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Choice bro

Occasionally I get a dose of status quo bizarro talk from my in-laws who filter it from talk radio. It usually comes in the form of generalisations presented as facts: “Kiwis don’t want to live in apartments”, “Kiwis want a big backyard to BBQ”, etc. As an immigrant living in this highly diverse and tolerant city I find suggestions that Kiwis are somehow different amusing.

Anecdotally, and perhaps this as this as reductivist as talk radio, but many of my professional peers would be happy living in an apartment close to the city centre if that meant they could leave their flatting-in-an-a crappy-bungalow at 35 years old days behind them. For many of them a long daily commute from the hinterland is not an option.

It’s peculiar that in this housing debate it is rarely mentioned (beyond this blog) that there is a huge pent up demand for walkable urban housing. Admittedly, my observations tend to be one-sided, but it’s hard to avoid the firehose of data making the same conclusions. Here’s a recent one I bookmarked from Ontario, Canada, via the Vancouver Sun.

The results of a recent Ontario study found that if home prices were not a factor, more than 80 per cent of home-buyers would give up a large house and yard and a long commute for a smaller house on a modest lot, a townhouse or a condo in an inner-city or suburban location that is walkable to stores, restaurants and other amenities and has good access to frequent rapid transit.

Without the hard demographic facts in front of me, I think the trends are similar here as to the US, Canada, and Australia where family formation is being delayed, family size is decreasing and there is a huge increase in single-person  ‘households’. In the recent housing affordability report by the McKell Institute documented by TimR there was an interesting mention of a study into the housing people actually wanted in Sydney, called The Housing We’d Choose.

The recent Grattan Institute Report, The Housing We’d Choose (2011), surveyed more than 700 residents of Sydney and Melbourne to discover their housing preferences, taking into account realities such as current housing costs and their income. The survey revealed a mismatch between the housing we want and the stock we have. In particular, it highlighted a large shortage of semi-detached homes and apartments in the middle and outer areas of both Melbourne and Sydney.

The study used a trade-off method of analysis and concluded that even if attached housing was 30% higher there still would be a significant disconnect with the demand versus the actual housing stock available.

I’m curious if any similar reports have been conducted in Auckland. There was a short mention in the Productivity Commission Report on housing preferences but it was New Zealand-wide, hardly relevant for Auckland specifically:

Research commissioned by the Council for Housing Research Aotearoa New Zealand, found that while younger people in non-family households tend to favour central city locations, family households tend to favour suburbs and town centres, and older families and post-family households tend to want to remain in their established neighbourhood.

Finally, here is a great video of Christopher Leinberger, the developer/scholar/consultant who identified the massive disconnect between the demand for “walkable urbanism” in the United States and what the industry keeps churning out. The world Leinberger is describing is the one I want to live in, but perhaps my views will change next week when I officially become a “Kiwi”.

85 comments to Choice bro

  • Luke C

    I think there are 2 good recourses to this. One is that Auckland is full of detached houses with space for a BBQ and a small empty backyard, although often used to park their fourth car! So this won’t change as most intensification will largely happen on brownfield lots, i.e. existing commercial and industrial sites; and more importantly the point of intensification is that much less land is used, so will only need a small number of lots to gain a good increase in density.
    The other recourse is that many of the apartments we have seen are often not well designed for various reasons. Apartments can be designed to have space for a BBQ, like a communal garden or rooftop terrace.
    I guess their is an image issue, in that most people look at apartments like the vast Zest apartments on Nelson St, and think thats whats coming to their suburb. However intensification can mean 4 attached one storey units on a section, or 3-5 story apartments in suburban cities, where they are already commercial buildings that high anyway.

    • Kent Lundberg

      Agree. Not enough good models to point to- or live in!

      • Greg N

        Question Kent and others:
        The Auckland Plan states that to intensify within the existing MUL there need to be “Exemplar” intensive developments done, with Auckland Council being involved in a hands on role to show the community what good intensive design can and must be to fit another million into Auckland in the comings decades.

        But, given the recent passing of the Local Government Ammendment Act which tells councils to “stick to your knitting” or esle (in effect) – what will become of this aspirational goal of Auckland Council?
        Will it become yet another example of the ship of Local Councils big ideas being dashed upon the rock of Central Government intransigence?

        And if Council can’t show the way why should we expect Developers to do it either? As past experience shows they won’t.

