Leading image from Don Kostelec via twitter.

Creating as compact a city as we can makes good sense from a climate and liveability point of view, yet Auckland is still extending its reach into farmland.

Below are some excerpts from two interesting studies – the effects of going up in the US, and of going out in the UK.

Building up in the US

In the US, the study is a brief look into housing affordability in Minneapolis and St Paul. These twin cities are similar in size. Minneapolis is the more modern, cosmopolitan city with more businesses and a stronger economy. St Paul is more historic. (For extra information, here’s the cost of living calculator for the two cities.)

St. Paul, population 308,000, added 4,600 new housing units during ten years of a booming economy; Minneapolis, population 425,000 built five times that amount…

The short story is this: Minneapolis has built a lot of new apartments over the last five years, and now actual rents are finally going down, almost all across the board…

neighboring Saint Paul provides an ideal control group. The two cities provide as good a case study of how new market-rate construction affects housing affordability as you’re likely to find in this country. For all intents and purposes, the two neighboring cities are basically the same housing market. Most people buying houses in “the cities” look at both cities; it is the same with apartment shoppers. In general, St. Paul is around 10% more affordable.

The number of new housing units is shown in this table:

Here is the rental data from Minneapolis (on the left) versus St. Paul (on the right). Note that rents are generally higher in Minneapolis:

Here is how rental housing affordability has changed over the last year:

The biggest shift in affordability has been in Minneapolis where, for example, people on 50% of the area mean income (AMI) can afford 17% of the rental market, compared to only 10% the year before. similarly, people on 80% of the area mean income can now afford 80% of the rental market, up from 62% the year before. That’s a huge jump. The analysis discusses the results:

Part of the difference is the hotter economy in Minneapolis, which is wealthier and has far more jobs near downtown and the University. But part of that is also differences in zoning and land use policies. Minneapolis has ended single-family zoning (though only recently), passed broad-scale upzoning, and has accelerated reducing and removing parking minimums. At the same time, they have instituted an inclusionary zoning policy (though only recently), passed renter’s rights protections, and instituted a higher living wage.

Without knowing much about the history of housing in Minneapolis, it appears that removing parking minimums and allowing intensification has been effective recently at increasing housing affordability, something we often hear is mainly determined by ensuring there are no barriers to “land supply”.

Building out in the UK

A new report from the UK, entitled Garden Villages and Garden Towns: Visions and Reality was released last month by Transport for New Homes:

Transport for New Homes is interested in transport and new housing development. We wanted to know whether garden villages and garden towns would really be different from the car-based places that we had seen on our tours of recently built estates. We wanted to see if the right investment in transport was ready to bring the right results, in terms of access, lifestyles and the facilitation of good places to live.

We therefore undertook research looking at masterplans, visions, infrastructure delivery plans, transport assessments and other documentation put forward by developers and local authorities wanting to progress garden villages and towns… We also visited sites proposed for new homes and the new ‘garden towns’ to see how they were placed to take up their new role in modern planning. We looked at what was planned and funded in terms of all day bus and rail services to garden communities and whether safe walking and cycling to and from these new places to towns and railway stations was possible on an everyday basis.

The vision expressed for these new communities is attractive:

Looking through the many hundreds of pages of documentation describing the intentions of developers, their consultants and urban designers was in many ways very encouraging. Modern garden villages and towns presented a vision for a better way of life. It was as though planners and developers acknowledged that we needed to buck the trend when it comes to car-based living in sprawling housing estates where people  are isolated and there isn’t much to do unless you drive out. It was clear to us, reading the literature, that the garden settlements were to bring us a future that was completely different. They were not supposed to be ordinary new car-based estate with homes crammed together and overlooking, instead of gardens, car parks.

Therefore the images presented in the garden communities documentation show people walking and cycling in places designed for walkability rather than cars. There are wide pavements, urban trees, shops and parks. There are public transport hubs and a mix of development. The boring housing estate dominated by parking is out. Vibrant places and local community are in. Sustainable transport plays a central role and brings people in to use shops, cafés and other local facilities. Commuting by rapid transit and new railway stations are all in the pipeline. It is a brand new era of sociable and green low carbon living.

