Brady Nixon, the Development Manager at Progressive Enterprises [yup, the supermarket biz] and the force behind the upcoming Vinegar Lane development in Ponsonby has written a very detailed response to key aspects of the Draft Unitary Plan. His approach is particularly interesting because it is grounded in market practicalities and focused on design quality outcomes through intensification. It is also good to see a discussion around the built environment with some visual sophistication. The fully illustrated PDF, Market Responsive Intensification, is available here.

The inspiration for his approach is an urban renewal project from the 1990s on some disused docks in Amsterdam, called Borneo Sporenburg:

Borneo Sporenburg_01

At Borneo Sporenburg there are some 2500 separately titled four story dwellings with a pretty handy density of 100 units per hectare. The key to their appeal is the variety of appearance within a consistency of massing of the resultant blocks. This richly textured outcome is a result of each building being designed and built to the tastes of each owner rather than by one developer but all within a very tight master plan and a design control process.

Borneo Sporenburg_02

There are also two larger more traditional blocks that throw the regularity of the pattern on each pier and a couple of fancy foot bridges. And of course all the joys of being right on the water, largely car free, and close to the centre of old Amsterdam. Focusing on the ‘row houses’ their defining characteristic is that each dwelling has a relatively small footprint and therefore the whole site offers a comparable density to apartment blocks but they can still be organised more like detached buildings with independent ownership rather than needing systems like Bodies Corporate to operate them. Furthermore by subdividing valuable land into small lots the cost barriers to entry come down, so this is a way to involve ordinary people in development and not just leave it to developers.

Which brings us to Auckland. Nixon argues that the market is more accustomed to ‘Fee Simple’ ownership structures than to more collective models such as renting or co-governing whole buildings.

He has two other observations from local market condition.

One, that we are a nation of small scale builders; our building industry is predominantly structured around putting up one dwelling at a time, with a straightforward builder-client relationship [or builder-architect-client] with relatively small amounts of venture capital . He claims that the proportion of single dwelling construction compared to higher volume builds is 80%. Therefore however the city is to grow then that change must be deliverable through this cottage industry model in order to happen.

Two. He argues that the resultant structures are more acceptable to those fearful of the idea of intensification. He asks:

Where communities oppose intensification the question is not do they oppose intensification but in what form do they oppose intensification?

Going on to use the example of his own development, Vinegar Lane, comparing his new fee simple individually designed but dense small footprint model with the previous developer controled monolith:

The solution engaged at Ponsonby is in fact denser than the previous Soho scheme. But it is lower in bulk, scale and height than what was proposed and it is able to be delivered within the framework of the Mixed Use Zone rules.

So all is good then? Nixon and others can happily offer this typology to the market, and if he is right that sites in developments like this should be lapped up, as indeed they have in Ponsonby?

Not so fast, there are a whole lot of road blocks in the way of this model in the DUP, most notably minimum lot size, but also set-backs, height in relation to boundary, and, of course, those great place killers; minimum parking regulations. In Nixon’s view the DUP primarily imagines two main routes to intensification; large scale apartment buildings, or infill in residential zones [‘garden gobbling’].

The former he claims is often unworkable because of the difficulties of site amalgamation, insufficient numbers of well funded development companies, and a luke warm demand. The latter neither supplies sufficient increase in density nor protects popular old neighbourhoods so is arguably likely to be even less successful.

For the solution to this problem Nixon’s next inspiration is Tokyo, a city with high density but often not high rise, here’s an example:

Tokyo small hse_01

Tokyo small hse_02

But only if subdivision is possible, and other regulations that restrict these kind of tight typologies on appropriate sites are removed.

Vinegar Lane will supply about 110 units per hectare, comparable to Borneo Sporenburg, way above the 15-25 that new greenfields subdivisions offer, and even better than the densities of nearby Grey Lynn which is around 35-40.

