Some good news with numbers from Stats NZ showing that building consents continue to rise and even more so that there is a noticeable increase in apartment numbers. Here is the press release from Stats NZ

A boost in new apartment consents led to an 11 percent rise (seasonally adjusted) for new dwellings consented in November 2013, Statistics New Zealand said today.

Excluding apartments, the seasonally adjusted number of new houses fell 0.5 percent.

In unadjusted terms, 1,775 new houses and 492 apartments were consented in November 2013.

“November saw the highest number of apartments consented in a month since April 2008; however, apartment numbers usually fluctuate from month to month,” industry and labour statistics manager Blair Cardno said.

Auckland accounted for 34 percent of the consented houses and apartments in November, and Canterbury accounted for 24 percent.

“The trend for new houses has been increasing since early 2011, and is at its highest level since early 2008,” Mr Cardno said.

And here are the total numbers for Auckland dating back 1994 showing that consent numbers are recovering but still are a long way below their peak in mid-2004.

Auckland Consents Issued - 2

What’s also noticeable in the data is that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of consents issued in apartments with the annual number being approved over 3 times what they were just a few years ago – but that’s still only 20% of what they were at the end of 2004. Unsurprisingly most apartments that have been consented in the old Auckland City Council area with it accounting for 48% of those consented over the last year, 54% over the last 5 years and 71% over the last 10 years.

You may also remember the council has said there needs to be an average of an extra 10,000 dwellings a year to support the population growth expected in Auckland. We’re still a way off that yet but at least things are going in the right direction.

I almost fell out of my seat when I read this article from the herald this morning on the numbers with them including a number of positive comments on apartments including these ones.

Apartments could be the answer for financially strapped Aucklanders trying to get into the property market as the number of apartment building projects soars.


Real Estate Institute chief executive Helen O’Sullivan said she had seen a surge in apartments on the market in Auckland and expected the trend to continue.

“There is plenty of demand in Auckland for property and most people are looking for properties in locations which are relatively central.

“The reality is, given how little space there is left in those areas, to build on any scale they need to be in apartment-style developments.”

Apartments were no longer “horrible, ugly boxes” like many previous developments but were often comfortable, attractive places to live which were generally cheaper than stand-alone houses.

That’s a far cry from the anti apartment hysteria they ran during the Unitary Plan debate and I agree with Helen that the quality has improved quite a bit in recent times. This is noticeable on many of the apartments we have seen pop up recently and we’ve created a development tracker to keep an eye on them. There are over 3,500 dwellings that are under construction or have been proposed.

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  1. As we have been saying for a while people are completely aware of the hidden transport costs of living further out. Transport poverty is the somewhat more hidden evil twin of housing unaffordability. This ‘flight to the centre’ is observable all over the western world. It will only continue to become obvious that:

    “There is plenty of demand in Auckland for property and most people are looking for properties in locations which are relatively central.

    “The reality is, given how little space there is left in those areas, to build on any scale they need to be in apartment-style developments.”

    The Council had better get the Unitary Plan right from here to meet this demand. Please more focus on quality and less on building height, set backs, and parking regs. Look at how Vancouver mandated great public realm along with more intense living….

    1. From personal observation when I visited Vancouver, I noted in the area we were staying that despite the many tall (say 23 storeys) apartment buildings, in our vision from the hotel, that the tower blocks were firmly anchored by between 2 and 5 storey bases so that the streetscape was unaltered and the usual urbanity preserved. I am not talking about the CBD, but rather the peripheral area to the central city.
      This means that the tower blocks are not abutting each other thereby avoiding excessive density and maintaining access to light and sun.
      The streetscape below is also maintained in direct contrast to the Le Corbusier model of open space between tower blocks which sounded fine in theory but became waste land in practice to the detriment of the living environment.
      So how high rise apartments fit with the city code is super important – get it wrong and it is a mess.

  2. An interesting article from Sydney, where apartment approvals outnumber stand-alone houses 3:1.

    “Sydney is going through a cultural change, with strong support for apartment living from Gen X and Gen Y, as well as downsizing baby boomers.

