New research into Auckland’s housing preferences and choices reveals demand for a much wider range of housing types, right across the city

New research into Auckland’s housing preferences and choices reveals demand for a much wider range of housing types, right across the city

This article was first published on AUT's Briefing Papers series. It is here with permission.

By Alison Reid*

Auckland is at a turning point in how it must think about and deliver housing solutions.

According to Statistics New Zealand’s medium projections, Auckland’s population is anticipated to grow by a further 517,000 people in the next 20 years.

This growth will be driven by natural increase (births minus deaths) as well as net in-migration from other parts of New Zealand and overseas, and will drive the demand for an increasing number of dwellings.

Further to this, increasing diversity in household structure and size, an ageing population, and increasing divergence of the ability to afford the costs of housing will drive demand for a variety of appropriate and affordable housing solutions.

All of this is occurring in a broader context of a desire to curb urban sprawl and realise the efficiencies of a ‘compact city’ approach.

The issue of enabling and encouraging supply-side factors to meet this demand is a priority for Auckland Council, and for central government. The Auckland Plan includes a priority to ‘increase housing choice to meet diverse preferences and needs’. The Plan also proposes an urban form for Auckland of a ‘quality compact city’ with up to 70% of growth occurring within the 2012 Metropolitan Urban Limit (MUL) over 30 years, but with flexibility for up to 40% outside the MUL. This emphasis on future ‘intensification’ within the urban area is reflected in the bold new vision of the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan, with its provisions for a range of building heights and density within the existing urban area.

Much of Auckland’s future housing stock already exists, and it is predominantly detached dwellings – 75% of dwellings at the 2013 census were stand-alone. This city has a long tradition of building, owning and living in stand-alone houses. It’s what we are used to. A dominant narrative continues to perpetuate that households prefer stand-alone dwellings and that the market is delivering what people want.

But when was the last time we checked that out? To what extent is the new housing coming on-line meeting the current and future needs of Aucklanders? To what extent is the dream of owning a ‘quarter-acre pavlova paradise’ still relevant?

These questions were at the heart of The Housing We’d Choose study, recently completed by Market Economics and Research First on behalf of Auckland Council. The study adds an important contribution to our understanding of the demand side of the housing equation. It is based on work previously undertaken in Australia, and included a sophisticated choice exercise in which respondents had to choose from a discrete set of housing types and sizes, within their own financial constraints. It also asked Aucklanders what was important to them when thinking about choosing a place to live. The central aim was to explore what Auckland households would choose to live in, if a wider range of options was available.

In sum, the research found that households would choose a much broader range of housing types and sizes across Auckland, if it was available. They would trade-off housing type and location for adequate size (large or small) and price. Furthermore, there is a ‘mis-match’ in several parts of Auckland between the types of housing that people said they would choose and new housing that is coming on line.

The quarter acre pavlova paradise dream is not dead yet, but it’s not universal. The Housing We’d Choose study found there remains a general underlying preference for stand-alone houses, and a deep connection to owning a piece of land for many, particularly among households with children. Over half (52%) chose detached options, if they could afford them. Over half rated a stand-alone house as being ‘very important’ when they were thinking about choosing a place to live, and quite a few of those who chose a townhouse /unit or apartment, particularly those in buildings that were ‘low rise’ (up to four stories), made a comment along the lines that they would actually have preferred a stand-alone dwelling.

But while the majority of households will still demand stand-alone detached housing, this demand is more than satisfied by the existing stock of housing. The real gap in the market is higher density attached dwellings and apartments within the high amenity established suburbs. A quarter (25%) of respondents chose an attached unit or townhouse, 15% chose an apartment in a building up to four storeys, and 8% chose an apartment in a building five storeys or higher. Many indicated they were very happy with that choice – particularly older people living in couples-only situations or on their own.