The sites are all intentionally varied in size and the smallest is 72m^2. So you can see why Nixon sees the DUP’s minimum lot sizes of 200m^2 in urban zones to be a problem

Here’s what the DUP proposes for the very zones that are ideal for more intensive construction, Nixon’s commentary on the right:

DUP Lot sizes

Here’s another example, this time from Sydney:

Sydney small hse

So here is Nixon’s summary of his small footprint argument:

Small footprint house summary

And below are his overall UP recommendations, which are probably best summed as saying that the Council should concentrate on Quality controls and be less proscriptive with Quantity ones. If a Quality city is sought then compact one will follow so long as the barriers to achieving this morphology can be removed for appropriate locations. I would love to see these types of buildings in all their variety going up along Great North Rd as well as apartments and other mixed use buildings. I’m sure the old light commercial parts of Onehunga would be enlivened by this sort of owner built environment.

And the key to achieving it allowing greater subdivision than is currently planned.


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  1. I actually commented on the development in Amsterdam during one of the Unitary Plan workshops.

    The diversity of mixed form was obtained by giving a basic criteria, ie. four stories, certain width and meeting building codes. Otherwise, the developer (often the future resident) was allowed to build whatever style they liked.

    There was one useful addition to the criteria though. The ground floor of each building was required to have a high stud. This meant that at a later stage, when enough residents had moved into the community to generate need, businesses could be located in ground floors. This conversion happened at a natural pace, and has resulted in this development being successful.

    From what I understand, the same criteria is going to be in the Urban Design Manual for the Mixed housing zones, but will have to wait till that is released to the public to confirm.

    1. At Vinegar Lane there are also controls over what materials can be used, so no Alucabond or thin plaster over Hardibacker. This leads to more texture, a variety of materiality as well as forms; a better built environment.

  2. I really love this housing typology…. probably becasue it requires a lot of creative thinking and a little cleverness to use a very samll lot and come out with a desirable residential property.

  3. Those are very sensible suggestions from Brady Nixon. The best place I’ve ever lived was in an apartment, but I have a feeling nice tight houses like these are more achievable. You know what these are though, including the one in Amsterdam and Tokyo, soviet slums of the future that will threaten our very existence.

  4. Yes! This is exactly what I wish to see more of – fee simple titles, intelligent Japan-style use of space. I had hoped that Wynyard would go in this direction after I reviewed the great plans for Vinegar Lane. Sadly it doesn’t looks like Wynyard is going to be innovative at all.

  5. I am really impressed. This guy really understands urban form and what makes cities interesting places to live.

    Maybe we could get him in front of some of our hick politicians and show them what is possible if they get off the farm. They bang on about innovation being our future and then support plans to keep doing the same things we have been trying for 60 years.

    Brady Nixon – run for mayor! Hell, Brady Nixon for PM! You have my vote.

  6. Hellaluhyah! Yehhaaaa. Give that man a medal. Sheer genius melding the the buyer mindset with the industry model and showing that only small tweaking is required to pull it all together. Patrick, are there more gems in amongst others’ submissions to the DUP that you can share? Cheers

  7. What about Brady Nixon run for Mayor, and proceed to amalgamate the Councils of Auckland and Amsterdam? How about it eh?

  8. Great stuff! Off the top of my head, I can already see a dozen locations in Auckland that this would go down well in. I second Patrick’s comments on controls over use of materials. As part of the master-planning there should be able to be scope to specify cladding systems to be excluded.

    I also see that Brady Nixon has addressed the issue of the small scale nature of most of our residential construction industry. This group of trades-people is a very powerful political group in New Zealand to the point where they are seen to encompass many characteristics (can-do, know-how, do-it-yourself, small business men), that “we” as kiwis admire. Therefore, intensification plans have to take this group on-board with a very clear understanding of their capabilities. At the same time, this group need to be encouraged (gently maneuvered!?) into a position where they will deliver some great outcomes for Auckland.

    Give that Brady Nixon an audience with the mayor and deputy mayor!

  9. these type of building would be perfect in the THAB zones, and along corridors in the MH zones. I am thinking browns Bay, Milford, Sunnynook etc.