The results, however, were quite different:

Having found that the visions for garden communities were all about sustainable living with walking, cycling and public transport all key to enabling this, it was with some amazement that we found that nearly every new garden community hinged on major road improvements to cater for a massive expected rise in car use…

Not only were the garden communities in the wrong location for sustainable transport but also there was an explicit wish to couple new housing with new roads.

The study noted:

Outdated transport modelling concentrates on new traffic and how to cope with it… When we looked at planning applications for garden communities, we could see the problem clearly. The main transport focus of the Transport Assessment is on the road network. Databases and software combine to populate a model of the road network as more and more traffic is imagined onto it as housing is built. Roads and junctions that will get to full capacity are flagged up… Once junctions and roads projected into the future are seen to be ‘at capacity’, the idea is then to seek funds to ‘unblock the network’ and ‘mitigate’ the effects of the development’. There is no idea that the future might not be about driving!

Here’s what Transport for New Homes conclude needs to happen to help achieve the vision. It’s not a small endeavour:

Finally, here are some pictures and commentary of some of the communities studied:

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68 comments

  1. Those UK “garden villages” look truly awful! They look like they are as much a “garden village” as the east west link is a “multi modal transport project” (and they probably had similar looking marketing).
    I find it astounding how bad British house designers have become. Most of the old stuff is lovely (including terraced mansions etc in London), the new stuff is almost always absolutely revolting. Not that we are much better; some of our new subdivisions with stupid curving roads and body corp mandated grey houses that are oversized are going to age very badly (I personally think they look terrible already but some people obviously disagree).
    When we do high density it has to be modern. Not that I have a problem with modern, but again it can really date. Why can’t we build another Ponsonby?

    1. Those masonry terraced houses in London and timber villas in Auckland were the mass produced economy builds of their day. They used generic floor plans, standard building techniques and the most common building materials. The reason they’re now expensive is because of the land they sit on being in close proximity to the city centre and the resulting amenity values.

      Those old houses weren’t necessarily built with aesthetics top of mind either. A lot of the things we like about them are just a result of the construction techniques used (masonry or weatherboards adding texture to otherwise blank walls) or practical concerns (chimneys because heating was by fireplaces, big roof overhangs to protect the timber cladding). Some of the other features (bay windows, big timber front doors) were to mimic or try and evoke the idea of much larger houses. Even the name ‘villa’ originally referred to a country mansion for wealthy Romans.

      1. You have a point. But those terraced houses across London have proven as easy to upgrade with more modern technologies such as electricity, insulation, plumbing & inside toilets, showers, air conditioning & central heating, natural gas for water heating & cooking, double-glazed windows, etc.

        Not sure if that’s so true with those timber houses across NZ though. Especially after people stripped their original weatherboards of hardwoods back in the ’80s & ’90s and replaced them with crummy old Pinus radiata.

    2. I actually live in the one focused on here in the article (Aylesbury).

      HS2 is being built 200 meters from my front door but no stop at all for the town. A return train ticket to London costs nearly £30 so everyone drives in.

      My place, built in the 80s, is in quite a nice garden village area but everything built post 2000 is like all the new development popping up around NZ, car dependant with no green space and poor street layout that is detrimental to public transport. It is also quite poorly built to maximise return to the developers who have reaped a fortune using the UK Govt’s. Help to Buy scheme.

      1. Thanks, Martin.

        How far away is the nearest station for HS2? Is there any sustainable connection to that station being put in?

    1. I’d expect that supporting infrastructure for all new suburbs was subsidised by central and local governments from the start.

  2. Has anyone else come to the conclusion that any ‘study’ is almost always a waste of time? I reckon in 99% of cases the result of any ‘study’ is the result that the authors/sponsors either expected or desired from the start. For every study that ‘proves’ high density housing is best there will be another that ‘proves’ sprawl is best. I have even looked at a lot of health / food research and it really looks like they have an outcome in mind before they begin (either a commercial outcome or a do-gooder ‘this must be bad/good for you’ outcome). When the data doesn’t match what they want to see, the data is wrong and they slice/dice/exchange. But when the data does match what they want to see they don’t even question whether the data is valid.

    1. Yes but then I look at the long term results. Clearly some studies are fighting against the establishment while others probably only get away with their rubbish because they’re supported by it.

    2. Absolutely jimbo.
      And we disagree with the ones we don’t like and agree with the ones we do like.
      All becomes a bit pointless really.