The research shows that people would choose different housing types across Auckland than currently exist, particularly in the areas away from the city centre. When we compared what people said they would choose with what’s coming on line (using Statistics New Zealand building consent data from January 2013 to March 2015) we found that there was a general over-supply of stand-alone dwellings, particularly in south Auckland and on the isthmus, and a corresponding under-supply of attached options in all sectors outside of the city center. The north shore coastal area was the only sector to show a general under-supply of all housing types coming on line.

The research also reminded us of an important corollary to any emphasis on the types of housing that Auckland households would choose – that is, the cultural shift that faces Auckland as we embrace a future of living in new housing formations and in closer quarters. As Auckland’s population continues to diversify ethnically, culturally, and across age and socio-economic lines, new neighbourhoods are being delivered, old neighbourhoods are facing real change, and people are being asked to live closer together than they have before. It was apparent through participants’ comments in the focus groups and in the surveys that people want to feel safe and they want their kids to be safe. They want a sense of privacy from the outside world, and for many that meant not being able to be seen by others inside their own home. For many this was not something that living closer together in more intensified housing styles could offer.

Much of this can be mitigated by quality design and build, continuing to learn from overseas examples and what has worked in the past, as well as efforts to increase a sense of neighbourliness, tolerance and community spirit.

The full title of this study is The Housing We’d Choose: A study into housing preferences, choices and trade-offs in Auckland. It was commissioned by the Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU) within Auckland Council and is a component of Auckland Council’s 12 point Housing Action Plan. The findings will be used to inform a range of housing policy responses and discussion. The full report can be found here or on the Knowledge Auckland website.

Alison Reid is a Senior Social Researcher at Auckland Council, in the Research and Evaluation Unit (RIMU). She has a particular interest in global, national and local population trends and change, and the impacts of change on Auckland’s socio-cultural and housing landscapes. Alison has a Masters of Arts degree in Sociology. This article was first published on AUT's Briefing Papers series. It is here with permission. Update: The headlines have been changed on this article at the request of Briefing Papers.

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I am a strong supporter of more multi-apartment buildings.
3 or 4 bedroom apartments of 100 square meters with good quality materials and within walking distance from the areas alive in a city (work, restaurants, pubs, theatre, cinema).

No need to take over productive land to build standalone isolated neighbourhoods with ridiculously anti ecological and misused massive lawns.

It would be good for the environment, good for communities, good for more efficient constructions with less infrastructures but more efficient transport, good for businesses, good for retail shops, less drunk drivers..

And for those wanting to live in standalone houses, they can live in the outskirts or in rural areas, but give others the choice to have a "city" lifestyle if they want to (and maybe many want!).

I had to leave Auckland. Couldn't stand living in a city with the worse parts of the big cities (traffic jams, pollution, long distances, noise, difficult to meet friends) but without the good parts of the big cities (cultural activities, good transport, no need for private transport, alive shops and city, REAL NATURE not far from city centre..)

I like the option.

Having lived in apartment blocks, it's good - if there are shopping services in range (carrying groceries for four adults through 3 bus stops for people who don't like crowds is very unpleasant) and if you're not poor (little to do that doesn't cost $$$). Great not having to do house upkeep, worry about roof, gardens, lawns, people/dogs in the garden or sheds.

Prefer rural. There just something about gardening or wandering about naked all day in the summer. And if I'm working on big project (solar stuff) then I don't need to work for weeks just to pay off my masters in the council for permission to work on my own space.

Small town... I tend to have different interests. the movies are never current, and the screen often poor. most have crappy food choices at high prices. the housing is more plentiful and earnings dont all go to the landlord, but lawns, gardens, neighbours, dog shit, Sod all electonics or technological services, no public transport, and generally nowhere to go - might as well stay home and watch tv (or netflix). and wages are usually crap, as is the shop maintenance.

