There is much talk in Auckland at the moment about how to provide affordable housing for a growing population. Should the city continue with the urban sprawl that it is notoriously renowned for? Or should it densify and become more compact? I’m sure everyone can guess my thoughts on the matter.
Urban sprawl = depression, isolation, obesity, traffic, pollution, heart disease, diabetes
A denser, compact and walkable city trumps urban sprawl on all counts in my view. However, there is a strange mindset here that in order to increase population density we need to go up. Very up, in the form of towering high rises with shoe-box apartments. Why are there just two choices – the traditional New Zealand huge section with house in the middle of it or high-rise apartment blocks? There is another alternative, somewhere in the middle.
In England they call them terraced houses and mews houses. Mexico City has vecindades, Shanghai has the Lilong house Copenhagen has the Potato Rows. All of these homes offer high density living close to ground level with privacy and outdoor space, usually in the form of courtyards.
Last weekend, I listened to an interview with Robert Dalziel, architect and author of “A House In The City: Home Truths in Urban Architecture”. He and his coauthor examined nine cities around the world and every form of housing they could possibly find. The sort of housing that performed well in terms of quality and satisfaction, were older properties in high density, low-rise communities.
Could Auckland find a solution like this?
There are two big problems standing in the way of compact, low-rise development in Auckland. It already is an urban sprawl and how do you change that? It’s not so easy. The second problem and probably the more stifling, is that people here seem to want their urban sprawl. They want the McMansion on a huge section and they want to get in their cars and drive everywhere. How do we change that?