Housing in Auckland

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?

9 thoughts on “Housing in Auckland

  1. The same problem is being faced here in Brisbane. Especially in inner ciry Brisbane where I live. The solution seems to be high rise, about 10-20 stories. There are two new apartment blocks about to go up on Railway Terrace opposite Milton Station and the 4X brewery. It is a great position in terms of living – so close to everywhere. I think a problem with low rise in old European cities is there is no where to park one’s car. There is no easy solution.

    1. Robert Dalziel, for his book, spoke with people from all over the world and the general feeling was that people didn’t particularly like living in high-rise. Their response was mostly, “it’s okay for now”, but not somewhere they wanted to stay for the long term.

      In old European cities, you don’t need a car! Most places you need to go are less than a 20 minute walk away.

  2. If you live in cities, you’ve got to expect high rise. Get used to it. Nothing worse than urban sprawl! All the best countries of the world preserve and cherish their rural areas. In Auckland, you’re stuck with your urban sprawl but a decent rail service between the airport and the CBD and more ferries and water transport in general would improve livability enormously. For a city surrounded by all that water, ferry services to the many, lovely harbour suburbs were few and far between. You’ve already mentioned the lack of bike paths. Hopefully, good town planning and architecture will entice those McMansion dwellers back into the city.

    1. You don’t have to expect high rise in cities – at least to the exclusion of anything else. High rise apartments in the inner districts of Paris? Of London? I’d like to see a developer try to build a 50-storey high-rise in Russell Square.

      Sydney has a mix of high-rise in the CBD (matching office tower heights) and in selected zones, such as Chatswood, Wolli Creek and Parramatta. These are within walking distance of major railway stations and bus interchanges.

      In the inner city areas outside the CBD, precincts are generally a mix of 2-4 storey terrace and town houses, and 6-8 storey apartment buildings (usually on former industrial sites). Calm traffic in these precincts and provide pocket parks, playing fields and other recreation facilities that are safe and fun for kids, highlight walkability and cycle paths, good schools, and people will come. Many may even give up their otherwise mandatory car – often to buy bicycles and join a car-share scheme.

      The key is achieve population density without seeming cramped and crowded, good public transport and a vibrant retail urban environment. Waterloo, a suburb in the south of Sydney has high-rise residential tower blocks that were built in the 1960s following a British concept that was vilified in the movie Clockwork Orange. Inspired community work has now rendered them okay places to live, but they are not a pattern for the future in this part of the world.

      What does a vibrant environment mean? One ingredient may be street art. I recently noticed this article about the area where we live: http://warholschildren.me/post/44581098397/st-peters-to-camperdown-a-street-art-trail

    2. Definitely agree that the harbour is underutilitised. They’ve missed a huge opportunity there but it would be so easy to fix with more ferries.

  3. Unless you are going to do a “Haussmann’s Renovation of Paris”, I imagine you will be somewhat restricted with your options in Auckland. Of course, a mix of high rise and multi-unit developments is necessary. Street art may give a sense of community but will it get you to the airport any quicker? Five, or was it six, hours that it took to get out of the CBD en route to the Coromandel Peninsula one Friday afternoon did make me think the urban sprawl had gone too far and that some radical planning was urgently needed in this city. Sydney and Auckland are among the most naturally beautiful, harbour cities in the world. They are also among the youngest and wealthiest. I hope future housing developments in Auckland can help improve their dire road network for all types of commuters. It’s just awful at present.

  4. Just saw your comment about the harbour, Rach.

    Apart from more ferries, you need:-
    more bridges,
    fewer people,
    a train to the airport,
    better public transport,
    and more bike paths.

    Pity about the tram network they ripped up.

  5. Just read yesterday news, “How one car crash caused gridlock chaos” in Auckland.
    How a lovely city is ruined by cars and traffic!

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