  3. I once built a traffic model that includes Bicester and Aylesbury. I made the mistake of saying the name as Bik-ester and was promptly corrected “it’s Bister”.

    1. We’re you living in that area? I spent 15 years living in and around Aylesbury, around half of which was spent in Haddenham, a rather pleasant village of 4500.

      1. Part of the Aylesbury garden village plan was to relocate the Aylesbury Canal Society moorings from the historic terminal basin of the Aylesbury canal to a new dug basin over a mile from the town centre.
        The historic town basin was totally cleared all historic structures and surrounded by bland multistory buildings. A fairly soulless place now.
        The new basin was immediately overlooked by the new village housing those , 3 to 4 story apartment blocks with car parking yards behind that appear in the photographs. Bugger all gardens though! There was an hourly bus loop bus from about 1k away that took nearly as long as walking the 2k into town and the Railway Station. The closest shops supermarket and pub are about 800m away.
        For 5 years we had our canal boat moored there for the winters, firstly in the town basin and then at the new basin as the new “village” was built in the former fields. So we would spend a few days in April or May there provisioning the boat for a summer of cruising, then a few days in September or May winterising the boat and packing up for our return.
        The relatively new enclosed shopping mall in town was in serious decline even 4 years ago with BHS and House of Fraser closing, so with further high street chain closures must be in a dire state now.

        1. Small world, Don. I recall walks along the canal towpath.
          When I lived in Aylesbury it was manufacturing that was in decline: Nestle, the book printer ( Hazell, Watson and Viney), New Holland etc. and the company that I worked for.
          Aylesbury itself didn’t offer me much (except for my wife whom I met at a party there!) but the Chilterns and surrounding villages were great for walking and pubbing (and filming Morse and Midsomer Murders TV series).

        2. Actually quite a lot is open where compared to High Wycombe, Watford and London. All places decimated by Covid shopping wise.

        3. Covid-wise must be great having all those extra billions for the NHS thanks to Brexit…that and taking back control.

        4. @ MFD, my wife works for the NHS and has seen a significant increase in her pay as promised. I look at home (NZ) from the UK and fear that long term the way NZ has kept the virus out will be detrimental to the countrie’s economy, especially in my trade aviation/tourism, so important to NZ bur to its lack of infrastructure, manufacturing and isolation.

      2. No I lived in Belsize Park in London and worked in Southwark but built a model of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire for the Dept of Transport. They were manically building roads through any parts of England’s green and pleasant land at the time.

  4. It’s really a bit depressing that here, in 2020, the vast majority of development occurring is just the same old, same old 20th century model.

  5. Flat Bush is a large area with thousands of 2 story, look alike, 3-5 bedroom tightly packed houses. A few 3 level apartment buildings with water tight issues and some 3 level terrace houses. Minimal views of the street or a neighbours back yard are from 1 or 2 upstairs rooms.
    The double garage is often converted into a living area for a boarder or used for storage. So there are 4-6 adults living in these homes and each require a car because of the distance to travel to work or school.
    The house has a small or no garden. 3 or 4 cars are parked on driveway or verge.
    The busses are regular but patronage is low.
    There are some unconnected cycling lanes that are rarely used.
    The new shopping center on busy Ormiston road has a large parking building. I rarely see anybody walking to the shops.
    I think that just a few 5 or 10 storty apartment buildings would add variety to the area and give people more choices.
    Living in distant suburbs doesn’t encourage people to attend an event that would require 2 or 3 hours travelling. I doubt many people from this area would be attending the rugby at Eden Park as ot would be a half day venture.

  6. What is wrong with the photo above when it says underneath it “…… car first …. people second ”

    If it was “people first and car second” that car would be left out on the street.

    I think it is cool, I would buy something like that if I had the money & the section was too small.

    1. What is right with it would be a better question. I honestly think it looks like one of those ‘you only had one job’ photos where someone screwed up their job.

      First of all it is a new build in an area that is not supposed to be car dependent. That is the people living there don’t need to own a car, therefore don’t need space to park it.

      Secondly I can’t even work out if it is a parking space for that home or access to other buildings. Nowhere in the photo is there any green to indicate a plant let alone lawn is growing.

      That’s two points without even looking at the fact the floor plan leaves a lot to desire. Poor access and a french door that leads absolutely nowhere in a building that looks like it was designed with an above ground basement and is really ugly. No one with small children would choose to live here unless they had no other option.