  10. I am all for the incremental growth model of individual dwellings with regards to adding varied street presence on a per lot basis, but this type of development is doing nothing for affordability in our city. The people who are building these units (Vinegar Lane) are using budgets and architects beyond the average persons reach creating a high-end bespoke development for rich Ponsonby folk. By using this type of development model we have no controls for developer requirements regarding affordable housing per the Vancouver model. I suspect the reason Vinegar Lane is able to be rolled out individually is due to the leverage and income stream from the attached Countdown being developed. It would be interesting if this type of development could be rolled out in Henderson, i.e. would the metrics of building underground parking and individual units be achievable? My guest is no because the market out there does not allow for bespoke architect designed units developed at their own pace.

    1. Well the land cost will be lower in Henderson so yes, that’s the point. No one is suggesting that the Ponsonby market is the bench mark for affordability. But with this typology Ponsonby can still contribute its share of new dwellings to the shortfall in Auckland at a competitive price point for the area then yes it will affect the overall supply of dwellings, and, ceteris parabis, that will have an impact of supply side causes of housing inflation.

    2. If you can buy a 40m section vs. a 400 meter section that has to have a profound impact on affordablity of the land component. The point about bespoke architect builds is however a fair one as in reality budget buyers won’t be in that market.

      However if micro lots become a regular part of the new housing market then you will see the regular off the peg housing companies offer standard product to fit. This has happened in other markets in Australia where the emergence of smaller lots as part of the housing mix lead to the building companies offering standard plans for small lots.

      1. Exactly – Vinegar Lane is the opportunity for architects and builders to take the time and budget to get it right. As they get more experience with this type of housing, they will find ways to streamline, standardise and reduce costs. Developers will feel more confident about offering these sorts of houses off the plans at a lower price while maintaining a high quality build.

  11. This is the most stunning exposition of a suitable process of intensification for Auckland that I have come across.
    And it is particularly suitable for this area in Ponsonby which I know so well, having worked for Dormer Beck Advertising, 54 Ponsonby Road, for some 20 years and at the end of that period being responsible for selling two adjacent properties to DYC Yeast Co. What a lovely name Vinegar Lane is – in our time the yeast smell was particularly strong and we named the points of the compass as ” North side – South side – West side – Yeast side”.
    However it is very applicable to many other parts of Auckland also – Bravo. I think it could even be sold to Milford citizens!

    1. Lets not get carried away, if the building isn’t a stand alone house on a minimum of 00m then the MRA won’t take it.

  12. It’d be nice if all those who rail against the MUL also spoke out against these intensification restrictions.

    Both work to reduce choice and increase housing costs in the same manner

    1. 100% agree with you – utter hypocrisy.

      However, exclusionary zoning was brought in for exactly what its name suggests – excluding the people. I think it is still being used to do so, it is just that the people being excluded now appear to be young families. The NIMBYs cling to their exclusionary zoning to protect their islands of exclusivity and deny anyone else the chnace to enter that area.

      Remember until after WWI there were almost no controls on cities and people just built stuff how and where they wanted – which is exactly why great dense suburbs like Ponsonby exist. Of course that meant factories next to residential but that wont happen now.

      At the very least there should be no minimum lot size or minimum parking requirements within 1km (2kms?) of a train or busway station or a ferry terminal. Once people see the fantastic housing options that spring up, they will be clamouring for it all over Auckland.

  13. The only problem with the Amsterdam development is they forgot to make the houses tilt and lean against each other so out of character with the city!

    We have the wasteful idea that the typical house should be a bungalow or one story with add ons out and up. The basic house must start to be at least two stories which not only saves land but looks more in scale in the street – scape. Having just sold a house in Auckland I believe Auckland’s problems are from multiple causes such as cheap overseas loans, no Capital Gains tax, land banking, local bank lending criteria and way down the list lack of land. Other sellers and agents have told me my experience was typical and i suggest to the Minister he should go to some Auckland auctions and not just listen to his developer mates. Auckland needs a proper green belt NOW i.e. like Europe where nothing can be built and new greenfield developments should be by way of new towns 20-30 kms plus away with fast public transport connections.

