This is a guest post by Aaron Schiff, a freelance economist and data scientist. A version of this post originally appeared on his blog.

Many people aged in their 20s and 30s are leaving home, entering and/or completing education, are at the beginning of their working lives, and possibly starting families.

Changes in where people in this age group choose to live are interesting because many of these life events mean ‘youngish adults’ are finding new places to live, and are thus relatively sensitive to local housing prices and quality (either for renting or buying). In economist-speak, many people in this age group are ‘on the margin’ of the housing market, and will be sensitive to changes in housing supply and other market forces.

Arguably, a healthy city works well for its ‘youngish adults’ when it enables them to live in areas that have good access to jobs, transport, childcare, and other amenities. As younger adults tend to have lower incomes and fewer assets than older people, housing costs may also have more influence on the ability of younger adults to take risks, such as starting a business or exploring creative interests. And this in turn will affect the economic performance and vibrancy of the city.

Where did youngish-adult Aucklanders live in the early 2000s?

In 2014 (eight years ago now), I made some dot density maps of changes over time in New Zealand’s resident population aged between 20-34 years old, covering the period between the 2001 and 2013 Census years.

For Auckland, the most striking shift in this decade was the reduction in population of the 20-34 age group in city-fringe areas like Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Parnell.

Simple maps don’t explain why this happened. But it is plausible that – despite being desirable places to live due to proximity to the city centre and good local amenities – housing supply in these areas was restricted and became unaffordable for many ‘youngish adults’. With the exception of the CBD (thanks to its affordable apartments), people aged 20 to 34 tended to choose to live further from the city centre in 2013 compared to 2001.

And how about more recently?

Using some newer data, I’ve recreated these maps to show population changes over two separate decades: 2001 to 2011 on the left, and 2011 to 2021 on the right.

Each blue dot represents a one person increase in resident population over the decade shown, while each red dot is a one person decrease in population. (Note: the dots are randomly placed within each SA2 area, similar to a suburb – the exact locations where people live are obviously not published.)

Age 20-34 resident population changes 2001-2011 (left) and 2011-2021 (right).

You can see that for 2001 to 2011, the dark blue of the CBD with its many affordable apartments is surrounded by red on all sides. Over that decade, the total population of Auckland aged 20-34 increased by about 39,000 people – while fewer people in this age group chose to live in city-fringe suburbs and in Devonport / Bayswater on the North Shore.

In the following decade, between 2011 and 2021 there was a larger increase of about 84,000 people aged 20-34 in Auckland. Note that the CBD is still dark blue – but over a smaller area, possibly reflecting a shift of more affordable apartments ‘uptown’. Some of the CBD-fringe areas and the lower North Shore stayed red as in the prior decade, although with fewer dots; perhaps because most people aged 20 to 34 had already been priced out of these areas.

There are also some interesting reversals in areas just to the east and south of the CBD. Some areas saw the youngish-adult population decreasing (red) between 2001 and 2011, and then experienced population increases (blue) between 2011 and 2021. This could reflect planning changes opening up more land for redevelopment in those areas, leading to improvements in housing affordability and/or quality.

Between 2011 and 2021, there’s also a lot of population growth in relatively distant suburbs south, west and north of the CBD. In the northwest, Hobsonville stands out in this period, with its mix of relatively affordable dense housing obviously being attractive to the 20-34 age group.

Narrow townhouses in Hobsonville Point.

Overall though, over the past decade many of these ‘youngish adults’ have chosen to live in relatively distant areas from the city centre.

Comparing the two decades, it looks like the Auckland housing market in some areas has been working better for people aged 20 to 34 between 2011 and 2021 than it did between 2001 and 2011 – but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
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  1. We ended up in Hobsonville after our daughter was born and lockdown put too much pressure on our 2 bedroom 70 sqm apartment. We couldn’t afford another half a million dollars for a third bedroom/90sqm.

    There are parks and footpaths, safe quiet streets and trees. Community with lots of other kids – Halloween events, Christmas events etc. All things the city centre lacks and we can’t afford anywhere else.

    We are trying to move back in closer as we are sick of the commute and don’t want our daughter to grow up in a car dependent place. We cycle everywhere but there is nothing here for tweens and teens.