      1. yea, well that is your narrow minded perception tells you. As they say “you can not judge a book by the cover” it might have a grass area out the back.

        1. Did you read anything beyond my not liking it. There might be grass out the back but there is none to be seen in the photo. It wasn’t just my own perception as I showed the photo to others before commenting.
          Narrow front door and steep stairs leading to living space is a nightmare for any parent with young children. I don’t see this as a building that would interest anyone beyond car centered people, which is not the demographic that a garden housing area is supposedly aiming to attract.

  7. I did a quick google search on high density housing in Minneoplis and the narrative was very different to the article above…. It seems you can choose statistics to support whatever point of view you have. Maybe St Pauls is just worse?

    http://www.citypages.com/news/minneapolis-housing-plan-rewards-developers-punishes-working-people/479556123

    Regardless, I think we all know the difference between urban sprawl and high density housing. Also if you can afford it 90% of people would prefer a back yard and if you can’t afford it you make do with an apartment, the exception being the elderly or those that spend a lot of time offshore and want a lock and leave.

    1. Penthouse apartments in most cities are very desirable and expensive. The top stories of the new 59 story building in downtown Auckland sold quickly. All other levels are popular too. For families or people living in our CBD where we have many businesses they are ideal for all the best that our city offers.

    2. Nonsense. Lots of people would prefer to live in higher density housing typologies that put them closer to amenities. The reason they don’t are that those options simply aren’t available on the market. There are lots of contributing factors to this (planning rule constraints, the structure of the construction sector etc.) but lack of demand is not the problem.

      1. Yes but the only way we will get density en masse is if the government builds it. There’s limits to the number of people that can afford 2 bedroom apartments at 650-700k. Those prices need to be no higher than 500- 550k, and that will only happen if the govt builds and sells them at no profit to first home buyers.
        Until this is much more widely acknowledged and accepted we won’t get the transformation we are aspiring to. And we will keep seeing lots of greenfield stuff, which is usually much better value for money for housing consumers.
        Hopefully KO will start doing more of this.
        Otherwise higher density development will be patchy, and only for upper middle to high income earners (apart from.social housing) .

        1. That is currently true but only because the government isn’t removing the impediments preventing the private sector from engaging in medium and high density developments. The impediments are many and varied so couldn’t be solved by passing a single piece of legislation or funding a particular program. This prevents it being a high priority for any government because it can’t be achieved in a single 3 year parliamentary term and the benefits will take years to manifest.

          As an example: The Resource Management Act. Every party in parliament agrees that it isn’t working and needs a complete overhaul. However it’s really complicated legislation that impacts seemingly every vested interest in the country. The last National government was elected on a platform that included RMA reform and didn’t manage to achieve it after 9 years in power.

          However RMA reform wouldn’t solve all the problems preventing quality medium and high density development. There’s also a bunch of issues in the construction sector and finance sector that need addressing.

        2. Do you know what LogarithmicBear, I used to think a bit that way too, a few years ago. But now I see the criticism of the RMA and planning regulation as, generally speaking, a big distraction. More efficient and more enabling regulations is certainly an important pre-condition, but it’s not much more than that. You also get to a point where further deregulation may help reduce prices, but starts having nasty livability and amenity implications. For example, removing outlook space, private outdoor space, and minimum floor area standards could make a significant difference to reducing prices, but could also lead to some very low amenity ‘sausage flat’ type of outcomes.
          In terms of the other person’s point on KB – yes, but those price points are mainly happening in remoter, lower value locations, not in good central locations.

        3. Zen Man, you misunderstand my argument. I am not arguing for wholesale deregulation, just different regulations.

          If you talk to some urban planners about the RMA (the legislative framework in which they work), they’ll all tell you the same thing: That it doesn’t give them the right tools to achieve the positive outcomes we all want.

          You mentioned sausage flats and they’re a good example of this. A housing typology that uses land as efficiently as possible within the constraints of boundary setback requirements, height restrictions and minimum parking requirements. It’s actually a terribly inefficient use of land and living in them sucks but it is what developers are allowed to develop.

          You can’t defend the status quo by warning that changing it might result in negative outcomes occurring that are already occurring under the status quo.

        4. But you started your point with the comment that the status quo is only so because of the impediments to the private sector. Which is highly suggestive that you think it is regulatory barriers that are mainly getting in the way, although you acknowledge those barriers are many and varied.