      • Peter M

        From what I’ve seen nothing in the Local Government Act changes affect the legislative requirements for the Auckland Plan and Auckland Council’s legislative responsibility to implement that plan.

        Remembering that the purpose of the Auckland Plan is to promote the four wellbeings – something Nikki Kaye boasted about fighting really hard to get included.

        http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2009/0032/latest/DLM3338660.html?search=ts_act%40bill%40regulation%40deemedreg_auckland+council_resel_25_h&p=1

      • Not only are there very few good models, there are bad models from here to breakfast. Many are leaky, at least to the point where any balcony is condemned, and lots of them make shoe boxes look spacious. People know what most of the apartment stock looks like, so of course they’re reluctant to consider living in an apartment themselves.
        There are some really nice apartments out there, even some very large ones, but the condemned balconies still blunt the allure.

        • JohnP

          Yeah, every balcony in my building is getting replaced next year actually. “The Landings”, put together by a bunch of companies which are still around and fairly reputable, but somehow managed to create two buildings that have all sorts of problems. The body corp now has the legal action underway, although I don’t know who exactly is getting sued and what the outcome will be.

          I don’t even get why leaky buildings means that balconies need replacing. Can anyone shed some light on this?

  • Hey congratulations Kent! You going native?

  • deserthead

    This sounds like a (probably very reasonable) argument to eliminate the council’s current minimum lot size restrictions for sub-divisions. Or would that mean that the complaints about the lack of affordable, higher-density housing is replaced by complaints about the loss of character areas in Auckland’s heritage suburbs?

    • Kent Lundberg

      I believe the efficiencies and opportunities are so much better in close-in neighbourhoods with good bones that we will have to start rebuilding in ‘heritage’ neighbourhoods. Maybe not the most popular opinion.

      • Those opportunities are mostly on brownfields sites though, like the car yards of Gt North Road

        • Kent Lundberg

          Yes, but every street could replace a tatty villa with something a bit denser no? Don’t make me start posting pics from Vancouver that have 4-units, but look like 1 residence.

          • obi

            You could probably find pics from Vancouver that make a dozen apartments look like one residence… http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/12/19/bc-tiny-apartments.html CAN$850 a month will score you about 20 square meters and a fold-up bed.

            The apartments look quite nice, by the way. They’re in a refurbished building. But I need a bit more space than that.

          • Well I for one would prefer to see Ponsonby and much of Jervois rds built up properly with mixed use multistory buildings on those ridges [apartments above retail, 3/4 stories] but there’s no need and some cost to adding much into the dormitory streets behind. They’re mostly full.

          • Luke C

            Most of the ‘inner west’ (Ponsonby to Pt Chev north of SH16) is already reasonably densely populated. Sections are usually small, around 400 to 500m2 and also importantly long and skinny. This makes intensification difficult, and also high objections for little benefit. Main options this are are in the town centers. Historic buildings here may well have earthquake issues, so will need major rebuild to save anyway. So best to rebuild as apartment to make money back, and keep facade.
            Along the tramline suburbs as far as Balmoral not much better. Usually no chance of subdividing back or front off and keeping old house due to narrow distance to neighbour. Starts to change once the street network change, can spot it a mile away on the map!
            So can keep heritage controls, but allow more flats where there may been more modern (says 50′s) houses that are up for replacement, or on villas that are really falling apart.
            Major opportunities on the isthmus will be in the ‘middle rung’. Esp near the rail network only 20 min journey to CBD so no issues with distance here.
            Other major opportunity here is the Penrose – Onehunga rail corridor, mostly light industrial, but close to existing housing, so can chip away from the edge.
            Also close to Onehunga town centre, and Syliva Park mall so good amenities.

          • RHarris

            Crikey had a look at those 20m2 apartments in Vancouver and they just looked inhuman no matter how hip and cool you want to paint them. $250 a week too. I’m not sure if this is the kind of wellbeing I would want to promote in Auckland either. Living by yourself in these little capsules.

          • LX...

            RHarris, Are small shoebox apartments really that bad? I’d argue they can be a damn side better option for some than either having to flat with strangers in a suburban house that was never designed for multi-occpuancy, or living in a boarding house where you have a room but have to share communal kitchens and bathrooms.

            A small affordable well located self contained space that you can call your own actually starts to look pretty attractive against those alternatives.

