November 4, 2006
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In the postgraduate Planning Theory course, which I am currently redesigning, one of our recurrent themes was the process whereby support comes to be mobilised in favour of particular kinds of regulation. A number of our inherited readings asserted what, from my point of view, is a very artificial opposition between capitalism and regulation, and spoke as though the core, defining characteristic of capitalist enterprise is a bottom line orientation to the unconstrained reduction of the immediate costs of production – a concept that, if you take it seriously, can make it very, very difficult to make sense of the social history behind large-scale regulatory shifts (empirically, large business enterprises becoming concerned with the implications of social or environmental problems, and then throwing their weight behind specific regulatory initiatives, often heralds important policy “tipping points”).
In the course, we dealt mainly with 19th and early 20th century cases. An article by Royce Millar in today’s Age provides a more contemporary example: Millar reports on the support of several major developers for a proposal for a new “inclusionary zone” in the inner city, which would require developers to provide affordable rental housing to be managed by a community housing association.
Notable (from my perspective, at least) is the way the article draws attention to the bottom-line focus on the developers’ need for predictability, and the ways in which additional costs can be accommodated, as long as they can be forecasted. The article notes developer concern with social polarisation, and includes a few quotes from developers on the need for regulation to be implemented with sufficient clarity to enable forward planning (Rod Fehring from Lend Lease Communities, for example, proclaimed that he was “keen” to incorporate affordable housing “As long as it’s clear what the objective is, then we can cope with it”).
Developer support for the proposal is, of course, both mixed, and qualified – the article alludes several times to the ways in which developers are pushing the government for various concessions in exchange for the provision of affordable housing. Developers, however, will be cooling their heels on the issue for the time being, as the Victorian government apparently regards the issue as too volatile for the election period, and has cancelled a meeting intended to discuss how the proposal could be implemented.