    The statistics demonstrate the swing that is happening. The 2011 census showed Sydney’s apartments comprised 25.8 per cent of all householders, and each month apartment approvals seem to outnumber house approvals. In September 2013 the latest update on the Department of Planning’s website showed 75 per cent of Sydney housing approvals were for apartments.

    It is clear that more and more people are preferring an urban lifestyle close to amenities and work. It is likely that Sydney will be half houses and half apartments in 20 years.

    It is interesting to compare the changing nature of Sydney with Vancouver in Canada. That city’s census in 2011 measured apartments at 40.1 per cent of households, duplexes and terraced houses at 26 per cent and detached houses at 33.9 per cent. The Sydney detached housing percentage in 2011 was 60.9 per cent, almost double the Vancouver figure.

    Sydney is clearly different to Vancouver, but the trend towards urban living is similar. With another 1.5 million people coming to Sydney over the next 20 years, it is highly likely that a majority will end up in apartments. Many of the immigrants come from cultures where urban apartment living is the norm.

    So Sydney has a dilemma. The O’Farrell government has stated that it will hand planning power back to the community. The action groups that claim to represent the community are against apartment living but more and more people in the community want to live in apartments.

    Further, a growing number of people in the community can only afford apartments with the price of detached dwellings at all-time highs. In Sydney the median house price is more than $200,000 higher than the median apartment price, figures from Australian Property Monitors show.”

    The author is the former government architect, and now heads a lobby group alliance to counter the effect of “Save Our Suburbs” lobby groups.

    1. Yep there are similar trends all over the world.

      As for the commuponities opsing intensification – have heard there are a number of groups over there who are now politically quite powerful. What would be interesting is to see how the opinions of the community groups change over time. In the Unitary Plan discussions one of the things I noted is that there were almost no complaints about apartments or building heights in West Auckland and I remember Penny Hulse saying she felt the reason for that was that the discussion on density had happened 5-10 years earlier and so it wasn’t as much of a foreign concept for most people whereas in the other areas of the city like the North Shore it had never really been discussed. Basically what I’m getting at is that if the council were to look at up-zoning more areas in the future then there probably won’t be the same level of opposition as we saw this time.

      Have also heard that the Save Our Suburbs group is actually in quite a bit of disarray internally but that they manage not to project it outwards. Each of the different groups under the banner have different issues and seem to think half of the coalition is mad but they have managed to stick together so far.

  3. These anti-urban groups set out to defend their current way of life against the perceived threat posed by people living more densely. In particular they always say two things; one that their property values will fall, and two, that they (and everyone else) will be ‘forced’ to live in some way that they don’t want to (in a tower usually).

    I find both of these ideas baffling. Any city where there are rising numbers of smaller and more densely ordered dwellings the value of the remaining detached houses rise. Simple supply and demand. This effect is obvious in both the cities mentioned above by Malcolm; Vancouver and Sydney. Increases in density in these cities, and in Auckland, are no threat to the housing asset holding classes. The efficient increase in accommodation of more residents in the city will inevitably produce more people who desire a big detached house and enable them to amass the means to buy one, if they so desire.

    It is equally baffling that they somehow imagine that by allowing others to live a more urban and less auto-dependent way somehow means either the evaporation of all existing housing stock or the ‘forced’ rehousing of current residents. This change leads, in fact, to the reverse of any ‘forcing’; to a greater expansion of options for all people. An expansion of the options of where to live, how to live, and how much to spend on housing and transport.

    What they also say is that their children should be able to buy big houses close to the city at reasonable rates like they did. Well the only way to achieve that is to move to a much smaller place or to wish for the collapse of Auckland’s economy in order to make it a completely undesirable place to live. Big houses are very affordable in Detroit now, for example.

    Because as is clear with both Vancouver and Sydney, intensification makes for desirable and attractive cities that people, especially young motivated people, flock to. The brain gain.

  4. Note that Demographia only track the affordability of stand-alone houses, not units. In markets such as Sydney where 75% of new approvals are units, 75% pf the new dwelling market is “invisible” in the Demographia survey.

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