            As a single in my 20′s without much stuff I would have welcomed that as an option over the joys of flatting.

          • Stu Donovan

            I agree with what LX … said. IKEA has lots of 30 sqm studio fit out options that are bloody nice.

  • Kent Lundberg

    From the Productivity Commission Report (so you don’t have to read it): “By 2031, it is projected that couples without children will be the most the most common family structure.”

  • Peter M

    A few points:

    1) I find it quite personally offensive when people say that “everyone wants a backyard, let’s have a rule that requires them to have a yard”. Does that mean I’m not a person because I actually quite like not having a backyard? The fact of the matter is that different people want different things so I think there’s some really dodgy areas that planning and urban design find themselves going into when they discus the pursuit of “quality”. One person’s quality is something which puts housing beyond the affordability of another person. I do wonder at times how much of planning is actually “moral panic”.

    2) I think we need to be really wary of survey results saying things like “most people prefer large detached houses with backyards”. That’s kind of like saying “most people prefer Ferraris over Toyotas”. Yeah, no shit. We probably still see thousands of Toyotas sold for every Ferrari sold, and we tend not to go out of our way to subsidise Ferrari ownership, or regulate to ban Toyota ownership – why is housing different? Glad to see some more recent reports emphasising the lifestyles people want to live and the importance of affordability in the discussion.

    3) Oh, and congrats on becoming a NZer. Presume that you won’t be leaving for Australia the next day like a lot of people who gain citizenship?

  • On the issue of a backyard, I wonder how much of it is about having a private space to entertain for those times you need it more than anything? Something I would like to see a lot more of is the use of rooftops. Apartment buildings with a useable rooftop space would be excellent and could be used in a number of ways. There might be a patio type area where there is a building BBQ and it would be a great way to build small communities within an apartment building as you would meet your neighbours much more. If you wanted to use it for a private party then just have some kind of booking system.

    Alternatively or even in addition to that there could be a planted area. That would give apartment dwellers the opportunity to grow veges things like that and again be a good way to provide more interaction with neighbours (being higher up would also be good for keeping bugs out as we never got any in our apartment).

    I realise these would add to construction and maintenance costs but they would also add considerable value to the apartments inside the building and would add greatly liveability of them.

    • Peter M

      Oh yeah certainly these are great things. I wouldn’t want to live in an apartment without a decent balcony.

      But what if someone else isn’t fussed? Should we force them to have a balcony they might not actually want? And force them to pay extra for the privilege? It’s almost a philosophical question I know…

      • Unless 20 stories up i reckon an ‘outside room’ is pretty much perfect in Auckland; it always too something here: Too sunny, too rainy, or too windy to be completely unprotected, but it also almost always nice enough to want some kind of outside option.

        So a deep enough balcony with some cover is what I look for in an apartment; 3 metres is good.

        • obi

          “Unless 20 stories up i reckon an ‘outside room’ is pretty much perfect in Auckland”

          A friend is a property manager in Surfers. He took me along to a place that “I just had to see” one day. It was a HUGE apartment at about 50 stories and had a view of the beach. But the balcony was so windy I was having trouble standing up. There is something to be said for shelter and a lower elevation.

  • You know, when Hitler preached what his followers wanted to hear, tears of adoration streamed out of their eyes…so in their hero worship, that they were blind to the total nut that Hitler really was.

    The guy in that video is clueless. The complete shit that came out of his mouth was shameless and embarrassing. The non-smart growth zones in the USA are growing far more rapidly than the smart growth zones.

    • Peter M

      Evidence please in relation to your second paragraph, or get banned for breaking Godwin’s law.

    • AC

      Haha, good point. Sensible town planning/walkable towns and market demand discussion = Hitler. Well done.

    • Stu Donovan

      Andrew Atkin, while you say many strange things, invoking Hitler metaphors in response to this post must take the cake.

      And I have to ask the question: So what if Kent happens to like Chris Leinberger? Don’t pretend you don’t go to bed dreaming of spending some time together with Wendell Cox.

      Personally, I did not find the video particularly inspiring, but nor would I characterise is as a rallying cry for psychopathic smart growthers. It’s just a dude, speaking his mind, which in turn has been picked up by Kent. As bloggers do.

      Rather than likening people you disagree with to probably the world’s worst war criminals, maybe you should try addressing the issues? But I suspect that polite suggestions to someone such as yourself may be somewhat futile. Please prove us wrong.