    1. It seems the lockdown did not have a good effect on those apartments in the city centre. I heard the local board over there lost a few percent of its population in the past couple of years.

      The council should have taken the opportunity to open up a couple of lanes on streets like Hobson Street. Alas it didn’t, and the crowding in these apartments must have been terrible without any usable outdoor space nearby.

    2. “There are parks and footpaths, safe quiet streets and trees. Community with lots of other kids – Halloween events, Christmas events etc. All things the city centre lacks and we can’t afford anywhere else.”

      But there’s lots of parks in the City Centre. Oh, you mean for PEOPLE. Sorry, I thought you meant car parks.

      Well, Wayne Brown abolishing Panuku and telling AT it is prioritising bikes and PT too much will help with all that. NOT.

      [Not a dig at you, dr. Just frustration giving way to cynicism.]

      1. My cynicism and exhaustion after the failed union/cool street safety upgrades are another major reason we’re out there – no need to apologise!

  2. THis is a really fascinating, and importantly positive analysis – thanks.
    So the changes with the Unitary Plan, and further move to apartments is helping Auckland becoming a better city.

  3. That is a real improvement in the isthmus and on transport corridors – and the NPS UD hasn’t even kicked in yet. Gentrification is a double-edged sword though. Cost per meter square can go up, so while replacing old housing stock enables more small apartments near the city centre for young people starting out when they want a family home they might find suitable accommodation might cost as much per unit as the old house that the new development bowled and replaced. I don’t know that we can get the variety of housing close to transport without some government intervention, or the use of new financial models like community land trusts, council housing etc. Good news though a greater role for council housing is anticipated in the Local Government Review. What would be the pros and cons of holding onto all the Ministry of Transport land around Maungawhau/Mount Eden Station for key worker housing? Could we recreate London’s Coin Street development here? Or one of Vienna’s affordable housing developments?

    1. Alex, “gentrification” only arises where quality housing and people-friendly streetscapes are rare; using the word instead of concentrating on how rare quality housing and streetscapes are, is obfuscating the situation. It hides the criticism that Council should be responding to: they have simply not done their job in enabling sufficient intensification and in regenerating streets to modern standards.

      Bowling the old house and replacing it with multiple, better quality homes works towards making good housing conditions commonplace. Even if an individual ends up spending about the same for a new, better quality home with less land (and less maintenance burden) than if they had bought an older house, the benefits to society of the intensification (and ultimately, to the individual) are still massive:

      Housing and infrastructure costs will be lower across the board than if intensification is prevented. Multiple new homes in central areas mean fewer people will be pushed to leave for another city, splitting families up. Higher rates in denser areas means more maintenance funding is available for community facilities. Fewer people will be driving in from sprawl, leading to a much healthier transport system, and the ability to develop 15 minute city living.

      Intensification helps resolve the climate, safety, emissions, public health, energy and housing crises simultaneously. Replacing old central homes with multiple new homes needs your 100% support.

      Don’t be fooled into looking at this by comparing the cost of “this house” with “that apartment” or of falling into the trap of thinking that the importance here is the “capital gain potential” for an individual buyer. You cannot understand the wider economic benefits of intensification (including environmental and social) via such an approach.

      Large areas of single houses have no place near the centre of a city that enjoys both a healthy environment and promises a healthy future for its children and future citizens.

  4. Such a shame that the council/government doesn’t look seriously a mixed use rules. Driving round places like Hobsonville its just terrace house after terrace house. With the influx of younger people who are now having to live further from jobs, surely its time we allowed planning to enable us to bring jobs/hopos/retail/cafes/offices etc to the people.

    1. Yeah developing Hobsonville Point with almost no mixed use, and in particular no supermarket reachable without car, really seems like an IQ 10 move.

      In general it seems high density is conceived like just a version of suburbia, but worse. Much more parking hassle with walls of parked cars on the street, less room to let kids outside, worse walkability for kids due to said parking and more busy traffic. I do not understand how anyone is expecting this to not fail miserably.

      Looking at Hobsonville Point, in a real city I would have expected it is legal to open a small shop, or even a small restaurant, on the ground floor of any of these townhouses.

      The other problem is that for some reason these new developments always seem to come with a HOA, which tend to hugely amplify the misery that bored busybodies can inflict on neighbours.

