owning a home with multiple people.
Sydney has continued to battle with Melbourne in livability points for decades. While we’re still faced with high house prices, it’s time for us to think about Sydney house prices as part of a bigger picture. Sydney is constantly reinventing itself, and it’s up to Sydney-siders to decide how that story and the property market will play out.