      • I can never prove you wrong. I learnt that a long time ago. You can never prove science to the religious fundamentalist.

        I tried to put it into simple language but discovered that when someone really doesn’t want to believe something, their rationalising mind just goes into a circus and they ignore commonsense and default into cryptic nonsense, to weave their mind into mindlessness.

        http://andrewatkin.blogspot.co.nz/2009/06/smart-growth.html

        Btw: My original Hitler association was a reference to those who just believe what they want to believe. And I don’t think Hitler was a clinical psychopath – just deeply disturbed. WW1 screwed him up completely.

        • That’s exactly what I think of you Andrew.

          • Wonderful to hear it. But I don’t have the history that makes for a disturbed person: No serious child abuse (though all of us are neglected and abused to a degree) and no massive infantile damage. Or chronic traumatic stress from being nearly killed each day in WW1.

          • I actually meant this “I tried to put it into simple language but discovered that when someone really doesn’t want to believe something, their rationalising mind just goes into a circus and they ignore commonsense and default into cryptic nonsense, to weave their mind into mindlessness.”

    • Andrew is entitled to his opinion but why even reply?

      Although I would like to hear again how the Green Party is the NZ propaganda arm of the UN. Nothing like some paranoid fantasies to lighten up a day in the office! :-)

      • Stu Donovan

        I think people should reply for two important reasons:
        1) Andrew is obviously sufficiently intelligent that he should know better. We all step beyond the pale occasionally and need someone to “nudge” us back.
        2) Other people may, upon reading Andrew’s comment, decide that this is an appropriate way to express oneself. I think it’s important for people to go on record publicly when they disagree with something someone else had said.

        Crowd sourced virtue ethics if you will. Why not?

        • Harry McDonald

          Stu,
          I may have to call you on your cultural insensitivity; my ancestors lived beyond the Pale. As far as I am concerned it is people inside the Pale who were the barbarians. (just joking – slightly)

      • I have said they are *functionally* the UN propaganda arm. It’s based on the FACT that their tongue is so far up the UN backside, as far as their policy goes, it’s not funny.

        • Harry McDonald

          I’ve seen this so many times. There is a certain type of person who puts ‘FACT’ in their comment. It is because their ‘fact’ is nothing more than their opinion and they have to ‘shout’ to cover their lack of aforesaid facts. Then they often use crude metaphors as that is how their mind works. They have no respect for anyone’s view but their own and get angry very quickly when challenged as they are unable to remain coherent.

        • Bryce P

          That’s your opinion Andrew. My opinion is that the Greens have a lot of policy that is centred around what is going to be good for our generations to come, not the here and now (gimme, gimme, gimme). Your FACT is not fact at all but a strong resentment toward both the Greens and the UN.

  • JohnP

    Many of the people who talk down about medium or high-density housing simply aren’t very well informed. I live in a nine-storey building and it’s great. I’m a ten minute walk from work, 20 minutes from pretty much anywhere in the central city, and whenever friends want to have a few drinks in the weekend there’s no more convenient launching pad. And I live in the warmest, driest home I’ve ever lived in, or even visited for that matter. I’ve been to expensive detached homes in winter, and for all their efforts they need to have heaters and dehumidifiers on full blast to keep the place livable. I’ve got a small fan heater which I would have switched on maybe half a dozen times last winter.

    High-density housing isn’t for everyone, but it doesn’t need to be. People just need to give it a shot and see if it works for them. I probably wouldn’t want to live in the CBD with kids – very few schools around, and few other kids for them to play with – but as a young DINK couple, or an empty nester, or even a couple with a baby or young children, why not?

    And medium-density housing really can be for everyone. Or at least for most people. There’s such a variety of buildings that can be created to fit this density profile, and the lower land cost knocks the house price down significantly.

    There are two major markets to aim for, the first being people who want to live in these kinds of settings – and fair enough, that’s not everyone and it’s probably a fairly small minority in Auckland – and the second being people who can’t afford low-density housing, and that’s plenty of us.

    OK, rant over. Erm, transport?