      1. The Countdown supermarket for most of Hobsonville is 1.5km or less away. No part (of the newer) Hobsonville (Point development) is more than 2.5km from the supermarket. Not walkable, only cycleable true (and the cycle lanes are 2000s designs, i.e. shite.

        But also not particularly bad compared to most Auckland suburbs.

        1. Yes but, seriously. Ambition.

          A key advantage of high density is — or should be — that you have necessities like supermarkets closer by than 1.5 kilometres.

          I am pretty sure that, even in Auckland, 1.5km is already worse than average. 2.5km is just bad, even for a plain old suburb. For a higher density settlement like Hobsonville Point it is absurdly poor.

        2. According to this mapping tool, Auckland’s retail accessibility IS pretty bad – worst of the cities in NZ

          The tool can be a bit rough, but it’s interesting to play with. The western third of the new development areas in Hobsonville Point are deemed to be within ~10m walk of a supermarket, albeit it then seems to jump a bit suddenly as you go east, presumably because of the centrepoint being set within larger areas.

      2. In 2021 two things happened to me: I turned 35 and moved out of discussed age group and I bough my first house in Hobsonville Point. I sort of disagree about the supermarket stuff. When I urgently need to buy something grosser-ish I either walk or scoot to Countdown or cross a road to convenience store. For regular food shopping we usually use countdown delivery. The bigger problem is that there’s no other shopping otherwise not even a bookshop and everything is in the Westgate, which is certainly not in a walking distance.

    2. Hobsonville Point Road was supposed to provide for retail/service uses at key points. Some have been provided, with a few more feasible. The supermarkets weren’t identified in Structure Plans, and are now on Hobsonville Road, at least on bike and bus routes. The maritime employment zone has been removed and is now mostly to be residential, but there is still some space for retail.
      This is a case study of the supporting land uses that are needed for livable neighbourhoods and how difficult it is to protect space for them before they are commercially viable, where the market pressure is for residential only. The critical factor is accessible employment, particularly awkward where service and retail workers (aged care, hospitality etc) cannot afford the new homes that they are servicing, and have to commute in to work there. Sadly, it is the old homes that people move out of that are affordable (3-5 young people sharing a rental suburban house), not the new build in many cases. “Gentrification” is about affordability and who gets to bid highest.
      Mapping like this is very useful to see how the trends work out – but I would hardly say this is where people are ‘choosing’ to live – they often don’t have much choice.

  5. Our young adults are growing up further from the city in more car dependent neighbourhoods that are harder to service with public transport.

    This could mean that as the next generation move’s into political consciousness they will be even more car dependent and less open to public transport than our current boomers. Not an encouraging thought for the future.

    1. Yes. That is a huge and real concern. It is a known part of the political economy of car dependence – as with all the other strands, it strengthens the elements in a mutually-supporting way.

      1. I may be hoping here, but at least the greenfield suburbs being built NOW tend to all have protected bike lanes everywhere on bigger roads, and traffic calming on the smaller roads. Even if the protection designs especially at intersections especially still vary a lot in quality.

        But once people grow up and need to travel to more than the local shops or schools on their own, it gets hairy, I agree. Some may perpetuate the “cycling is for kids, but not for serious transport” myth.

        1. I think the experience of switching from cycling to driving when you get your driver license currently is a worst case scenario when it comes to that political economy.

          “Here, now you can drive on our streets, like, legitimately. Instead of scurrying out of the way in the gutter.“

  6. That is very interesting thanks. I wonder whether the increase in the second decade in the inner East & inner South and Pt Chev/Westmere could be down to more young people staying with parents longer. Even in these high net worth suburbs, there could be a lot of young people living while saving for a place of their own?

    1. I wondered how much of the drop off during 2001-2011 was the result of 20-34 year olds moving into the area prior to 2001, staying to raise families and moving into the 34+ age group as they aged, and now their children reaching their 20s and still living at home while at uni, apprentices or first jobs? I wonder if a similar analysis of other areas over time would show a similar “bubble”, as young(ish) people move into an area, raise families, then become empty nesters or retire and sell up?

