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10 Jan 2014

Apartment Living on the Rise

Apartment living is on the rise in New Zealand, as more and more Kiwis try to find a way into the property market.  The emerging trend towards a more compact style of living is especially prominent in Auckland, with demand for apartments also growing in Wellington and Christchurch.  With populations expanding, planning restrictions tight, and prices on the rise around the country, some New Zealanders seem ready to embrace a new way of living.
New Zealanders have long enjoyed a very specific home ownership dream, one that comes complete with a backyard and a daily commute to work in a private vehicle.  Unlike many European and Asian countries, we have been slow to embrace true city living, preferring a home in the suburbs to an inner-city unit.  However, with Auckland alone set to house an extra million people over the next 30 years and prices on the rise around the country, Kiwis are starting to look at the humble apartment with fresh eyes.

According to figures from Statistics New Zealand, 492 new consents were granted for apartments nationwide last November.  This is the biggest number since April 2008, with Auckland leading the way with 268 new consents, followed by Wellington with 121 and Christchurch with 70.  The number of new apartments on the market is also on the rise, especially in Auckland where this new trend is becoming more visible all the time.

There were 1059 apartments built in Auckland in the year to November 2013, up from just 616 the year before.  While the size of apartments dipped slightly from 209sqm to 203sqm over the same period, New Zealand apartments are still much bigger than they are in other parts of the world.  In Hong Kong the average apartment is only 45sqm in size, with average units just 76sqm in the UK and 95sqm in Japan. 

According to Real Estate Institute Chief Executive Helen O'Sullivan, "There is plenty of demand in Auckland for property and most people are looking for properties in locations which are relatively central... The reality is, given how little space there is left in those areas, to build on any scale they need to be in apartment-style developments."     

While the move towards apartment living may be driven by high house prices, there is also an increasing demographic looking specifically for smaller and more accessible living spaces.  New apartment developments highlight flexible living areas and inner-city lifestyles to a new generation of home owners, many of whom don't share the suburban vision of previous generations.

Even for those of us happy to stay in the suburbs, the uptake of urban living has a number of benefits for everyone.  Improved environmental and health outcomes are just some of the positives, along with less traffic congestion and the creation of more vibrant urban spaces for everyone to enjoy.  While the rise of inner-city living may partly be the result of unwanted economic pressures, a growing number of Kiwis are choosing to embrace this new way of life.