  • AC

    Very interesting discussion.
    I’m just a Joe Average Aucklander but I just can’t fathom young people wanting to live beyond Papakura or Silverdale and driving into Auckland for work. Just so they can continue the so called ‘quarter acre dream’ that we’re all supposed to subscribe to. That just seems mental to me. Surely intensifying is the best answer? I live in a maisonette on a second floor on a lovely residential st in London in zone 3, there’s absolutely no reason why Auckland couldn’t intensify to that degree and still have a comfortable lifestyle. E.g terraced housing and some sensible apartment building. It’s quiet AND we still have access to some yard space. not to mention parks and hampstead heath, pubs, the tube, two great high streets. you name it, all within walking distance. This is a city of maybe 10 million people. Auckland has 1.5…. people really need to stop freaking out.

    • Patrick Reynolds

      And not ‘still have a comfortable lifestyle’ but have a much much better one. With shops, cafés, libraries, gyms, parks, whatever all within walking distance, well used by more people and the cost burden more shared. Not to mention a greater variety of employment and study opportunities, entertainment and arts…..It’s a no brainer.

  • RHarris

    I suffer through the talk back phenomena too………..talks about trains being 19 century technology, the CRL won’t help me I don’t want to pay for it with my rates, smart growth has failed overseas why are we going to do it here…………they tend to be the older generation but some younger following political party spiel.

    Intelligent intensification and choice in the market is the way to go. I think social areas are critical in all developments so people do not become detached from the people around them living in little bubbles.

  • OMG- have you seen what they’re proposing in the Unitary Plan?

    40m2 studios! As if we learnt nothing from the current shoeboxes..

    There’s even a Special Interest Group pushing for 27m2 apartments. Ay caramba

    • swan

      Apartment size should obviously be left to the developer, but in any case a 40m2 studio is a pretty decent sized studio. I have colleagues from Hamilton who have apartments in the CBD. All they use them for is some clothes storage, eating and sleeping during the week. 40m2 would be more room than they require.

    • Dan

      We are currently building a 70m2 two bed flat. We’ll to rent it out for $400-$450 a week and expect to be overrun with applicants. I’m sure a decent 40m2 studio would easily get $250pw and be popular. My point being: one person’s shoebox is anothers home.

      • Nick R

        I rent a 33m2 one bedroom flat for $290 a week and people absolutely friggin love it. I’ve had one tenant for almost four years now. Last time I had it up for lease I got a call within 60sec of posting the ad of trademe (some sort of auto notification I assume), and by the time I was done on the first phone call I had three text messages and two missed calls about it!

        Simple fact is some people really, really want to live in compact affordable apartments in good locations. 50m2 is, quite frankly, massive for one or two people. It’s completely excessive in terms of space. Some people want that, but others really don’t.

  • Ben

    Geoff, do a little research into what can be done with a small apartment. In terms of sustainable use of resources and keeping your personal expenses down, they can’t be matched. For some people lifestyle doesn’t mean nights watching Campbell Live and New Zealand’s got talent and weekends mowing the lawn and washing the car.

  • LucyJH

    Actually Kent I did go to a presentation recently where a guy from Opus talked about how they had done a small study in Wellington where they gave people a range of options like living in a smaller house close to high quality public transport versus living in a larger house further away from PT. I’m afraid the results weren’t exactly what you were hoping for but if you’re interested then you could email vicky AT thesustainabilitysociety DOT ord DOT nz

    • Kent Lundberg

      Thanks Lucy. I have no opinion either way. I just know that a lot of my peers and everyone else apparently seems to want to move back to the city. :)

      • LucyJH

        Yeah, i am living in a unit in the central city right now but a lot of my friends are actually moving out because they’re either expecting or have just had kids. I think that is one of the areas we are failing in actually – providing rental housing AND/OR medium density housing that is good for young families. hoping to write a blog post about that.

  • TimR

    Hi Kent –
    The Grattan stuff is great. For anyone who is interested, they have several studies on this agenda, take a look.

    In answer to your question about a local examples of decent market research into preferences, the best stuff came through CHRANZ – their swansong in 2011, just before they were shut down by the government, gave some pretty clear messages. The resulting guideline principles for delivering medium density are pretty ho-hum – obvious statements about improving quality, innovation, blah blah, but the information on consumer experiences is good primary data.

    http://www.chranz.co.nz/pdfs/improving-the-design-quality-affordability-residential-intensification.pdf

    The irony of this report is that it was produced by Phil McDermott of CityScope consultants, who loves to peddle pro-sprawl views on NewGeography and his own blog.