I have witnessed the negative case ... some time ago ... doing a service call to a client located in Chadstone Shopping Centre (the largest in Melbourne) .. it was 8:00 am on a monday morning .. in before the place opened at 9:00 am .. many shops don't open till 10:00 am .. surprised to see the crowds of people hanging around outside at 8:00 am waiting for the doors to open at 9:00 am .. 1000's of them .. client explained that they weren't shoppers, they were the loners and the lonely from the surrounding apartments and flats who spend their weekends in solitary isolation and wait for the mall's to open .. for the company, collectiveness and sense of life and belonging .. yes, I've seen what really happens to your model ... soullessness ...hopelessness


The "loners" don't have servicable income available to do social activities, thus there is no trade opportunity (read, money) for businesses to provide services for them. So they hang with the tribe.

What else do people expect them to do? Hang in the closet until what?

Big problem with the UK projects - also why they don't like people having empty rooms as the drifters accumulate to reduce costs.

In rural areas they just get drunk at home then?

I find this simplistic and misleading to be representing this as a "choice". Exactly the thing some committee will misconstrue and try to resolve with the wrong strategy.
The predilection for stand alone is only partially about room for the kids. Mostly it is that in this area I do not have to put up with others telling me what pets, if any, I may have or how to arrange my stuff or dry my clothes.
I may be inclined to rent an apartment so I can move on when the environment does not suit me or others are derelict in their responsibilities and this affects me.
To own such a place and have to abide poor behaviour, restrictive covenants, neglected responsibility by management is unattractive.
While I may resort to accepting it as a dwelling of convenience, would not be happy to be invested in it as a home. I would accept living there, but I would not "choose" to live there.

Yes, I thought is was somewhat disjointed at first, but, interesting stuff in the underlying linked ACC research report

Respondents chose a range of dwelling types. 52% chose detached dwellings as their final choice, 25% chose an attached dwelling (a joined unit), 15% selected a low-rise apartment and (only) 8% selected a high-rise apartment.

Given the 40% incursion rate of migrants into Auckland one could conclude they are seeking what Auckland could once provide - open space, outdoors, sun and vista - although it could also suggest the imperative to buy what already exists outweighs the willingness to wait and obtain high-density high-rise dwellings

Respondents were offered 16 possible housing options that they could afford to buy. These options were a range of dwelling types (attached, detached, and apartments either in ‘walk up’ buildings (up to four storeys), or in buildings that were five or more storeys), sizes (number of bedrooms) and, in some cases, in different sectors to the two that they had initially preferred. Respondents were asked to assume that the options available to them in the choice experiment were ‘new and of medium standard quality.

Although this research is not an exercise in measuring housing affordability, 23% of respondents could not afford any of the 16 options provided in the survey

Worth the trip through

Would not a better discussion be whether we want another half a million people in Auckland, a city that is already by definition unsustainable.

How about some other housing types I have seen, like shop doorways, under bridges, or in shacks on unused land beside the rail line. Heck if we really expand into all the unused areas we could fit another 2 or 3 million.

I prefer the open space model

He sounded quite cognisant of his position, pretty happy also. Mind you he could use a better combustion technology for his oven :-P

I'll ask the same question I always do when someone refers to homeless people: Why are they only homeless in the major centers? My casual observation is that there are many more pleasant places to be homeless. Some people pay good money to live in similar conditions to the homeless in these pleasant places, some for extended periods.

After mulling that over take a squiz at Paris on google and reconcile the lack of single dwellings with your take on sustainability. In future when all of Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Parnell and Mt Eden have been converted to 4-8 storey unit blocks Auckland could be called a proper city. At the moment it has to borrow the 3 surrounding cities to gain an identity.

As for the supply of services for the population, that is the core business of local government and their primary reason for existence. Easily confused people may have concluded this to be false as the only action they seem to see is local governments best attempts to avoid provision of these services where they are clearly required and a belligerent insistence that the population fit their vision or go elsewhere.

Why are they only homeless in the major centers?

Answer: they are not - homelessness can be found in nearly every town and city. Larger towns tend to have night shelters and soup kitchen type facilities - one reason why homeless might migrate in larger number to those places. The guy who killed the two WINZ staff members was homeless in Ashburton - not a main centre by any description.

winz made several smaller towns "no benefit zones" because beneficairies were going there because they could claim no jobs were available and thus no pressure to get a job was expected and the area would develop a political and social culture that catered to there needs.

