According to an annual survey done by The Economist, Melbourne is still the best city to live in for the seventh time in a row. And it will probably hold onto that title for the next couple of years.
It is the first time in the survey’s 15-year long history that a city has held the No. 1 rank in its own right for seven consecutive years. Vancouver, with which Melbourne shared the top-ranked spot from 2002 to 2004 and then toppled in 2011, held the title for six years.
The announcement delighted the city’s lord mayor, Robert Doyle. “This world record is an amazing feat that all Melburnians should be extremely proud of today,” he said. Doyle added the accolade was “an important selling point for Melbourne internationally”, particularly in attracting international students.
It was the city as a sort of ideal of the kind prescribed by Jane Jacobs – mixed communities for students, the shops clustered like they are in a village, public space designed for serendipitous encounters.
However, some believe that Melbourne may not be so bright and perfect as the survey suggests.
The Victorian Council of Social Services(VCSS) claims the survey used “blunt measures that gloss over the realities of life in Melbourne for many people”, such as those sleeping rough in the central business district or unable to afford housing, and presented a “distorted picture of life”.
“Did the Economist survey anybody who’s living under a bridge or skipping meals to pay their power bill?” said VCSS chief executive, Emma King. “If you’re struggling for money, sick, living with a disability or facing any kind of vulnerability, then life in Melbourne is bloody tough. Melbourne’s trendy bars, picturesque wineries and world-class sporting venues mean nothing if you’re unable to access them.”
Brent Toderian, the chief planner for Vancouver from 2005 to 2012, says neither Melbourne nor Vancouver really deserved the accolade. “Melbourne is not the most liveable city in the world, because outside an outstanding downtown, you have pretty ordinary or below-average suburbs,” he said.
“There’s a lot about liveability and lovability that you can’t count, so there’s great quality of life and qualitative issues, subjective issues about why people love their city, love their neighborhood, even if other people don’t necessarily love it.”
He added that despite its glamour, the city still has underlying issues and problems which need to be solved before it could be considered a “complete city” and called for a revision of the survey, saying it needs to consider more factors before it declares a city “the best place to live in”.