There are many, many other examples. Auckland’s sausage flats, for instance, were designed to respond to zoning rules. A mid-1970s reform allowed people to add units on standard residential sites, but they didn’t waive setback and height rules. The result was a lot of long, skinny ‘sausages’ running down the centre of suburban lots, as seen in Royal Oak:


Sausage flats are not the most beloved aspect of Auckland’s urban fabric. (Unjustly, in my view, as they serve a valuable role in housing people who may not be able to afford a typical standalone house.) But some responses to zoning are more well-loved. Take the Mansard roof, which probably forms a key part of your mental image of Paris: Steeply pitched roofs with windows facing out and apartments built within:


According to Wikipedia, this emerged as a response to French zoning codes:

Later examples suggest that either French or American buildings were taxed by their height (or number of storeys) to the base of the roof, or that mansards were used to bypass zoning restrictions. This last explanation is the nearest to the truth: a Parisian law had been in place since 1783, restricting the heights of buildings to 20 metres (65 feet). The height was only measured up to the cornice line, making any living space contained in a mansard roof exempt. A 1902 revision of the law permitted building three or even four stories within such a roof.

Humans are great. We’ve never seen a rule that we didn’t try to weasel our way around.

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  1. Nice piece Peter.
    Sausage flats are brilliant. I’ve long advocated for them. Of course some of them are really ugly, but some of them aren’t bad at all.
    Just like any housing form.
    I lived in two in my mid / late twenties and they were perfect at the time for my wife, young son and myself.
    The two we lived in had small balconies – if I recall about 800mm deep by about 3m long. Enough to open the doors up, have a cigar whilst admiring the sunset, and a few pot plants. But the unitary plan says I / we need a 1.8m deep balcony to have a life….

    If they were enabled by the Unitary Plan (which of course they aren’t), we’d be able to see 2 beddie 60 sq m flats realised to the market for circa 450K.
    I’ve played around with some designs, and actually in the 21st century they could be designed to look quite sexy….

    1. Yes sausage flats are brilliant. Mrs Mfwic and I bought one in 1990 because we couldn’t afford a house. We paid 15.45% interest on a 90% loan. It was walking distance to the ferry in Devonport, easy to maintain and big enough for us to have our first child.

  2. One of the first ones I came across after coming to Auckland from Wellington was the Gross Floor Area rules which allow extra floor area for certain provisions like cross site links and art works, but also, and more importantly, excluded external access ways from Gross Floor Areas, so all of a sudden i understood why there were all the external lift, stairs and walkways all thru Nelson Street and the city areas, instead of nice internal access ways to your apartments. Theses same gross floor area rules, instead of maximum height in some cases, or as well as maximum heights allowed some interesting schemes, with varying heights as opposed to the simple maximum height only rule. It would have been good to see the unitary plan work with them a bit more and keep them in a modified form to avoid what we will now get a lot of which is flat roofscapes over large areas as everyone builds to the maximum footprint and height.

  3. I have this idea that neighbours would be willing to trade away some setback, shade-plane rules on their common boundary in exchange for being able to build more floor area. I think this reciprocal rule should be something the RMA automatically gives approval for i.e. there should be a NPS on this guiding local bodies and the Environment Court that this is ok.

    I discuss it in the second part of this article.

    I think this would be a great rule for urban areas that have wrongly not been adequately up-zoned.

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