    I love the fact that when tasked with primary research, he continues to suggest that buyers have strongly negative perceptions, but acknowledges that the experiential based views of people who have been “forced into the choice of medium density” display a completely different outcome. Even people living in leaky schemes such as Tuscan Towers are apparently satisfied with the format and location of their developments.

    Phil is forced to observe that, taking into acount feedback from several schemes:

    “The people we interviewed have been able to find something that met their needs which included a medium density housing option. There will be many others who did not find such a solution. The question this raises is how many of those who have not found a medium density solution may have done so if more choices were available in their search areas or design features and prices that meet their needs”

    Great stuff Phil, good on ya.

  • Kent Lundberg

    haha. “Despite this, the residents of low rise apartments, terrace development, and high density detached housing interviewed were generally happy with them.”

    • Patrick Reynolds

      Reading his blog you have to conclude he really is daft, especially as he calls it ‘cities matter’ and it is simply one weak and failed anti-urban argument after another, oh, but he gets a lot of wet kisses from Nazi-hunter Andrew Aitken in the comments….oh so much sprawly man love.

  • RHarris

    I think people need to get a grip on their pro-urbansim at all costs. What size is too small? 40m2 might be fine but 20m2? Do you want people living in capsules hotels? We have plenty of land that we don’t need to get to this stage. I don’t really want Auckland to be a culture of hermits.

    • Stu Donovan

      I tend to think that small houses would encourage people out onto the streets more – afterall if you have less private space then there’s more to be gained from venturing out.

      So smaller accommodation options does not necessarily equate to “hermits” in my experience (as someone who bought and lived in a 50 sqm apartment :).

      • RHarris

        50m2 is fine. I’m no psychologist but if living in overcrowded houses is bad for your health I’m guessing living life like a spell in Paremorema can’t be good for the health either. I just wonder what is the point of micro apartments? I would rather attack things like affordability or low incomes than go to extremes just because we see an article in Atlantic cities and follow like puppets. There must be a healthy square metrage.

        • Each to their own I guess, freedom for some is a big dwelling, for another is no/low debt or rent… I’ve stayed in tiny places overseas, and lived mostly out in the cafes and streets for socialising… less home cooking; more choice and cheaper dining out, less TV watching; more movies or socialising or online away from home. Won’t suit all, will suit some, especially unattached mobile younger people.

          And good healthy design can happen at any scale. Those Hobson/Nelson motorway apartments are often small but that’s not what’s wrong with them; they are appallingly designed and, in many cases built. Design by cost accountant and insufficient oversight by an inadequate regulator; Auckland City Council.

      • Dan

        “Encouraging people out” is a poor choice of words — sounds like you are trying to force people to go out against their natural NZ instincts…. It’s more about providing the space for the sort of people who would prefer the benefits and hassles of a small place over those of a big place.

    • If people want to live in 20m2 studios who are you to stop them?

      I think if you went out and said “here is a bunch of small by cleverly designed studios for one person, you can buy them for $100,000k or rent them for $150 a week”, I imagine you would fill them all in no time.

      That’s something I’d like to find out. People always go on and on about “shoebox” “chicken coop” apartments on Hobson St etc, just what is their vacancy rate? Are they empty? Does no one want to live there? Or are they full, does a compact cheap apartment in the city appeal to a lot of people despite what you or I might prefer?

      • RHarris

        This is the point of a lot of these blog sites. They give a point of view on how life should be lived. Generally this site goes the way that McMansions are evil beings, I think micro apartments are. Planning is in place to try guide cities, prevent slums etc etc. While I’d like to say the free market should dictate I don’t think it should in alot of cases. Health, wellbeing, remember those guidelines so lauded before. Planning is in place to stop them based on some public opinion. Give a developer a chance with no guidelines and those microapartments won’t be the idyllic designed paradise so wonderfully painted.

        • This blog doesn’t see McMansions as evil but a result of poor planning that puts so many restrictions on anything other than that kind of development. Things like minimum parking, setbacks and a whole host of other things have meant that they are the quickest and easiest things to build profitably. We tend to think we should fix the things that caused it.

        • I think you’ve missed a fine but important distinction there RHarris. Generally this site isn’t saying that McMansions are inherently evil, what it is saying is that planning controls that effectively force McMansions as the only option for development are. I would be extremely against the idea of changing planning regulations to make micro apartments the only possible option, the same way I’m extremeley against the current regulations that make McMansions the only possible option, in the most part.