    Areas of outstanding beauty subdivision bans along such places as picturesque beaches are also long overdue. The minister’s quote development doesn’t matter only one percent of NZ is urban is also an idiotic comment, not all land can be used for production it’s dependent on soil types etc. and then probably a third of NZ is mountains and National Park so the 1% suddenly becomes about 10% of productive land and this includes lifestyle blocks which should be banned as extremely wasteful land use

    1. I don’t understand your statement that lifestyle blocks are an extremely wasteful use of land. Please explain.
      I also do not understand why “wasteful” land use should be banned. Dairy is wasteful in terms of food value per hectare when compared with vegetable or grain production. Do you propose banning dairy production?

      1. He is presumably talking about re-zoning rural land into lifestyle block land, which is quite a different use, and while low-density, DOES create a whole rats tail of infrastructure demands nonetheless. So there is a case for giving Councils the power to refuse to zone such land (or would be, in a country where central government does arrogantly claim itself all the local powers too, whenever a mayor goes against their grain).

      2. They are too small to be agriculturally productive, too large to be useful to an urban area, waste is a strong word, but lets at least go for ‘the least efficient use of land possible’.

        1. Are they bad for the environment, They tend to have more trees on them than land in production.

        2. I have 300 fruit trees to the hectare on my lifestyle block. We produce spray-free avocados, citrus fruit and plums for sale and a whole lot of other food for our own consumption. In terms of food value per hectare it puts the dairy farm across the road to shame so from my standpoint (and my neighbours’) you are spouting nonsense when you claim that it is not productive. Our accountant says otherwise. A well-maintained mature avocado tree, for example, can net over $1000 a year and you get get quite a few to the hectare.

          Take a look, however, at the commercial kiwifruit orchards in the vicinity; drenched with pesticides every few weeks. That’s what economy of scale (efficiency) does for your food supply. Happy eating.

        3. MFD – that is awesome what you are doing on your land. It is certainly a better use of land than dairy farming or non-organic farming with all the chemicals associated.

          Dairy farming can be particularly wasteful and destructive, but really in the areas where there is inadequate rainfall and it has to be supported by massive irrigation. The Canterbury plains is the main example I am thinking of.

          However, I dont think your example is what people are thinking of when they discuss life style blocks. Would you agree that few life style blockers make as good use of their land as you do? The closest a lot of them come to nature is cutting the lawn on their ride on.

          I am not necessarily against really low density life style blocks but their shouldnt be an expectation that the infrastructure should be put in place to allow those people to quickly drive 30-40kms to a CBD.

        4. I wouldn’t call what MFD is doing a lifestyle bock. It would be a small fruit farm to me. I had a friend with a small organic dairy farm just out of Whangarei, also surrounded by lifestyle blocks, that is the same, it is a small farm, not lifestyle block IMO.

          Completely agree with Goosoid’s last comment though, Lifestyle block owners expect all the perks of living in the country and the right to drive everywhere fast.

        5. If I look at my neighbours with their lifestyle blocks most are growing specialised crops; avocados, figs, grapes, lemons, olives, macadamias, lavender (for oil) etc but further afield the classic lifestyle block activity is fattening animals; usually beef cattle or sometimes sheep. Others create massive gardens; I know of impressive stands of young totara and kauri on a lifestyle block in Brookby, for example. Others still just lease their land out to others to graze, grow grass for hay or silage or for vegetable production.

          In terms of infrastructure there is no water supply or sewerage provided by AC, no streetlighting or footpaths and the roads are built to a standard to accommodate the milk tankers that serves the farms prior to the arrival of the lifestyle blocks. There is no expectation of being able to drive quickly to the CBD and to my knowledge nobody around here does (or wants to).

          Sailor Boy’s claim that lifestyle owners “expect all the perks of living in the country and the right to drive everywhere fast” seems awfully like unsubstantiated supposition (even wishful thinking) rather than fact. I suspect that he just made that bit up. Lifestyle block owners are actually very much like people insofar as they vary enormously in their opinions, wishes habits and desires.

        6. Dtop being facetious, you know full well I was making a generalistion. Also, you hardly have to live on a lifestyle block to observe them. the vast majority are doing nothing beyond raising a few chickens on their site.

          Also, water and sewage not being provided would not even come close to covering the costs of roads needed.
          I am willing to accept that you and some of your friends have very productive blocks, with very low costs to ratepayers, but we need to talk about the general trend for anything o be vaguely worthwhile.

