This is a guest post from reader Brendon Harré, who is based in Christchurch. It was originally published on Medium and has been lightly edited for publication on Transportblog.

Is the secret of Tokyo being affordable that Japan has let its cities be messy?

Last year NZ economist Michael Reddell wrote an article speculating that Tokyo could be an example of a city which undertook successful urban planning reforms to achieve affordable housing. Learning the secrets of Tokyo’s affordable housing has obvious benefits for New Zealand and Auckland in particular, given the difficulty we are having in providing affordable homes for New Zealanders.

Tokyo-Yokohama has a median house price to median household income ratio of 4.7, while Auckland has a ratio of 10.0 according to the latest Demographia 2017 International Housing Affordability Survey.

Tokyo’s population growth is little different to London’s or San Francisco for the period 1995 to 2015, yet house price increases have been significantly different. NB Minato-ku is an inner-city part of Tokyo.

While Japan has a stagnant/declining population, Tokyo is growing and thus its affordable housing is not due to slow growth. Based on a Financial Time’s article, Michael contended that removing planning restrictions in the 1990s – including for intensification – led to housing becoming more affordable.

A recent video made by a Canadian journalist provided quite a lot of good information about Japanese planning rules and comparative housing costs. The video shows the average new Tokyo home can be bought for US$300,000 (NZ$414,000), which is significantly cheaper than a new home would cost in New Zealand, especially Auckland. Usefully it shows video of what these homes and neighbourhoods actually look like.

Removing regulatory constraints on intensification is consistent with advice from my favourite planning theorist, Alain Bertaud. He visited New Zealand in 2014 and wrote the following about how to provide affordable housing, given Auckland’s constrained land supply.

There are two ways to compensate for the constraint on land supply imposed by Auckland’s topography:

1. Increase the amount of land available to developers at the city periphery

2. Decrease the regulatory constraints which prevent a higher density of utilization in centrally located areas where demand is high

I agree with both of these statements and have gone to some effort to advocate for them. In particular, I like to advocate for more of the second option, removing restrictions on building within the city in places where demand is high.

There are plenty of people demanding peripheral growth boundaries be removed to enable the building of more affordable housing. David Seymour for example appears to be advocating for this in a very provocative manner by advocating for house building in the Waitakere Ranges, a set aside wilderness area. As an inner city MP, David Seymour is silent on what regulatory constraints should be removed to enable more housing in places where demand is high i.e. inner city Auckland.

A lot of people advocating for the removal of peripheral growth boundaries do not seem to support removing other housing supply restrictions. I do, as I feel that it is important to advocate for restrictions to be relaxed in both the up and out directions. This provides people with more choices about types of housing (terraces, apartments etc) and types of communities or locations within the city.

The recently agreed Auckland Unitary Plan will allow more intensification to occur. This is important, as Auckland is the city in New Zealand with the greatest housing supply imbalance. I worry though that the Unitary Plan is weighted too much in the direction of high-rise apartments in a few locations and does not allow enough freedom for other types of housing developments.

From a Transportblog Auckland Development Update article which started with the following two sentences. 2017 will be the Year of the Terrace.Terraced homes, built in rows: neighbours on either side, but not above or below. They’re relatively cheap to build, and they’re within the reach of many small/ medium-sized building firms, ones which have traditionally concentrated on detached houses.

I believe that we should give much more freedom for small scale housing intensification in a much broader area of the city. I do not see the harm of leaving more housing decisions – what housing type, what locations – to people on the ground to make. Many Auckland property owners will naturally respond to demand for different types of housing demand. I think this sort of natural, organic process in most cases would have good outcomes and would help us to meet our various housing needs.

Incremental and organic building within a city was the logic behind a proposal I made last year to improve housing supply. I called it reciprocal intensification property rights. This proposal is designed to facilitate co-operation between neighbours to allow more intensification in their adjoining properties. My hope is that reciprocal intensification will be a step towards adding an incremental, bottom-up process to city-building in New Zealand.