          I stand by my main point, which is that any further change to regulations especially in Auckland, will abide by the law of diminishing returns in terms of meaningful impact in enabling more density, and coupled with corresponding issues of amenity loss.

          The other problem with reducing regulations is that it often results in increased land value, which may help incentivise some level of intensification but does little to meaningfully address affordability, except at the margins.

      2. Yes, but supply of buildings isn’t the only problem. In Auckland public space by default is negative space. Where you stay out, or get out asap. And if you live in an apartment you tend to be a bit more exposed so to speak.

        Just walk around in the CBD for a while, where all the apartments are. dr wrote an epic rant on this. You don’t even have to read, just look at the photos.

        https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2018/02/27/western-victoria-quarter-part-3-vehicle-prioritisation-pedestrian-design-failures/

        In an environment like this, you’d certainly want some private space.

    3. While you may technically be right in cities a decent stand alone house and backyard close to the centre is only affordable to a few. The more relevant question might be would people prefer a terraced house 5km from the CBD or a decent backyard 30km from the CBD?

      1. See my comment just above. Greenfield housing typically offers much better value, hence it’s popularity. Major transformation will only be possible with government intervention.

    4. Part of the problem there might be that all the older homes are being bought and done up to make television shows. Half the Living Channel seems to be set in Minneapolis or St Paul. Five day Flip, Stay or Go, Rehab Addict.

    5. The zoning regulations of the past that were about segregation are definitely part of Minneapolis’ and St Paul’s story, Matthew. I too am very wary of attempts to use “trickle down affordability” concepts. Note, however, that the article you linked is from April 2018. We need more years’ data to be able to tell the full story, but I think the streets.mn article presents important data that adds to the story. The number of apartments built has been considerable for the population, so we should expect it to have a positive effect on affordability, as well as being a way to house extra population without having to sprawl onto farmland.

  8. We have a problem with leaking pipes and the cost of replacing 5000km? of pipes in Auckland is very high. 8% of water lost.
    This is another of the many costs of a sprawling city.
    So building on farmland at Regis Park is stupid. The cost of new roads, paths, lost farmland, power, waste collection, schools, etc, is very high.
    Better to build apartments and give people choices. Students living in far suburbs are at a distinct disadvantage to those living within walking distance school or university

    1. I don’t know about bad. The affordability change in one year is something we could do with. If we have 4 times the population, those building stats for Minneapolis times four are better than we manage. Doesn’t that make it something like 92000 apartments we would have to have built in ten years instead of the 10,000 or so we have built?

      Our city would be quite different if we had done that.

  9. Is the apartments of same bedrooms in Minneapolis comparable to St Paul in regards of floor size, sunlight, livability and quality of life?

    Is the Minneapolis apartments is mostly dark shoebox with tiny living area?

    1. Ah the beauties of Swiss Rail.
      I think they have never had an arbitary distinction between Heavy and Light Rail, and have just selected what works best for the intended route.
      The lovely rail line between St Gallen and Appenzell is a mix of seperated road side routing, alpine meadow routing, and on road running, also a mix of adhesion running and cog running, but I haven’t a clue whether the vehicle weights were heavy or light. I bet the locals would not either and would wonder how others could get so hung up on debating around such an arbitary difference.

      1. The Swiss don’t have a money problem and they pay high taxes, NZ doesn’t have the wealth the Swiss have and kiwi punters are tax averse.

      2. Greetings Don! For my part the debate between HR and LR in Auckland (and Welly) is not so much over mode, but over whether the intended duty that the lines are expected to perform is appropriate in the public street-environment or not. I would go as far as to say most of the world’s street-running LRT systems perform fairly local, short-distance runs and function as a step-up from bus services in an equivalent environment. This is very distinct from longer-distance regional links serving what are effectively separate major cities such as North Shore, North Western (or even AK Airport). These need ‘proper’ railways on exclusive rights-of-way, whatever the rolling stock that ends up being used.

        The St Gallen-Gais-Appenzell line is a fairly low-patronage operation compared to any of the above. It is a tribute to the Swiss that they provide and maintain (and subsidize) rail in such situations. Any English-speaking country would have closed it down decades ago!
        And incidentally, I did hear that there was consideration at one stage for undergrounding the section leaving St Gallen and bypassing the cog-section with an easier-graded tunnel. I don’t know if this is still in the plan.