        7. What roads? Lifestyle blocks are typically cut from existing farmland and no additional public roading is built to accommodate them. Nil. The roads were already there. The additional traffic on the roads is minimal since it is very low density living and, contrary to the prevailing dogma, we are not all clamouring to travel to the CBD (or any urban area) on a daily basis.

          Now your statement that “lifestyle block owners expect the right to drive everywhere fast”. That’s just your own stereotype/prejudice, isn’t it? By all means provide some sort of reference to support your hypothesis.

        8. ‘No additional public roading is built’

          Thats comical, you are saying that we could house the 1,000,000 more people coming to Auckland on lifestyle blocks and not need to build any more roads?

          You have to upgrade rural intersections a lot to cope with lifestyle blocks, plus fringe centres end up needing more parking and more capacity because lb owners tend to drive everywhere.
          Plus any lb dwellers going into town are more likely to use the motorway than those living in suburban areas or local nodes, hence roads need more capacity.

  14. I am from Wellington and can see this type of housing working well especially in Newtown. Nice to see someone thinking outside the box from within the box.
    The amount of multi storey accommodation in Wellington has been exponential in the last 15 years and most of it cheap. Come have a word with Celia Mr Nixon although she wouldn’t give you a straight answer.

  15. I’ve looked at Vinegar Lane and they have priced it to suit Ponsonby. This could easily produced in cheaper land locations around Auckland where land is half the cost per sqm and if smaller sites are used then the cost per lot would be relatively affordable. The problem is the consent process is very difficult and only someone like this guy knows just how to unlock it. I like the idea. It’s the best idea I have seen yet. I hope Council can drop some pride to take it on board and enable it in more places.

  16. Vinegar lane is also expensive because there’s much more demand than supply. Building more (and as others have said in other locations) and the price will be better.
    The other thing to note is that the concept provides lots of floor area, allowing families to live centrally, improving the mix, and breaking the stereotype that only singles and couples live at density.

    1. Surely the Ponsonby/Vinegar Lane sites and buildings are appropriately priced and that the purchasers are building to suit the area including how expensive or not the buildings are? If I was building on a lot in Ponsonby I would goto town and build an expensive dwelling because it wouldn’t be over captialised. That said – if land parcels like this existed in locations around Auckland where values are lower then what is built will be corrspondingly lower. When in Rome?
      People always spend as much as they can and with a mind to the location.

    1. Pedant indeed, you’re right of course, but as it is damn near on Ponsonby Rd, and quite some distance from GL Park [arguably the heart of our fine ‘burb], you can hardly blame the market for considering it [and pricing it] a lå Ponsonby.

  17. Submission does not talk about the need for each Dwelling to have Sun Light.
    How does council set rules to, ensure each Dwelling has Direct Sun Light.

    1. Exactly the difference in approach: no set of rules around sunlight but each proposed building must but go through a design panel process and be assessed for design quality, the panel includes leading architect Pete Bossley. And daylight like every other component of what makes for good design is certainly an important consideration. So in practice if someone turned up with a miserable set of cells without windows they would not get past that hurdle.

      This is a design led process not a rules based one. It not only works but leads to way better outcomes. At Vinegar lane there are all sorts of interesting internal courtyards and roof decks, as well as dynamically glazed yet screened whole elevations… these are design solutions that would be very hard to write some kind of code for that wouldn’t either allow nasty stuff that actually complies with the letter of the rules or prevent really innovative high quality design solutions that don’t.

    2. Having prescriptive rules on sun light just seems to be one set of people projecting their personal standards of what is acceptable onto everyone else and in the process removing choice. Isn’t this how we got into the mess of unaffordable housing in the first place?

      Naturally most people will want a sunny place to live. Given that preference and the resulting higher property value and rental return resulting it is hard to see why developers would want to go out their way to not provide it where it is feasible to provide.

      However given trade off’s between space, location and sun I can see some people choosing a dwelling with less sun that has a better location or more space. Think of some shift workers who have to block out the sun during the day anyway, or some students and night owls who may use there home as nothing more then a place to sleep and never be there during the day anyway.