Tokyo has taken advantage of similar policies. Japanese planning gives Japanese city dwellers freedom to incrementally upgrade ‘slums’ around government provided infrastructures. In an article entitled “When Tokyo was a Slum“, Matias Echanove and Rahul Srivastava comment that:

According to Metabolist architect Kisho Kurokawa, Westerners misunderstand Tokyo as informal and illogical because of their dualist notion of the city as divided into polar opposites: Urban and rural, formal and informal, order and mess. But Japanese culture, says Kurokawa, accepts that mess and order are inseparable: “The open structure, or receptivity, is a special feature of the Japanese city and one it shares with other Asian cities.” This is why the Japanese are so tolerant of urban forms that the West would see as “irrational” or “messy” — neighborhoods develop and slowly integrate with the larger urban system on their own terms. Tokyo was built with loose zoning rules to become a fantastically integrated mixed-use city, where tiny pedestrian streets open up to high-speed train lines.

Japan’s city-building freedom is not only important for supplying affordable housing – it also facilitates a diverse, broad eco-system of small businesses too. Given the need for New Zealand to diversify its economy, adopting similar city building practices may be beneficial

Some may argue these sort of informal city building processes may be appropriate for high density Asian cities, but would not work for suburban New Zealand. The evidence indicates this is not true. Houston, a low-density affordable US city has also relaxed rules on housing intensification for its inner city suburbs (an area larger than Auckland’s isthmus), which has resulted in significant increases in affordable inner city housing. This can be seen in the before and after pictures of Houston from two articles which questioned whether Washington DC should allow widespread low-rise intensification on more affordable land like Houston allows, as opposed to what they are currently doing, by relying on central city high-rise apartment building.

A similar question of whether to give more freedom to build low-rise intensification over a wide-spread area could be asked about Auckland. Under the Unitary Plan, it is estimated that nine times as many apartment dwellings will be commercially viable to build compared to terrace housing (P.17).

The degree in which a city is free to build up and out are collective decisions i.e political decisions. It is my contention this freedom has a significant influence on housing affordability. If this is correct, the degree that we collectively tolerate unaffordable housing and all its associated ills – homelessness, overcrowding and rising wealth inequality – is also a political decision.

What is the readers opinion on the degree of freedom we need to grant New Zealand cities to build up or out?

[Editor’s note: André Sorensen’s excellent 2001 book The Making of Urban Japan describes the history of post-1980s planning and housing policy in greater detail. I’d recommend it to anyone seeking to understand Japanese cities. Sorensen suggests that planning controls were loosened during the bubble period, and subsequently tightened after the crash, which complicates the causal story about planning reform and falling prices. Nonetheless, zoning controls have always been less restrictive in Japan than in most other developed countries.]

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  1. Intensification (building up) is far preferable from every perspective – aesthetic, environmental, cost – than the current trend of slamming two fullsized houses onto a single section, giving all the costs of intense living (sound, pollution) and none of the benefits of detached housing (a backyard!)

    1. I don’t understand it either. We have some new sub-divisions down here in Christchurch where stand alone houses are on tiny sections with miniscule outdoor spaces -much of which is consumed by double garages and wide driveways. I keep thinking if the houses were built across the width of section -i.e terrace housing, then the wasted side yard space could be more usefully used as backyard space. Further if we had policies to encourage alternatives to car use -like Patrick discusses Tokyo and Singapore did -then the space used for garaging/driveways could be halved or even eliminated.

      1. Clearly you don’t understand. Having two metres of space between you and your neighbour is the difference between luxury and slum. /s

        My brother recently bought a house in a brand new development in Papamoa and they’re all massive houses on tiny sections and all have the same two metre gap eave to eave. As far as I can make out one side is used to store recycling bins and the other just looked like a strip of grass that needed to be mowed. I guess they allowed for windows down the side but you five minutes sketching plans allowed me to work around that requirement.