In larger places there are more opportunities to scrape out a living. Few rural bridges are big enough to provide decent dry cover, yet overpasses are excellent. In rural/small communities "parks" are often small playgrounds and well observed by locals, in the city often parks have bush areas that will take a lean-to or afford various playground equipment that can be camped in safely.
In the city there are always a few dumpsters/bins/benches or empty houses and apartments, or abandoned buildings. In smaller towns, people know when a building is supposed to be unoccupied, or if someone is moving around when they shouldn't in the evenings.

Cowboy. Research show that homeless are rarely purely homeless. They often have a support system, or the sleeping out thing is in relatively short term bursts. This is not to minimise the situation.
Rural areas often have considerable numbers of marginalised people. They are not under a flax bush, but living in various unsatisfactory situations, sheds, derelict houses etc and it's not always easy to spot.

"As for the supply of services for the population, that is the core business of local government and their primary reason for existence."

I can say that I am definitely not "easily confused".

And I can definitely state your statement that I have quoted above is wrong. Dreadfully wrong. Unless you want to live in the Third World with all its "glory". If you educate yourself with facts by trawling through history and look at the examples of government; study the flow of money and politics, then you will understand how massively far out and naive...and worse..completely and -utterly- wrong that statement is.

the supply of services is literally the function of _business_.

the only reasons for local government is to provide a neutral position for unavoidable services. for example, would we trust Enron to run the local departments on environmental safety? they have the biggest return for bidding highest for the contracted service to the community.
Or for centralised record keeping, where everyone needs fair and open access to land plot information and the whole community good can't be fairly run by a singular party with monopoly on the single critical information source.

Other services, it is vital to trade and economic health of the community that a market can pay for the cost of its staffing, its environmental footprint, and to invest in its future survive-ability eg repair and some upgrade. Providing these through the iron fist of local government cross-subsidisation and rates and other rorts damages the services and damages the local economy - especially as easily confused people think libraries and other unessentials should also be on-charged to members of the community who do not want such services offered by local government.

I think that question has been answered 100 times.

No. not until existing conditions improve. end of story, no ifs or buts.

Except the general suggestions about seem dead set on making it worse, also failing to understand the finanacial system dynamics underpinning the market. I am pleased to have stimulated a discussion that has taken a useful turn.

I will point out that my recent choice tertiary training (I have a diploma that is unrelated, but has some significant crossover) is Architecture for which I have fulfilled the urban design requirements. They can be summarised into the fairly logical principles, mixed use, 30-60 people per acre density, correct climate response, and eliminate the motor car from daily activity. Oh and research shows that with each floor above 4 the rates of mental illness go up, that is for a resident or workplace.

"The Auckland Plan includes a priority to ‘increase housing choice to meet diverse preferences and needs’. The Plan also proposes an urban form for Auckland of a ‘quality compact city’ with up to 70% of gro"

The Auckland plan is also 100% looking backwards.
Trying to hold back and reign in development to what others have done. Zero "vision" and even less hope for developers. Once again the great Kiwi Poppy Governance.

Rather than cashing in on developers and trying to order back the tide, why not put in place highly expandable future plans and encourage through concessions, developers to implement _their_ ideals, and then get out of the way so they can make it work.

What bugs me most about surveys such as the one in the article - is that most people who wanted detached houses (especially with a bit of land) would have no idea what is involved in the upkeep of such a place. Its like lottery winners, sure they'd have a big place, then fill it with crap, left lawns and gardens grow. fill the garage with broken rubbish.
How do I know this? because that's what you learn as a landlord - rent a detached dream to a urbanite, and they just don't understand maintenance as they've never had to take care of it themelves, and they resent that their "dream" is a hassle (and that it's so far to "anywhere"). That's why all my places have professional maintenance.

As we get closer to the next council elections the unitary plan will be postponed into the next term.