      As ever it is about trade-offs. Me I like sun and want to live centrally so I live in a smaller apartment with no parking but great sun and outlook. But at a different point in life I would have been very happy to have a place without the direct sun if it meant I could afford to live centrally as a student close to uni and enjoy the extra 45min in bed each morning.

      Think of all those basement apartments in old world cities or even New York. They would fail rules for direct sun light and yet I’d argue they are a perfectly valid form of housing.

    3. Architects tend to avoid letting direct sunlight into buildings, since the glare is usually unwelcome, and it often overheats the space.

      The draft Unitary Plan provides for dwellings getting daylight with different controls in different areas:

      * height in relation to boundary (HIRB), in most residential areas, limits how close to the boundary a building can be built at various heights.
      * outlook and daylight controls in mixed use areas and apartments, which require the window area in bedrooms and living rooms to be a certain fraction of the floor area – 20% and 40% respectively. There’s also rules requiring a minimum outlook from the window – i.e. the distance, perpendicular to the window, that you need to be able to look. 15 metres for living rooms, and 6m for bedrooms.

      Those outlooks are a bit prescriptive for low-rise areas, where most windows will still be able to get a lot of light from the sky overhead, without necessarily needing protected views. In most areas, high-rises aren’t allowed, so shading by neighbouring buildings isn’t a huge concern.

      On the other hand, I think the window controls should be expanded a bit, so that kitchens and main bathrooms (i.e. with showers or baths) need windows too, even if it’s just a little frosted glass window onto a lightwell. Those spaces particularly need ventilation, and lots of present-day developers don’t put windows in bathrooms and kitchens even when there’s a space for them.

    1. Can only a ‘qualified health professional’ [whatever that is?] judge whether a new building has sufficient sunlight? Do you suppose that is outside of the training and skill set of architecture?

      1. My wife says I’m a crocodile as I’m always hunting the sun. In fact that is the #1 thing I look for when house hunting. Everything else is secondary. Maybe I could get a job keeping houses sunny 🙂

        1. Or just not buy houses that are dark, let the market reject them, and they stop being built.

        2. The problem is that these kind of houses (dark and usually damp) inevitably become rentals.

        3. And?
          They won’t be easy to rent, and so will command less rent, and a lower price, hence they won’t be bought.

        4. Yes, and in my life I’ve lived in a couple of dark, damp flats. The landlords care not, and people rent them because they are cheap. Health is more important. If a place, such as a basement, is designed as a sunless place appropriate measures such as central heating are normally part and parcel of the design.

  18. One risk with design panels, even with health professionals on them, is they can be picked and paid to agree with what the seller and occupier thinks is safe and healthy,

    This called SMART

    “Some prisoners requested they be doubled bunked with others they feel are role models to them or that they can get along well with. It has made some of them less aggressive and less contentious.”

    “A lot are quite happy as they have been able to share resources like a radio or TV,”

    “They can assist each other to cope with the fact that they are incarcerated. So if you have got someone who is prone to anxiety, you can have someone in there, a cellmate, who can keep an eye on them.”

    1. Haha, straw man… What have prisoners forced to cohabitate in a cell got to do with design panels and sun light? No one anywhere here is arguing to force people to double bunk. Interestingly more affordable housing options would mean less people being forced for financial reasons to have to flat with strangers and more options to have a place of your own.

      For an example of the terrors of living in a basement with little natural light check out these North American examples;

      “At some point in many of our lives we’ll live in a basement apartment. For some of us it’s our first apartment, while for others among us it’s where we raise our families. As they’re usually cheaper than upper floor apartments, they can be a great economical choice.”

      Slums I tells ya, slums of the future…

        1. I was being ironic… I also think they are perfectly adequate and show the nonsense of rules dictating direct sun access.

    2. Peter by rights the council should only be concerned with externalities. Anything that affects the occupier can generally be dealt with as part of the market process. Why should the council get involved? Arguably building regs are different, as the buyer can’t easily verify that a structure has been built to certain standard without pulling it apart. Even this function could be provided by a private sector entity however. But when it comes to sunlight, buyers have all the info to hand – perhaps aiding themselves with a compass and clinometer if necessary. What business is it of the council? It is certainly not the business of a “health professional” to interfere!