        1. James I am not advocating that terrace houses be compulsory.

          All I am saying is if a property owner and their neighbour(s) agree to remove some restrictions on building more floor space -such as removing the common boundary setback and shade-plane restrictions -then they should be able to do so.

          Of course, if a property owner highly values their setback space -because in their opinion it is ‘luxury’ -then no one is forcing them to give it up.

          Personally I think the ‘status’ of stand alone housing is over valued and if some homeowners want to give it up then other people’s Nimby attitudes shouldn’t intrude.

        2. This is exactly what the resource consents process (affected parties approvals) already enable, (the rules only set parameters for the need to get consent, they dont ‘stop’ anything in reality, perception is of course much different) though the need to have this endorsed by the consent authourity is probably what you seek to be removed?

          At least the draft versions of the Auckland Unitary Plan specifically had an exception for HIRB rules ‘where neighbours agree’ (in certain zones) – im not sure why this was dropped, but the rules (MHS & MHU) now provides for two HIRB standards and they do not apply within internal site boundaries, or ‘if a common wall exists or is proposed’.

        3. Yes Sausagechops I wanted to make some intensification decisions an ‘as of right’ process using a National Policy Statement so the intensification decision maker are neighbours not the consenting authority. So yes I would like to remove the consenting authority from the urban intensification process as much as possible.

          There is also some sequencing problems with the RMA, when both neighbours agree to intensification (removing setback/shade planes etc), but one neighbour wants this intensification as a future option/right -read my original article for a better explanation.

        4. Neither would I, my point was that you could easily get a similar house without those setbacks from your neighbours. They add little functional purpose to the dwelling yet people seem to believe that removing them would result in slumification of the area.

        5. @BH “I wanted to make some intensification decisions an ‘as of right’ process using a National Policy Statement” Well, partly there with the NPS:UDC which includes explicit recognition of urban environments as areas of dynamic change than stasis, and the national importance of providing for diversity in form and function within urban areas for social and economic wellbeing

          @SB “What negative effects do HIRB rules mitigate?” im sure your question is rhetorical, but at least in theory, prevent overlooking/dominance and ensure access to reasonable levels of sun/daylight. (Both of these ‘effects’ being relative to what might be considered excessive anywhere but spacious low density suburbia). My pet peeve is the protection of most of modern suburbia from previously typical suburban developments that are so awesome they have been deemed areas of special or heritage character. Seems backwards that the most visually appealing parts of the city are unable to be replicated elsewhere.

      2. “stand alone houses are on tiny sections with miniscule outdoor spaces -much of which is consumed by double garages and wide driveways”

        That is the default pattern in Auckland as well. You have 1.5 m between hour house and your fence on 3 sides, and the big driveway & green space in the front. That’s how you make a 400 m² section feel cramped. Given the land prices over here, that’s half a million dollars worth of land, without any meaningful amenity to show for it.

        I don’t understand why that happens. Do the zoning rules enforce this in some twisted way?

        1. “Do the zoning rules enforce this in some twisted way?”

          Yes, Minimum section sixes, minimum setbacks, and HIRB rules basically force that type even if a developer would rather build comfortable three storey terraces on 200m2 sections.

  2. Thanks Transportblog for publishing and editing my work -which presented my argument in a reasonable, clear and concise way. I would like to point out in my original article several times I made the point that the full story of Japan’s housing affordability ‘secrets’ has not been told.

    I too have Andre Sorensen’s book and I do not find it convincing in describing how Japan got to its remarkably free place wrt unrestricted intensification practices.

    Perhaps because Sorensen’s book was written in 2001 and addresses technical planning details it failed to capture a social/cultural change whereby neighbours/ neighbourhoods became more accepting of intensification -I am not sure -but clearly something is going on in Tokyo.