        Anyone feel free to critique me if they know of any First-World applications of street-based LRT with the sort of peak-passenger-flows that the Auckland or Wellington examples would be expected to handle. To me this is metro-territory.
        (Calgary maybe, though some of their streets look like rail-corridors https://www.flickr.com/photos/volvob12b/9575196728 )

        1. San Diego springs to mind, there are some others as well. The one difference is they don’t have a Dominion Rd style section, it’s generally either CBD streets and a rail like corridor.

          This is largely what’s planned in Auckland though with the North West and Northern lines, and even most of the SW line would be like this.

        2. Dave I think the Auckland situation really depends on defining the problems to be solved, and the trade off between quality and coverage. For the same money is it better to build twice the length therefore reach twice as many people or build half the length but give the served people a better service? Now as an Aucklander who lives quite centrally and who flew quite a lot, too much to be sustainable, CBD to Airport transport is only an incredibly small part of Auckland transport needs. The main need is to get people reliably from home to work, and from home to their education and leisure venues. There are a large number of critical choke points that need urgently addressing.
          Bus pick up and discharge points plus layover space in the CBD, (a bit like the Courtney Place Railway Station corridor but much much bigger) is already close to saturation. Scrambling to get to the right bus in the ten that turn up at once in Symonds Street is unsustainable. The NW motorway is a grossly misused corridor. The three isthmus NS parallel corridors are reaching saturation. Cross Harbour capacity will reach capacity in a decade or so.
          The Central Rail link will massively increase the capacity of the existing lines but being only double track will soon reach saturation without even adding more branches.
          Street running light rail lines in Central Melbourne, and Manchester seem quite appropriate for Queen Street to provide a big increase in capacity and resilience when paralleled with the new underground railway.
          Connecting Queen Street to a railtrack alongside the NW motorway is perfectly doable. Likewise connecting Queen Street via Fanshaw Street and Beaumont Street into an under harbour tunnel on to a repurposed busway for greatly increased capacity to North Shore destinations.
          The isthmus is much more challenging. Above ground and aboveground stations still sterilise a lot of land below, and are visually very disruptive. Surface running on the 20m corridor is challenging but it was done before. Running speeds will be restricted but the quicker access to stations and the ability to space them closer will provide near comparable journey times for patrons.
          Underground would be great, but money spent here would not be available for the wider network improvements needed.
          And another public transport option for air travellers in all this is almost irrelevant.

  10. Building up or out is the title. For our esteemed minister, we should do both! Up AND out! What happened to his RUB-busting bravado? What happened to all his little cities between Auckland and the Tron?

  11. Interested in more background to these 2 comments.
    “could also lead to some very low amenity ‘sausage flat’ type of outcomes” – Zen Man 2:52 pm
    “sausage flats … living in them sucks” – LogarithmicBear 4:29 pm
    ‘low amenity’ is this about building standards, like sound proofing.
    Does comment ‘sucks’ come from a survey of people living in sausage flats or from someone not living in this type of dwelling.

    1. The thing is you have to buy a relatively large amount of land for a small unit, but you have still no real outdoor living space. It is mostly the driveway on one side and just the minimum setback on the other. Note that many people back out of those driveways basically at full throttle.

      As as with apartments, some are nice but there’s always a chance to get a unit without any soundproofing between adjacent units. That really sucks especially for parents.

      1. “a relatively large amount of land for a small unit, but you have still no real outdoor living space. It is mostly the driveway on one side and just the minimum setback on the other”

        Yes, and this has big implications, city-wide, when considering stormwater ingress and flooding issues. Rather than using sausage flats, a multi-story development can leave good permeable land as gardens.

    2. My comment is informed by spending 3 years living in a sausage flat in Christchurch. In these particular ones there was nothing wrong with the building quality but there was no outdoor space that could be used as living space. The view out my window was of the neighbour’s washing line and 1.8m boundary fence.

      Rather than building 4 flats (accommodating 12 people) down the length of a quarter acre section as a sausage, you could stack them as a mid-rise apartment block providing a lot more outdoor space for the residents. And the upper floors would have better views. However planning rules make this illegal and the legislation that governs the construction industry makes it cheaper to build low density than medium or high density.

