Missing Something with the Unitary Plan

Err Where are our 5-8 bedroom houses?


It seems I stirred a bit of passion today with the city when I posted my Mixed Zone Housing debunking post earlier today. I will comment on that in another post but, one aspect that I did raise was the three storey super house and walk up apartments.

I want to look at these two concepts that seemed to have been missed by both the Unitary Plan and the Herald (Orsman you awake?).

After the Mixed Housing, Terrace Housing and Apartment debates that has occurred around the city I began to focus on something that has been strangely quiet; Super large houses and Walk-Up Apartments. While WUA’s I have mentioned before, SLA’s I have not mentioned in Unitary Plan commentary.

To make this easy I am going to provide some rough definitions here:

  • Small House: 2 bedrooms
  • Medium House: 3 bedrooms
  • Large House: 4 bedrooms
  • Super Large House: 5-8 bedrooms
  • Walk Up Apartments: 3 storey apartment block with no lift provided
  • Low Rise: up to four storeys – lifts need to be provided per building code
  • Mid Rise: 4 – 12 Storeys
  • High Rise: 12+ Storeys
  • Super Tall: Over 300 metres

For the houses I have not provided height definitions as that can vary quite largely as the Mixed Housing Zone model shows with 2-4 bedroom houses all two storey. As for apartments and terrace housing I have not given bedroom counts as that also varies however, 1-2 bedroom would be the norm and 3-4 bedroom commanding a premium.

The Unitary Plan and most commentary has been focused on the following:

  • Small House: 2 bedrooms
  • Medium House: 3 bedrooms
  • Mid Rise: 4 – 12 Storeys
  • High Rise: 12+ Storeys

Commentary from the Main Stream Media has begun looking at low-rise apartments and large houses but, nothing on Walk Ups and Super Large Houses. The same applies with the Unitary Plan although the Mixed Housing Zone material does have 4 bedroom premium houses mentioned.

This brings me to a disturbing question with Council, planners, the MSM and the media. What and who is the Unitary Plan catering for. Upon looking; what we get is a Euro-centric designed around the Western Nuclear Family Model. The Western Nuclear Family Model being: mum, dad and the children. And by Western I mean the Anglo-Saxon realm of Western Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. So in those regards the Unitary Plan does serve quite well Nuclear Family Model of the Anglo-Saxon world (probably better than using the word White) and you can see how 2-3 bedroom residential dwellings as a main stay would work (4 bedroom often being a middle class premium).


However, we have people and cultures in the world that do not adhere to the Anglo-Saxon Nuclear Family Model. We have cultures (basically everyone else to varying degrees) that operative on a Collective Family model; mum, dad, kids, grandma, aunts, uncles and even maybe the cousins. They operative in a collective manner in raising the family (rather than a nuclear manner as I might). As a result in operating in a collective manner (regardless if they believe in private individual or communal property), it will often mean different housing requirements to say what I will require.

For me three to four bedrooms would be ample for my family (although we are looking at 5-6 in the long-term if we flip to a collective manner) but would not be for a collective family. To house all their occupants a 5-8 bedroom house (hence a super large) would be required (for health and safety reasons to avoid over crowding). Now you can build a 5-8 bedroom house two ways (well three but I would not prefer apartments here):

  1. A sprawling one-two storey house that consumes quite a bit of land
  2. For the same amount of land as the above option, you build your super large house as three storeys reducing the land foot print required. This means extra space on the land for whatever; lawn, garden, outdoor cultural living area, car space etc

But I look through the Unitary Plan and I become stuck. With the city becoming more cosmopolitan every day it seems the Unitary Plan is not catering for our different cultures who have different needs to the Anglo-Saxon Nuclear Family provisions provided. And our families needing the Super Large Houses might also want to live on the isthmus as well as the fringes of the city. The Unitary Plan is meant to be providing housing choice but, it is sorely lacking in one critical aspect…

While the cost of a three storey super large house might seem daunting we do have providers (the Maori Tribes in Auckland?) with enterprise arms that could provide those affordable super large houses to collective families. You just have to know the opportunities and how to seek those opportunities.

So is the Unitary Plan truly Euro-Centric and not catering for the diverse needs of a diverse Auckland. The Penny’s might like to answer that one please…


Walk Up Apartments

What is it with apartments that scare the crap out of people I be blasted to know. It seems after Orsman decided to alert the entire city to an aspect that was already present in the Unitary Plan (low-rise apartments) that a conversation needs to be had now on low-rise apartments.

I have mentioned low-rise and walk-ups before and it can be seen here: “THE CLUNKER AND RESIDENTIAL ZONING.” What I need to do though is get moving and write-up the definitions of my Low, Medium 1 and Medium 2 Density for residential zones. Hopefully that might provide clarification.

I have also mentioned before that terraced housing and apartments in general should be removed from the same general definitions and treated as separate entities. It seems some weeks on the failure to separate the two is causing angst out there in the city and rightfully so. Apartments and “houses (regardless of being Terraced or Detached) are two very different entities, have two different needs and clientele, and should be treated as such in the planning game.

With Walk Up Apartments they are confined to three storeys owing to the fact you need a lift for anything above four storey. But like any apartment, Walk-Ups are that – apartments and should also be treated as such. They do have their place though in urban planning and have their place in Auckland. Where should Walk-Ups go in Auckland? Half if the Mixed Housing Zone in Auckland could be candidates for small amounts of Walk Ups, not large seas of the stuff, but “pocket” stuff – or pepper pot sprinkling across a set Mix Housing Zone. Walk-Ups would also work in my Fringe Zones that I devised for both Special Character Zones and the CMCP/SLPD zones (Auckland Plan submission). This would be owing to Walk-Ups being a great transition down from a Town or Metropolitan Centre back to traditional single housing areas (one to two storeys (although pepper potted with the odd Super Large house too)).

Google “walk up apartments” and take a look at the images especially out of Europe and the USA. They done right and tastefully would be a great asset to Auckland rather than feared as they currently are. Bedroom capacity wise with Walk-Ups can be (and usually are) two to four bedrooms although nothing pushing to six bedrooms for the creative type. In saying that anything above four bedrooms and needing to be multi-level I would push for Terrace Housing and Super Large (detached) Housing out of practicality sense.

Super Large Houses (5-8 bedroom) and Walk-Up Apartments; not getting enough mention in the Euro-Centric, Anglo-Saxon based Unitary Plan where we have a very diverse and heterogeneous population. Council and the planners do need to address this issue fast as the city becomes more cosmopolitan and we Anglo-Saxons need to get use to it as well.

But as my current motto goes: progress not change needs to happen. Progress allows evolution, Change causes upheaval.

Time to go prod Council



BR:AKL: Bring Well Managed Progress

The Unitary Plan: Bringing Change

Auckland: 2013 – OUR CITY, OUR CALL

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