  7. Unfortunately future look’s really bleak for all those 18 – 35 year olds, in this country! Sadly both political main parties Labour and National aren’t doing enough to combat this growing issue but Labour are doing more to tackle the issue than National! This age group can’t be self-dependant anymore, due to lack of investment and government being able to deliver the investment needed to become self-dependant. Main driver of this for all these years is setting a low minimum wage growth!

    Back in the good old days, people use to be really self-dependant and not have to rely on every essential needs to help them survive, but nower days 18-35 year olds have to rely on parents money, whether that is for food, needing extra money for deposit for First Home, staying in parents house till 30, commuting to work and much more (depends on every persons situation). Outcomes for 18-35 year olds are becoming worse and worse, unfortunately their are those who are against Housing Intensification, Fair Pay Agreement which are things that 18-35 year olds need in-order to have a future in this country! By abolishing Housing Intensification, Fair Pay Agreement drives better outcomes for them to be self-independent and non-reliant on government step in and help every time!

    If you’re a Bus driver working for Auckland Transport, for example, your 19 years old, since you have university, you rent but flat with two others per week $300, since renting yourself is unaffordable anymore, also need to pay for your own food, transport, in some cases paying for utilities like water and electricity, lastly the uni fees and course equipments. A person working stuck on our current minimum wage and you’re working 16 hours every week would be $293.74. If the other two flat mates earning same thats $881.22 in total, that gives them very little room for them to save money for themselves in-future for essential needs they might need later on in-life. On-top of that, most 18-24 years old can’t get a Full-Time role at any job due lack of experience that employers want and employers mostly cite them as employees who are likely to leave to another job within 2-3 years time, so mostly 18-24 years old end up with Casual or Part Time contracts which makes things harder for them to be self dependent in-future. In some cases, they can’t ask for more shifts due to employer saying ‘No’. So some students give up their university course during their semester all together since pay isn’t enough to cover the cost of living and try their luck in low payed job in getting Full Time job but likely fail since not what employers after so they have to live with their parents until their able to find something.

    If I didn’t know any better, National Party leader Christopher Luxon, revisited his McDonald’s job down in Christchurch a week ago, a day after the Fair Pay Agreement was enacted into law. Apparently the workers down at the McDonalds franchise were please at Fair Pay Agreement coming into effect but less pleased to see National Party leader Christopher Luxon due to his position of abolishing it. The leader also had one on one conversations apparently too with the employees about ‘Cost-of-living’ situation, likely wasn’t counter productive, but mostly just hide the fact he’s ‘out of touch’ with nower days people. Meanwhile, new National Party candidate for Rangitata, James Meagher, told Stuff last week[],that it was “quite embarrassing” that his last pay rise was likely more than what his mother a supermarket worker – earns, which, in his words, “really says a lot about how we value people in society.” Looks like theirs people in National caucus who don’t support Christopher Luxon position in repealing the Fair Pay Agreement and follow through with individual vote instead of party vote.

    With the Housing intensification, the worry part is enough accommodation for all New Zealanders in-future, that includes renters too, not just people who are buying properties. The worry part of it is the supply of enough accomodation. How are 18-35 year olds suppose to live if the supply on accommodation is not being delivered and move forward with their lives? In-fact they won’t if not enough Housing intensification is being done, that exactly what’s happening! Their are some councillors who are not allowing much intensification in their ‘Local Board’ which is really needed in a city like Auckland! We need to be seeing housing intensification along our busy roads and sprawling ‘Town Centres’!

    Unfortunately National and ACT want to repeal and abolish the Fair Pay Agreement. They should really consider changing their position to repealing it! New Zealand 18-35 year olds are really struggling to get ahead, as-well as older age group but aren’t struggling heavily like 18-35 year olds currently! They need the biggest support right now in getting ahead and a future to thrive! If we ignore our 18-35 year olds ,this will become something we regret later over the years and how did we end up here where we did nothing to address the issue! We need a direction that moves us forward, not backwards, if we continue this trend in underinvesting in 18-35 year olds, were going to to regret it in-future!

    1. Alas, minimum wage proven not to work, this usually pushes employers to either use grey pay schemes (see liquor shop workers working “part time” 60 hours pw) or replacing those low qualification positions with some sort of machinery or software – many low wage jobs exist just because it’s cheaper to hire non qualified workers rather than automating the process.