      1. Exactly, the coiuncil do a much better job of inspecting foundations, insulation and framing than a buyer.

        But the buyer does a much better job of assessing parking sunlight HIRB and lot size.

      2. “Anything that affects the occupier can generally be dealt with as part of the market process.”

        You mean like weathertightness, swan? Okay, your second paragraph clarifies that aspect a bit, but I still think that trusting in the market to ensure MINIMUM standards is foolish. Council should very much stay in the business of minimum standards (including for natural light – not simply “sunlight”) in habitable dwellings. Let “the market” decide on the span between minimum and perfect – but minimums need to be set and enforced. By Council / government, not by some semi- or non-independent panel.

  19. Prisons set minimum standard for Housing of people.

    Quits from our National Leader

    “I am very pleased with them, they look very impressive to me,” Ms Collins said.

    Ms Collins said: “So far it looks pretty good

    Mr Key said in general he was comfortable with the idea.
    “In my opinion, where double bunking will work and where there is satisfaction that it can be appropriately be carried out, we should do that, because it reduces the demand on the New Zealand taxpayer,” he told reporters.

  20. I like the ideas Braidy has come up with. It’s creative and refreshing.
    The trick to the success appears to be: (1) Council adjusting rules to enable this type of project to occur (2) a master plan and design rules to control buildings in development (3) good architecture.
    Here is hoping Council decide to take these ideas on board.
    I like the angle on diversity. It makes sense to have quality achieved through the diversity created by different designs. Somehow that makes more sense than a big development using one architect to make a series of building facades look different.
    Here is hoping for more of it.

  21. I just read the report. I thought the apartment typology for residential areas was the most interesting idea because it offers a way to intensify the residential suburbs of Auckland without pissing off all the NIMBY’s. That is what we should do to get the Unitary Plan working. Smaller 2 to 4 unit apartment buildings on normal house sites. Still as easy as building a house. Makes sense.
    But Auckland Council will hate all the ideas because it wasn’t their own. Pity.

  22. This is a very good idea but it does have a history.

    Culture of cities. L. Mumford
    Chapter 12: According to Roger North’s autobiography, speculative building began on large scale in London with Dr. Barbone’s ventures, after the Great Fire of 1666. The decrease in housing quarters then gave him a favourable opportunity. “He was the inventor of this new method of building by casting of ground into the streets and small houses, and selling the ground to workmen by so much per front foot.
    Page 165. There were 20,000 basement dwellings in London medically marked as unfit for human occupation.
    Page 170. Environment of poverty produced organic modifications: rickets in children, due to the absence of sunlight,
    Page 171. The medical discovery of England’s mistreatment of her workers, … did perhaps as much as any one other factor to promote better housing.

  23. Culture of cities. L. Mumford
    P170. .. lack of sunshine … The recruiting sergeant was not able to use the children of this regime even as cannon-fodder.

    1. Lewis Mumford is fantastic, but every example you have come up with is entirely irrelevant to 21st Century residential development in Auckland.

      My experience, which is considerable having co-authored five books on NZ architecture over the last five years and as arguably the nation’s leading architectural photographer for the last 20, leads me to conclude that if anything architects here over these periods have tended more to over-fenestration than the reverse: We do not build dark and sunless dwellings in this country, especially not when architects are involved, and it is certainly something, as mentioned by others above, that the market keenly prices.

      I agree that moving to a tighter building programme may alter this tendency and that it is something that all involved will need to be conscious of. But the idea that a doctor or some other ‘qualified health professional’ is better placed to think this architectural issue through than architects and their clients is the issue i question.

  24. If the Cottage industry is to be part of the building industry, there needs to be clear rules on healthy dwelling and sunlight rules are be the most basic and oldest.

    From Vitruvius
    On Climate as determining the style of the house
    1. We ought to make our houses conform to the physical qualities of nations, with due regard to the course of the sun and climate.
    The Greek House – Chap VII
    6. We must take care that all buildings are well lighted.

