Homing Instinct


What if we could achieve our sustainability and housing density goals as planners and governments without causing community unrest, dissatisfaction – even uproar? Could communities respond positively to density increases under the appropriate conditions?


I believe that all of that is possible. But we must understand more about the psychology of housing to be effective.


So I have designed a suite of workshops to help us come to understand this complex issue.


This workshop is for community leaders, local and State government planners and other professionals, developers and others who want to help communities come to grips with the complexities of housing density. And to help them address why it is such a contentious feature of the Australian planning landscape today.


To understand why community members express such concerns about increases in density in urban and rural areas, we need a better understanding of why housing is such a `hot-button’ issue.


And we need to appreciate why governments must continue to campaign for increased housing density. It’s as though these two initiatives are at opposite ends of a spectrum. Yet they are connected by the very concerns that seem to place proponents of density increases at loggerheads with community members.


The issue that unites them is caring.


Governments who care about the future of communities are alert to the many signs that automobile dependence and urban sprawl are expensive and ecologically unsustainable artefacts of a bygone era. We can no longer afford low-density suburbs. (Actually, we never could but we thought we could.) Similarly, community members who care about the future of their communities are concerned that clumsy and ill-considered initiatives will make neighbourhoods unliveable cauldrons of noise, traffic congestion, parking problems. They will have no environmental quality. Some even say: `the slums of the future’.


So, if everyone cares, where’s the problem and what is the secret?


A key to understanding these conflicts (occurring in our communities today) is to understand more about housing. It’s not merely `product’, as some developers say. It’s more than a `commodity’ as economists would say. For some, it’s everything: a haven, a nest, protection, security”¦ many qualities that have little or nothing to do with density, tenure or whether one’s name is on the mortgage document”¦




Home is a deeply archetypal concept. It’s hard-wired into our systems. It’s complex and complicated and that’s partly why people’s responses to a threat to their housing often get so awfully `complicated’.


Our Homing Instinct is a deep-seated desire to protect what is personal, previous and `home’.


More details on forthcoming Homing Instinct workshops will be posted here soon.


For details of my Harvard University presentation in February, 2013, click here:




Please contact me directly for more information: [email protected]