    If Tokyo is compared to say Singapore -which is very top-down government planned high rise apartment sort of city -there is a massive difference and urban planning should be able to explain why. Looking at the videos and also reading some of responses -including from the Bertaud’s (at the very bottom of the page on Medium) it is clear that Tokyo is much less restrictive wrt intensification than what we are used to in the West.

      1. Fascinating stories about Tokyo and Singapore realising that encouraging an explosion of car-use was not going to work for their city building models.

        I think variable congestion charging could go very well with with what I am advocating -more ‘bottom-up’ freedom for wide-spread low-rise intensification. But of course congestion charging was successfully developed in Singapore -which is more ‘top-down’ government planned high-rise apartment city.

        This shows there are multiple successful built environment models and probably what would work best for NZ is some sort of hybrid model that is customised for our particular history, culture, geography etc.

        P.S I am not sure my thoughts on CERA are printable.

        1. That is genius. It completes a trio of ideas for efficiently pricing of urban land. Road space -congestion charging, parking space -a registration requirement proving car owners have access to a private parking space, housing space -freedom to build/ intensify.

    1. Very good – yes, having also read Sorensen’s book I agree that there are cultural difference underpinning a lot of policy differences and differences in development outcomes. The most remarkable statistic (to me) was that around 30% of Japan’s coastline is covered big tetrahedral concrete blocks, ostensibly as coastal defense but actually as a subsidy for the construction industry. That would never stand here!

      To a significant degree, I think zoning rules reflect cultural norms. They also shape them, but culture often seems to come first. So as you say, if we want to have a conversation about building cities differently we also have to have a conversation about the type of society we want to be, and the cultural values we care most about upholding.

  3. This was such an interesting article that I thought I’d check out the the claim that Tokyo has a better median house price to median household income (MHP2MI) ratio than Auckland.

    A quick Google search found the Numbeo site with MHP2MI ratios that do NOT support this claim. The Numbeo site gives property (and other) figures for cities across the world and for the two cities in question it claims:
    * Auckland MHP2MI ratio: 9.85 (
    * Tokyo MHP2MI ratio: 19.79 (

    I am not sure why this difference in the Numbeo MHP2MI ratio but perhaps it is because Numbeo is based on apartment cost per square metre rather than total cost … Tokyo apartment total prices may have remained affordable but only because they are so small at an AVERAGE of just 56.46m2 (

    FYI, the MHP2MIR comparisons from the Numbeo web site with Auckland’s 9.85 are:
    * San Fransisco MHP2MI ratio: 12.13 (
    * Singapore MHP2MI ratio: 21.20 (
    * London MHP2MI ratio: 27.36 (

    IMHO, if you seek a place from which to learn urban planning lessons about how to have a large growing city and still deliver affordable housing, I would not look to Tokyo but, of course to one of the USA’s fastest growing cities:
    * Houston MHP2MI ratio: 1.94 (

    Houstin has a median house price to median household income ratio of under 2 ! What could Auckland learn from this ?

    1. It is interesting you mention Houston because its inner city intensification practices are not that different to Tokyo’s. They are much freer to intensify than Auckland is -as I point out in my article. So I think an argument can be made about how intensification can be part of affordable housing reforms. I don’t think your price per sqm claims/facts (I haven’t checked them) change that argument.

  4. Auckland average house price is NZ$4,827 per square metre.
    Tokyo average house price is US$3636 (NZ$5,032) per square metre.

      1. Uh, look more closely. The numbers are for the central, most desirable locations within city centre.

        “Districts researched:
        Chiyoda: Banjo and Kojimachi
        Minato: Aoyama, Harajuku, Shirokane, Azabu, Roppongi, Takanawa and Omotesando
        Shibuya: Hiroo, Daikanyama, Ebisu, Shooto, Yoyogi-Uehara”

        Similarly, the numbeo site is useless. It doesn’t even list sample size for Christ’s sake.

        1. Well actually, the article claims “Tokyo-Yokohama has a median house price to median household income ratio of 4.7, while Auckland has a ratio of 10.0 …” and all I say is the difference is more likely due to the much smaller house SIZE rather than and improved affordability due to cost. Still waiting to hear whether overall house size has any in the figures used in the article.

