The Productivity Commission’s call for more greenfield land to bring house prices down seems to me to be just the completely wrong answer, especially in Auckland, which grows upon our country like a nasty cancer.
Honestly, the last thing Auckland needs is to get any bigger. It already holds world records for the most spacious, least densely populated city on the planet, which may or may not be to do with the unique siting of the city on two massive estuarine harbors, slicing the city in several loosely connected bits. It’s not helped by the world’s shortest, stupidest, least connected train network either, and you just know that putting another 10,000 three-bedroom houses on the outskirts of the outskirts is just going to create more domestic vehicular hell for all up there.
What this country needs is not new suburbs. It is not new average-sized three bedroom houses. What it needs is a reduction in house size (NZ average is now about 210m2 each new house), and a reduction in property size (my guess – around 450m2 each?). The cheek-by-jowl nature of Mt Victoria’s housing in Wellington is not high density by world standards, but is very high by New Zealand standards. Car use is low (most Mt Vic residents walk to work), and house size is small. Property size is bugger-all in some cases.
Auckland would do well to rebuild its inner suburbs to a similar standard. Remuera, Takanini, Papatoetoe, Ponsonby, Grey Lynn, Glen Innes – all should be compulsoriy purchased back, torn down, and rebuilt at a greater density. House sizes capped at half the current size. Common party walls. No wasted side yards, or back yards, but intelligent planning and sizes for single people on starter salaries.
Maximus is a Wellington-based blogger on urban design. Read the complete version of this article here