      Also 18-35 is just statistical group consisting from completely different people. Someone 18-19 should really be in the college or high school, someone in early 20es could be in the university, those 25+ are likely to already have well paid jobs, they struggle because they didn’t learn financial discipline yet (eating out, uber eats, gadgets, cars, unnecessary travel and other luxuries)

  8. @Andrew K, the minimum wage for a really long time has proven to not work at all for basically everyone who’s on minimum wage! It’s definitely has proven to not work due to this pandemic and Ukraine war which has exacerbated the need to introduce Fair Pay Agreements due to people not able to keep up with the bills! For far too long people on minimum wage have been struggling to keep ups with costs cause of mainly big corporate companies reaping profits when they’re an industry who isn’t badly affected by pandemic or Ukraine war and hiking up the prices for extremely greedy purposes.

    Those who work full time, also are struggling to make ends meet. Most people are having to work 60 hrs or 60 hrs + to make ends meet which had been proven by Xero, accounting software company. Xero New Zealand Country Manager Bridget Snelling says: “Every day New Zealanders are working more than many of our international counterparts, with much less to show for it per hour. Introducing new technology is a key way for most to work smarter, not harder. Aotearoa has a great opportunity to improve productivity through digitisation”. []. Along with it, it’s also proven for small businesses employees working 60 hrs or 60 hrs + a week is not sustainable since its not productive enough for them to meet their business goals and achieve them, along with it comes the need of able to .

    An easy first step, she says, is joining the Government’s eInvoicing initiative, designed to make exchanging invoices and doing business more efficient. The system works by enabling buyers’ and suppliers’ financial systems to work directly with each other without the need for emailed invoices. Invoicing reduces the chances of fraud and cyber-hacking, and enhances cash flow through quicker payments, Snelling says. Exactly the point of why automation is well needed in this country to improves productivity so it enhances efficiency in the work environment. Automation you’ll find is actually cheaper than hiring in more staff, with staff its more costly since its an expense for the business to pay while with automation is technological based, the asset might be expensive depending what you buy, but running is cheap.

    18-35 years old are in the same group due to the fact they’re a group who normally in phase where they’re still struggling. To your point about (eating out, uber eats, gadgets, cars, unnecessary travel and other luxuries), 18-24 years old’s need to have a social life just like older adults, otherwise expect an unhealthy working-force who is unproductive and not resilient enough. The reason why financial discipline is an issue for 18-24 years old’s, is cause of an culture of businesses choosing to starve their employees by giving them minimal standards, minimal pay and just ‘following the law’ with no empathy. Fair Pay Agreements are the whole point why its needed, so businesses stop giving employees minimal standards and have workable standards which work for both employee and businesses.

      1. Empathy and Fairness is the same thing! Empathy is the ability to understand but to actually share what others are going through while Fairness is building a equal and not being left out in-which both qualities have same meaning to what they represent!

        1. Let me elaborate. One worker produces 50 units of work per week and can’t really pay for shelter and struggles to pay for food, another worker produces 500 units of work per week. In real life second worker usually getting paid just twice more (not ten times more) and robbed by government on that extra he earned making him to actually have somewhat 30% more than his less capable fellow. Is it fair? I doubt. Is it emphatic? Yes it is emphatic to the first one, not so emphatic to the second one.

          I believe universal welfare without poverty trap should be more helpful than the minimum wage in this situation. Minimum wage just creates scarcity of jobs and makes life of low qualified workers harder.

        2. “Minimum wage just creates scarcity of jobs and makes life of low qualified workers harder.”

          Eh? NZ has one of the highest minimum wages in the world and one of the lowest unemployment rate so this doesn’t track. A lot of our cost of living issues are due to artificial scarcity, the most obvious is housing where supply and land is restricted, as well as food where we have restricted competition. The minimum wage is absolutely not the problem

        3. Yes, Kraut, that’s true, these are bigger problems. Why this weird scheme with unions negotiations is on the table then?

        4. Fair pay agreements have nothing to do with the minimum wage and are actually bad for unions as all workers benefit, not just union members. They are to ensure sector wide base level pay, i.e bus drivers, supermarket workers, so that businesses are forced to compete on things other than driving wages to the floor. They are common in notably richer countries than NZ, like Germany, Australia and many more

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