          Oh, and you complain about my sources but at least I cite them WITH LINKs so you can check. This is better than Anthony and, with all due respect to Brendon who did write a very interesting article, the articles author.

  5. In PJ O’Rourke’s book holidays in hell he describes a river cruise in the Soviet Union with a group of American socialists. At each desperate looking city the lefties try to put a positive spin on things by asking the guide “What is the cost of housing as a percentage of workers wages?”. Maybe a big part of our housing affordability problem is that in Auckland wages are just too damned low. The Government and business does everything they can to keep us as a low wage economy.

    1. Mfwic here is another travelers report from Marie Agness Bertaud -wife and professional colleague of urban theorist Alain Bertaud -who I quoted in my article.

      Thanks! great article!
      Alain and I were in Tokyo and Toyama in November. We had long walk in suburban areas. We were stuck by the tolerance for large variations in lot sizes, type of buildings and commercial mix. This results in a kind of messy look, which is not unpleasant when moving around. Planners and city managers seems to concentrate on what they should always do: superb maintenance of road surface, signage and cleanness, but benign neglect for everything within private plot boundaries! what a good lesson for our New York City planners who restrict the type of zone where an «umbrella repair shop» or a « supply for artist retail shop» (no kidding, this is real) should be located!

  6. Auckland’s housing crisis is easy to fix – just fire all the planners (give their salaries back to ratepayers) and let land owners do what they like with a small set of restrictions to protect their neighbours (such as height to boundary, industrial zones, etc). While we’re at it, get rid of the building code for residential buildings under 3 stories.
    We don’t have rules telling you what car you must drive, what it must look like, how it must be built, how long it must last for, what colour it must be, etc. Why do we need them for houses?

      1. For better and worse, those rules for cars provide a nice metaphor for how city planning in Japan works, though.

        Like cars, the rules are set nationally, by a bunch of technocrats sitting in office buildings in Tokyo. They do not vary from place to place. They do not account for “local conditions”.

        Like cars, the rules are mostly set undemocratically. They are not generally voted on or changed much via public consultation.

        Like cars, the rules are predictable. Developers (like car manufacturers) know what will be approved and what won’t, years in advance.

        Like cars, it’s a massive pain doing something not envisaged by the rules, so almost no-one ever does it for a small, one-off project.

        Like cars, mass production is much more common than bespoke products.

        Like cars, houses end up being cheap, depreciating consumer products for most people. (Though like cars, some people go all out customising them).

        There’s upsides and downsides to this, but it is similar to how most other things are regulated in most countries. City planners in Japan working for local government do not have much ability to regulate the private sector. They focus on the public realm – streets, public transport, parks, waterways, public buildings and so on. Along with public-private ventures, and the odd centrepiece project, such as a downtown revitalization or something.

    1. I think the RMA needs to be reformed so that in urban areas the default should be no restrictions on development and every individual rule needs to be justified. Currently we just accept that there will be rules everywhere on everything and appealants have to challenge to get rid of them/relax them. Councils should have to stand up in court if they intend to force people to build dwellings larger than they want or further from the boundary than they want.

      1. aggreed. Funny how the government doesn’t even allow the council to set reasonable speed limits on its own roads, yet it lets councils make a million and one rules about what houses can be built where.

    2. Yes why don’t we also get rid of building inspectors as builder will act responsibly and build safe buildings that don’t leak. We could sack all the health inspectors. If someone runs a cafe that is dirty the market will mean people won’t go there. We could get rid of building regulations. I am sure no one would build ever block a fire escape. We could get rid of those daft lines on ships. Nobody would be fool enough to over load one. We could get rid of laws altogether – most people are basically good. We could get rid the fire service, I mean fires are rare events. But try as we might we will never get rid of stupid people.

