This month, I’ve pulled out some of the data behind the RCG Development Tracker, to give a picture of the people helping to solve Auckland’s housing crisis. I’ve taken a narrow focus here – just looking at apartment developers, builders and architects – but they’re an important part of the solution.

Apartments are helping to provide more housing choice across Auckland, and that’s a good thing. As research from Colliers and others has shown, we’re starting to get apartments not just in the city centre, but in other places too – often with good access to nearby town centres and public transport. Some developers, like Ockham Residential, have specialised in these medium-density non-CBD apartments.

The “top 10” apartment developers in Auckland

First up, the top 10 apartment developers in Auckland, based on the total number of units:

Conrad Properties is the biggest developer by a country mile: they have almost twice as many apartments completed, under construction or being marketed as the #2, the University of Auckland. Lily Nelson is in at number three – that’s the company behind Sugartree, a three-building complex launched in the darkest depths of 2012 and still being completed. One building is finished, the second one is just about finished, and the third started construction earlier in the year.

A quick note on the university (and some other companies shown here and below, e.g. Unilodge) – these “student apartments” can be a bit tricky to compare with other apartments. Some of them might simply be single rooms, with a bed, a desk and not much else. These aren’t technically ‘independent dwellings’ like most apartments, which are self-contained and include bathroom and kitchen facilities. For the top 10, I’ve counted the number of single rooms as if they’re all individual apartments, but that could be seen as a bit overstated.

One more note – I’ve excluded retirement villages, but they could also be seen as some of the biggest apartment developers in Auckland. Most of the new retirement village units being built are apartments, and that’s a section of the market (and the supply solution) just like student apartments.

The “top 10” apartment builders in Auckland

Anyway, on to the top 10 apartment builders:

Kalmar is the biggest company here, followed by Hawkins and Dominion. These names, and the others on the list, are all commercial construction companies – they’ve always been involved in commercial construction, such as offices, shopping centres or hotels, which tends to be on a different scale than house building.

The “top 10” apartment architects in Auckland

As for the top 10 apartment architects:

Leuschke Group and Paul Brown & Architects have both specialised heavily in apartments in recent years, whereas many of the other companies on this list are simply major architecture firms. Ockham Residential is an interesting exception – they’re an apartment developer that also designs their own buildings, what economists call “vertically integrated”. The major retirement villages often do this too, and in fact Ryman and Summerset are their own developers, builders and architects.

So there you have it: the biggest 10 apartment developers, builders and architects in Auckland. Those three roles are the largest ones for apartments, but all sorts of other companies are involved too: engineering, planning, landscaping and more.

And the “top 10” are only a small fraction of the housing being built across Auckland. The RCG Development Tracker shows almost 6,000 apartments and terraces completed since 2012, 7,600 under construction and 3,300 being marketed. Plus there’s standalone houses and retirement villages, so you can more than double those figures.

But it’s still not enough, compared with Auckland’s population growth…

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22 comments

    1. Hi Sam, you’re right, Tuatahi isn’t in the graphs above. I actually finished this post towards the end of July before Ockham started marketing that one (it was going to be the July development update post…)

      In fact, they’ve actually gotten straight into construction there, as Ockham often do!

  1. An article about retirement villages would be interesting. In North Shore they seem to be the one building project that goes from bare ground to inhabited fastest. The few I have visited are clearly up market. Maybe instead of aiming to build for first time buyers the government should be encouraging retirement villages for middle class and working class demographics; this would release under-utilised houses for first time buyers and achieve the higher intensity housing so popular in this blog.

  2. Conrad Properties may be the biggest apartment developer but the quality of some of their existing stock is questionable, as to is their target audience, in regards to easing Auckland’s housing crisis.

    1. Thanks Will – yes, it’s quite interesting breaking it down to the level of ‘complete/ under construction/ marketing’ as Dominion comes through as currently having the most projects on the go. And unlike some of the other builders, their counts aren’t ‘inflated’ by having lots of student apartments included in the count.

  3. Most apartments are patently unaffordable.
    We need a more far more interventionist approach to really address the housing issue.

  4. Some of the above projects are Apartments – others are more accurately described as dog-kennels – the architects who design the really crap designs should be held to account. Let’s face it and be honest: there is some appalling dross being created in Auckland, and some in Wellington as well, but truthfully, it is mainly Auckland. I’ve long been a promoter of only building decent apartments – there is little point building crappy apartments as they only turn out to become slums in a shorter period of time rather than take years. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to an avaricious developer and say “No” but on occasions, it needs to be done.

    1. I can see what you mean about quality – some instant slums were built in the last boom cycle a decade ago.
      However we should not be too dictatorial – for example the 40sm limit sounds good if you have the money but there are many people who enjoy living on their own in a small place which can be achieved in a well designed 25sm. Maybe the minimum area rule should be replaced with a design requirement for all small apartments to be easily merged – say two 22sm side by side so only a door needs to be added to convert into a single 44sm.
      Council rules need to cover safety and minimising future maintenance but leave it to market forces to decide the rest. Market forces include insurance companies and bank mortgage rules.

      1. Bob, I’m disinclined to agree. We have some architects and developers building ‘dual key’ apartments down here too, and they are pretty abysmal, despite having a 20m2 next to a 35m2 apartment. Tenants I’ve spoken to are always glad to get out.

        1. Tenants are perfectly capable of deciding for themselves if a dwelling has enough bedrooms, or bathrooms, or cupboards. I’m sure they are capable of deciding if floor area is enough without the council doing it for them.

          1. I totally disagree. It is not a question of tenants “deciding for themselves” but more that people will keep taking the lowest common denominator if they have no other choice. The market will always offer the highest possible outcomes for those with unlimited budgets – there is an apartment for sale in New York at $342 million (US) which is disgustingly obscene. But the market (as surely you have noticed) will simply shit upon those at the lower end, UNLESS they are forced to provide a minimum standard. Spatial standards should be one of those minimums, and most civilised countries have minimum spatial standards.

          2. So in other words, ‘Screw you; I don’t think this space is big enough; pay more rent’.

            Your attitude reeks of paternalism, the idea that the poor cannot make the best choices for themselves and therefore the rest of us should do it for them.

            The tenants who chose the small apartments also had choices of bigger apartments that they decided they couldn’t afford. Forcing 2,000 20m2 apartments to be 40m2, simply removes 1,000 apartments from the market, which makes all impoverished people worse off.

            The problem is that the market has failed. Forcing poor people to rent larger apartments just punishes them twice.

          3. SB – I completely agree. It’s a bit like Gareth Morgan’s defeatist policy for tenants, he is basically giving up on actually making housing affordable.

            These problems are all solved by increasing supply, houses become cheaper to buy and rentals become more plentiful therefore landlords have to compete to get good tenants in. That will definitely increase the quality of rentals, whether they are apartments or houses.

        1. They certainly are, I lived in the Landings for more than five years. It was one of my first guest posts in fact: https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2013/05/08/guest-post-why-i-love-intensification-in-my-neighbourhood/.

          The apartments are selling for “bargain basement” prices because they’re currently undergoing an expensive remediation, and they’re leasehold to boot, so people are worried about the possibility of ground rents increasing.

    1. So it does – thanks for picking that up. Although I see now that Dominion site fencing has gone up around the proposed student accommodation site at 35 Whitaker Place, so we giveth on one hand and taketh away on the other!

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