  25. Vitruvius now! I’m sure you are very learned Peter but none of this adds up to a compelling argument that rule based systems as opposed to quality design focussed processes lead to better out comes for well lit buildings or all the other important indicators of of high quality well designed highly liveable and desirable dwellings.

    No one is arguing with you, or Vitruvius, that daylight isn’t desirable, we arguing about how best to get there. And the tick-box, planner driven rule method does not, in my view, achieve this nearly as well as holistic design focussed systems, as exampled by Vinegar Lane.

  26. What is it with Auckland Council and the Unitary Plan that they couldn’t have come up with this idea themselves? It comes as no surprise that a developer has a better understanding of market conditions and what people want to buy. It’s still annoying Council can’t think up anything outside the standard meat and three veges style dwellings. Dumb arses!

  27. I have just circulated the following comment to an email discussion group, in response to Brendon Harre referring to this page.

    Bear in mind re the overseas examples you and Brady and the TransportBlog article are referring to, are somewhat cases of necessity, due to very high population and actual lack of space nationally (the Netherlands, Japan) and in Sydney is due to a combination of growth constrain factors and some of the most absurdly overpriced urban land in the world.

    Certainly if there is demand for units this size, they should not be hindered by regulations. But if the land was as cheap as it should be, most people do opt for a bit more space.

    There is an interesting discussion of “the price elasticity of demand for space” in the urban economics literature – I have picked up a bit from the amazing 1970 “Transportation and Urban Land Rents: A Synthesis” by Michael A. Goldberg. Really if the land was as cheap as it should be, most people do opt for a bit more space.

    There is an interesting discussion of “the price elasticity of demand for space” in the urban economics literature – I have picked up a bit from the amazing 1970 “Transportation and Urban Land Rents: A Synthesis” by Michael A. Goldberg. Really if the land was as cheap as it should be, the kind of units you are discussing should be $80,000 each – and if they were 50% larger the price would probably be $100,000. We are only agonising over how to get $600,000 units down to $400,000 by making them even tinier dog boxes because the whole market is distorted by the fringe containment.

    Houston manages circa-$100,000 townhouses in an equivalent location, that are nowhere near as crammed.

    And in the long term, I caution you and Brady and the TransportBlog people, that the evidence is that the tighter you allow development inside a regulatory boundary, the higher the land rent goes, resulting in smaller and smaller average unit size with no actual gain in systemic affordability. This is why Hong Kong can have 66,000 people per square km and a median multiple of 15.

    But I know you are all on the right side when it comes to eliminating these distortions from the fringe land rationing racket. We just need to always have this in mind when discussing any of the more peripheral issues of zoning anywhere within the city. Set-backs and parking mandates need not have any effect on systemic affordability; appropriately cheap land enables the consumption of quite a lot of it within typical urban household income levels.

    There are examples in Japan, where the land is kept lower than otherwise by actual government operation in the market on the basis of recovery of capital costs only, of housing choices with set-backs and carparks. It is a little bit of a mystery why more Japanese do not choose this, given that their whole system is surprisingly affordable, but I think the answer is that the government operation in the market deliberately makes the best locations artificially affordable (along with the option of a transit-oriented lifestyle) by forestalling the free-market amassing of land rent at those locations.

    I have suggested in an actually published essay nearly 2 years ago now, in the NBR, that the potential for land to be used wastefully due to its cost being too low, like in affordable US cities, could be simply addressed with graduated land taxes that vary by zone and by the land consumption of each housing unit. But of course there are no gains for rentiers out of doing it that way, are there?

    We really need to face up to what the options are. The status quo is nearly the worst of all worlds. Fringe growth containment makes traditional Anglo property rights and private sector predominance in land ownership, an unaffordable luxury from the point of view of the greater economic and social good. I say this as personally preferring freedom of land use and building, as the solution. But if Kiwis like the Japanese way, or the Georgist way, then I would say go for it.

    Mason Gaffney eloquently argues the Georgist way in this 1964 essay entitled “Containment Policies for Urban Sprawl”:

    My own “Georgist” suggestion of graduating the land taxes according to zone and the land consumption of each housing unit, is an advance on Gaffney’s argument.

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