      1. Those examples are hardly similar. If I’m going to pay hundreds of thousands for a house I should get it inspected first. Most home inspections will find unsafe practices. If a house has decent eves it is probably weather tight. You don’t need to pay architects, engineers and council 50k to make sure a house is weather tight and safe.

      2. There is a difference between laws that ensure safety and laws that ensure quality. Do you think the government should have laws saying that every item bought in NZ must last 50 years? Should th government check every plastic bucket bought at the warehouse for quality? No. So why do we let them check our houses for us?

        1. Plastic buckets, in contrast to buildings, are:

          – not a major determinant of the populations health
          – not a safety risk in case of earthquakes etc
          – churned out by very simple manufacturing processes
          – easy for consumers to assess at a glance
          – not one of the most substantial assets which our finance system lends against
          – valued at a small fraction of household incomes, rather than a large multiple

  7. Intensification instead of sprawl. Upwards instead of outwards? What a SNAFU for those that bought into that upwards Phallic icon on top of the New Lynn carpark just next to the Railway station. I liked it every time I passed by,, those yellow parts, the quaint balconies,the envious views… and now those poor ba****ds that invested in their view, those facing west have the view replaced with a quickly rising plywood shuttered concrete monster.
    Bet those apartments have lost significant value now, I hope the new apartments, if thats what is rising, dont find more suckers..
    Fu**wit design, the planners are probably laughing…

    1. “[Sprawl] instead of [intensification]. [Outwards] instead of [upwards]? What a SNAFU for those that bought into that [Sideways] Phallic icon [literally anywhere]. I liked it every time I passed by,, those yellow parts, the quaint balconies,the envious views… and now those poor ba****ds that invested in their view, those facing [some direction] have the view replaced with a quickly rising plywood shuttered concrete monster.
      Bet those [houses] have lost significant value now, I hope the new [houses], if thats what is rising, dont find more suckers..
      Fu**wit design, the planners are probably laughing…”

      Views have no protection in New Zealand law, anyone buying a property for the view who is unaware that it can be built out has not performed adequate due diligence. This has nothing to do with poor design or planning.

      1. I think it has everything to do with poor design and planning. The amenities current residents enjoy are not even considered.
        Didn’t a Wellington home owner who suffered a neighbour erecting an obtrusive fence that blocked their view win a court case over losing amenity/enjoyment ?
        This doesn’t apply to New Lynn tower residents?
        Planners and designers don’t care?

        1. At least you have shade from the summer evening sun, that plywood cloud literally has a silver lining

          One thing I learnt from living on a council estate in the UK is the fastest way to change someone from a communist into a right wing nimby is to sell them some property. It doesn’t take long for “progressive” to become a dirty word when attributable to any potentially property-value-affecting change in the local environment.

        2. One of the first rules of property – if they can build something on one site, chances are that something very similar can be built on the adjacent land. Never take a view for granted. (Public open space possibly excepted).

        3. How to capitalize on a view:
          1: Develop a first row of houses
          2: sell them, touting the Great View (usually on the sea).
          3: Develop the next row of houses, on the seaward side of the original row (which will unfortunately block the view from the original first row).
          4: sell them, touting the Great View (usually on the sea).
          5: repeat step 3 and 4 until built up.

          The same process is happening with apartments in the CBD.

        4. “I think it has everything to do with poor design and planning. The amenities current residents enjoy are not even considered.”

          That’s good planning. Illegally considering the views that a resident enjoys would you poor planning.

        5. ‘Illegally considering….’
          Thank God for Nimbyism and may it continue to gain power and traction to stymy this planning lunacy. The sooner Auckland has planning laws like much of California where individuals and local communities have the power to curtail intensification the better.

        6. Dgd – these laws basically ensure that those who are already in get to dictate what else can happen in their suburb. This basically ensures that those who are well off enough to afford, or have inherited get to ensure they keep the nice areas to themselves.

