New research supports '20-minute neighbourhoods' in Melbourne

Monash University has released new research on '20-minute neighbourhoods'. Image credit: Unsplash/Denise Jans

New research from Monash University shows how to transform outer suburban Melbourne communities into socially engaged and resilient ‘20-minute neighbourhoods’.

Living within 20 minutes of social and community infrastructure could build communities that enhance social interaction and foster vibrant local economies, according to the ‘20-Minute Neighbourhood- Living Locally Research Project’ released today by Monash University.

The study was prepared for Resilient Melbourne, an initiative by the City of Melbourne, and the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP).

A 20-minute neighbourhood, is a safe and accessible mixed-use area where key infrastructure is located within a 20-minute walk, cycle or transport trip, or within an 800 metre catchment zone.

Urban Planning and Design Professors Carl Grodach and Liton Kamruzzaman along with Dr Laura Harper (Architecture) from the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, identified key lessons and challenges for building 20-minute cities in Australia.

“The 20-minute neighbourhood concept may support local living by encouraging social interaction and a vibrant local economy within a 20-minute walking distance,” Professor Grodach said.

“However, in low density residential suburban settings, it can be challenging to create walkable environments as homes are often physically disconnected from job centres, retail, and entertainment.”

Researchers identified key challenges and lessons to building 20-minute neighbourhoods, by auditing community infrastructure in Mambourin, a master-planned community 45 kilometres south west of Melbourne’s central business district (CBD).

Mambourin is a 115-hectare master-planned community under development by Frasers Property Australia, located in the City of Wyndham, read more about how Mambourin can become a 20-minute neighbourhood here.

The project made the following key recommendations for building resilient neighbourhoods:

  • Build ‘Community Hubs’ which serve multiple purposes: flexible, multipurpose spaces that respond to community needs, ranging from libraries and health facilities to farmers’ markets and cafes.
  • Nurture local business through incubators/co-working spaces: Communities should build collaborative work spaces that allow people to upskill and work alongside each other. This could include a common space, desk or room rental, equipment rental or sharing, skills training programs and bartering opportunities.
  • Integrate a mix of programs and services: This includes, for example, housing youth and aged care services in the same building, and maximises the use of resources and enabling easy adaptation to changing populations, conditions, and demand.
  • Enable access for different community members: Community infrastructure should be accessible to community members from a range of ages, backgrounds, and abilities, close to transport and available at all times of day and night.
  • Design for the particular needs and character of the community: Successful community infrastructure responds to the particular needs and character of the community, through consideration of personal identities, habits, and preferences (e.g. home-centred activity, intergenerational engagement, and cultural identity).

“20-minute neighbourhoods can improve the quality of life for residents, who can live nearby public transport, shops, work and services,” Professor Grodach said.

DELWP is currently working on pilot programs to develop 20-minute neighbourhoods in Melbourne suburbs Strathmore, Croydon South, and Sunshine West through community partnership and temporary activation programs.

Read more commentary about the 20-minute cities concept from Professor Grodach and Associate Professor Kamruzzaman at Monash Lens.