          I’m sorry but saying we shouldn’t not make microapartments illegal isn’t a view on how life should be lived, it’s a view that allows people to make that choice and buy a microapartment if they want one. It’s giving the option of different ways to live.

          You might be right on giving developers free reign leading to poor outcomes (although if people still want to live in them then is that such a poor outcome?), but you’ve missed a second distinction. On one hand you’ve got the form and format of the dwelling, on the other you have the quality and standards. We should regulate for minimum standards of quality, but why should we regulate out certain forms or formats? Health, wellbeing, light, air, noise etc, they are a product of the standards, not the format.

          Not long ago I stayed for a few weeks in a small L shaped studio in Portugal. It would have been about 25m2. But it had enough space for me and my partner to sleep in the double bed, eat at the dining table, and to sit on the couch. Actually it felt a lot more spacious than any of the old villas I’ve lived in, but virtue of an open plan layout and some decent design. It had a beautifully tiled bathroom, a large kitchen along one wall just fine for cooking in, and most importantly high stud ceilings and picture windows, with a little Juliet balcony overlooking a cobblestoned lane with a view down to the ocean. It was warm, dry and airy, with plenty of light. There was air conditioning but we didn’t use it.

          It is plainly absurd to say that apartment was unhealthy or bad for my psyche simply because the floor area wasn’t more than we needed to live in. Actually I came back to Auckland and tried very hard to buy a small loft apartment on Durham St (28m2 floor area if I remember correctly). Unfortunately due to the bank and the council declaring it a ‘nonstandard’ size I was unable to complete the purchase, so now I live in a place four times the size, but actually less suited to my needs.

          • RHarris

            So you are a well researched psychologist/ sociologist to know that it is absurd they are unhealthy? I’m sure prisoners have a different view. I just don’t like the idea of blindly following the latest romantic trend from overseas without better understanding.

            I also don’t like the idea of stacking the poor in to boxes and calling it choice. Make it easier to divide the classes. Like I say fix the underlying problems and don’t hide behind choice.

          • Err, I think among the differences between a small apartment and a prison cell is the small matter of being able to come and go at your will… don’t think you’re over doing it a little there with your comparison do you?
            Oh, then there’s the company….

          • Peter M

            RHarris, I think you miss the point.

            Nobody is forcing you to live in these places. If you don’t like them, so be it – don’t own or rent one. Avoid them like the plague.

            The point we’re making is that if some people do want to live in these places, why would we stop them?

          • RHarris

            I thought my point was clear. It’s nothing to do with me or the limp and well worn “choice” argument. We try not to put people in asbestos lead filled fridges, this is the same. I would rather promote healthier environments. Take a trip out to the suburbs with 5 people living in garages. Yerr it’s their choice but should they be doing it? Should people be providing sub-standard living? It may be affordable for them but something is wrong.

          • Actually RHarris I am a qualified psychologist , but even a poorly trained monkey could see that living in an apartment and being locked in an institution for convicted criminals are two vastly different sociological contexts.

            I think if you’ll look around that studio apartments aren’t actually the “latest romantic trend”, they have been commonplace in a multitude of cities for a long time, stretching back to the Roman empire. The idea that some people want to live in compact affordable housing in cities is by no means new.

            And please, stacking poor people in boxes?! What do poor people and class divides have to do with it? I currently chose to live in an apartment, I’d chose to live in a smaller cheaper studio if there were any nice ones on the market. Why do you want to stop me having that choice? Do you assume I must be destitute to want to live in a compact dwelling… by all means tell me what my underlying problems are that you need to fix? :)

            Affordable housing doesn’t mean dormitories for the destitute underclass, it means housing that doesn’t require half your income each week. Believe it or not there are plenty of people, even those on six figure salaries, who would chose to live in a compact apartment. Go take a look around Manhattan or Ginza to see plenty of weatlhy people who don’t demand large homes.

  • Luke C

    “orce people to go out against their natural NZ instincts” hahaha, thats a good one! People do like going out, just in the past there have not been widespread areas of quality urban design so subsequently places to go have been restricted. However that is changing, from things like waterfront developments and shared spaces creating these better quality urban environments. Of course this should not be just the CBD, New Lynn and Takapuna starting to change but should happen in town centres across the isthmus.

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