          This is a big problem in Queenstown, where those who are already in and who have their views of the lake and mountains, ensure that no one else can build in sight of their house, even if it doesn’t block their views. It’s one of the main reasons cafe and supermarket workers that serve them have to drive up to an hour on icy roads from places like Cromwell to serve them.

        7. Jezza: those supermarket and cafe workers in Queenstown – is the solution really more intensification and affordable housing closer to their workplace? even though the residents, nimbys, don’t want that.
          Or instead of driving on icy roads is the answer an RT system from towns such as cromwell, rapid rail? oh no! hasen’t all the rail been lifted?

        8. Dgd – in short I would say yes, but others including very influential NIMBYs in Queenstown would disagree with me.

          There has never been a railway to Queenstown and it would be a seriously expensive proposition – ~60km through mountanous terrain, which would beg the question of who would pay for it.

          If we were to protect every existing view practically nothing would ever be able to be built. If all the views in the CBD had been protected from say 1920, where would we house the 100,000+ people who currently live or work in the CBD?

        9. The New Lynn tower and Wellington situations are not identical. In the case of New Lynn plans allowed for other tall buildings so the view was not guaranteed, which would be factored into the price. In the Wellington situation planning rules did not allow the couple’s view to be blocked, while I don’t agree with those planning rules necessarily, the amount they would have paid for that property would have been on the expectation of views remaining, so I’d completely support his victory.

          If views were guaranteed to those who were first there it would be impossible to build anything more, except maybe on a steep hill.

    2. You’re looking at that from your point of view. I’m sure the people who bought there are happy to be able to own a new dwelling in a fairly quickly developing town centre with handy access to bars, restaurants and public transit.

  8. I would like to live in a city that is both attractive and affordable. I dont believe these two outcomes are mutually exclusive.

    If we stop letting baby boomers treat property as a retirement plan we would achieve this, but no keep on bagging planners and other laws that set standards in society rather than focussing on the real problems which is our completely dysfunctional financial regulations.

  9. 13,500 square km is the contiguous area of Greater Tokyo. Tokyo has grown outwards for hundreds of years and has become a successful city.

    Allowing intensification across all of Auckland is a great idea, that won’t work. It won’t work, because unlike the successful cities of the world Auckland is not allowed to grow outwards. As there remains no inexpensive land in Auckland, it is not profitable to build much in Auckland.

    Arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is fun, but Auckland City has already hit the iceberg of unique planning.

    Auckland develops massive new areas of sprawl, low density suburbs constructed as exurbs miles from the city boundary. That is the plan – massive sprawl/minimal outward growth. Think Houston, but with way more sprawl. The Tokyo experience cannot be contorted enough to work within the constraints of Auckland planning.

  10. As an Urban Planner, as someone who lived in Japan for a couple of years in the 90s, and as someone who majored in Asian history and geography in my first degree, I thought I’d offer the following thoughts. We need to be very careful comparing Japan to NZ, and speculating on what is causing what in terms of differences in housing costs.They have:
    – A very different tax system
    – Very different cultural values including how they invest
    – Related to the above, very different values on what a house means. In particular, the Japanese tend to invest far less in the building, placing more importance on land value
    – Very different demographics: very low population growth, very little migration and an ageing population
    – Very different household dynamics, in terms of household formation etc. Many young Japanese live at home rather than flat, and intergenerational living is quite common
    – A very different construction industry

  11. Summary: It would take a very well thought out and comprehensive study to un-pick all these factors properly. A more liberal planing regime is only one factor in the mix

  12. Summary – better urban and local fast and regular transport consistent with geographic architecture and then everything else follows from that. In NZ geography disables good public transport and vehicles are the main mode of transport. That does not bode well for intensification which in itself will diminish social and lifestyle quality. Leading to social problems in a period of 10-20 yrs. But few can see it happening. Either plan for NZ to be a character wide-open space enjoyable lifestyle nation with small cities joined by fast rail transit systems or become a polluted stinking village.

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