      1. ‘However planning rules make this illegal’

        Interested to know where? Christchurch?

        In much of Auckland (this is an Auckland-focused website) what you describe is now possible in many areas. Although is impossible to hit affordable price points due to a) the cost of land b) the cost of multi-level construction.

        1. The same is true of every NZ city but I am specifically talking about Auckland. https://unitaryplanmaps.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/upviewer/

          Much of Auckland’s inner suburbs (with the best active mode and PT access to the CBD) are still single house zoned. Meanwhile in areas zoned for denser development the RMA results in outcomes like Auckland Council not allowed Auckland Council to develop a 4 storey apartment block on a major arterial road with frequent bus routes.

          The cost of land is so high because its use is so inefficient. The cost of multi-level construction could be brought down with greater investment in offsite prefabrication (not new technology, just adopting what is done in some other countries).

          Various legislation and regulations also distort the residential construction market. There are heavy incentives on companies to stay small and not achieve scale. That missing scale is what is needed to enable the investment in offsite prefabrication.

          GreaterAuckland has been discussing these issues for years. I’d recommend going back through some of the older posts if you still need convincing.

  12. I’m based in the UK, working for a transport agency.

    I was involved in a planning exercise for an area which is going to get a lot of new build. It is next to one of the main railway lines, so our interest was to ensure that the area was well-served with a new railway station (easier said than done when the network is already pretty busy) and good bus services. The bus services is the easy bit, as these will be provided commercially anyway.

    What I learnt in the exercise was that the station would need good park-and-ride for it to get any use. Also, that no matter how good the public transport, nearly everyone living in the area would have access to a car, and except for peak commuter journeys, would use it in preference to public transport. And that’s the challenge we’re up against; that, except for a minority of peak commuter trips, cars will always be a more convenient way to travel.

    1. Where was that area? There are a number of areas in the UK (the cities with good public transport networks) where public transport is more convenient and hence preferred to car travel. Obviously outside of that, it is a different story. But accepting current reality is just going to lead to more of the same (unsustainable) entrapment into need for cars, roads and parking. And planning is one point when these choices get baked in. People will readily take the public transport option where it works for them. It takes more effort, but it’s the right answer.

      PS How did you learn that the station would need good park-and-ride for it to get any use?

      1. We realised that park-and-ride would be needed when it dawned on us that the development was not especially high-density, so the proportion of the development living within convenient walking range of the proposed station wasn’t that great. On that basis, people (we figured) would stick with their cars and drive right past the station (possibly to another station, but that was only going to apply for journeys to work in the central city).

        The key thing to remember is end-to-end journey time; it is only in a few instances that using public transport will, on that basis, be faster, What is needed is good service provision – I agree with you there – *and*, active restrictions on car use. That’s the tough bit.

        1. Thanks for your response! I guess a different form of development was asking too much at that time? Can density be added later, or would it require demolition first? What about bicycle access to and good cycle parking facilities at the station? Car ownership is expensive and going to become more so, whilst traffic will become worse. So the restrictions are naturally building and would further, if car use wasn’t subsidised so much at the expense of other options. I’m interested to know what roading provision there was near the development, and what was added as part of it, or may be required to accommodate the increased traffic? Cheers.

        2. Ross, the density is important to consider when making these decisions. I’m not convinced about assuming the way to deal with the density is to provide a lot of park and ride, though.

          To start with, the cycling catchment of the station is much bigger than the walking catchment (about 20 times as big). Yet providing park and ride can considerably affect the safety of the cycling approaches. Also, if the park and ride is only small and charged fully, more people would ride the feeder services, making them more viable, which might increase their frequency, making them more attractive, etc.

          In Auckland, there is pretty poor density in the catchment of stations with park and ride too. Yet the number of people using the park and ride is still a minority of the users of that station. The park and ride has both prevented better land use and affected the experience for other users. These are big negative outcomes, especially when considering the small number of people who get the benefits of the park and ride.

  13. Auckland city is a sick joke, it waste thousands of dollars moving a pedestrian crossing a few meters along centerway road in Orewa, thousands of dollars on a park on Manukau road Epson at the end of Market Road, (just to mention two) and for what just so it can become the “top livable city in the world” now it goes begging to central government for a cash hand out, Central government should do a audit to see how they waste money, but then that idea will go down like a lead balloon because they are both labor party governments.

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