An Idea for Auckland: Using Self Build to Help Build Homes AND Communities

Government helping?


Regular Auckland commentator Bryce came up with an idea that could boost our sagging housing supply while at the same time building communities as well. It stems from that too many large housing developments including the St James tower on Queen Street falling over resulting a loss in supply.



Bryce will run his thoughts on the idea further down but as I understand it a ‘self-build’ scheme when a development agency is involved follows this line:

  • Land held by the development agency (so Panukau Development Auckland, Housing New Zealand, Tamaki Redevelopment Company or another Crown entity) divide land up into small lots allowed under the rules set by the Unitary Plan (the different residential zones have different minimum lot sizes and density rules (if applicable))
  • Development Agency sells individual lots to citizens who then bring in their architect and builders to design and build as allowed by the Unitary Plan (a collective to pool architects and builders is established to assist build and design)
  • Development Agency handles the resource consenting side and providing local infrastructure while owner of the lot handles the building consent
  • New home is built
  • New Neighbourhood Association formed to build community aspect and if needed provide own local maintenance services to local parks in that development (rather than have Parks department handle it) (note these are local classed parks not larger parks used on a sub regional or regional level)
  • If the land also has business zoning the Development Agency begins developing commercial developments to support new neighbourhood
  • Development Agency handles local infrastructure being connected to regional infrastructure



A how to




From Bryce on smaller lots and bringing both an Urban Development Authority and the citizen building their own home

With a regular number of larger scale developments not progressing in Auckland, many due to financial barriers, we need to ask if there is a better way.

Right now, virtually all developments in Auckland are the large lot in the city, terrace or apartment blocks (Ockham residential are doing great things here) or are in large-scale, master planned, areas such as Hobsonville Point or Millwater, where you can either buy what developers have built or build a stand-alone house.

But what if you want your own place that is designed for you? Once upon a time, when development of our suburbs such as Ponsonby happened, lot sizes were split into much smaller parcels than are available today. Back then, individuals could design and build themselves. Alternatively, many builders would build 2, or more, dwellings side by side. This type of development lent itself as an affordable scale of development.

Today, these small lot sizes simply don’t exist in our urban areas and town centres. Also, due to economy of scale, developers need to master plan and build large-scale developments. Of course, this means they need some serious financial backing. And as it seems, the financial backing may be getting more difficult to acquire.

But, is there another way?

Using lot sizes of 8m wide x 20m long (as an example) would allow great 3 and 4 storey ROW house / terrace style design and allow private individuals to purchase a block of land affordably and create their own dwelling.  The options in our towns would be huge. The designs could incorporate retail or offices at street level with accommodation above.

Philadelphia has a long history of ROW houses and has some very good regulations to enable them even today.


Self built terraced housing
Self built terraced housing


Terraced Housing requirements in Philadelphia
Terraced Housing requirements in Philadelphia


In order to do this though, we need a way in which people can buy smaller lots so they can self-build a terrace/row house/town house and sort out their own financial arrangements. But how do we do this when they simply don’t exist?

In our town centres, land lots are significantly bigger than required for one dwelling. The financial cost for a private person to buy an entire lot, subdivide, take care of infrastructure (sewerage/water etc) is significant and well out of reach of the average person.

Is this an opportunity for Housing New Zealand and Panuku Development Auckland to intervene? These bodies are much better placed to do the subdividing and then on-sell the required parcel sizes with design guides as part of consent conditions. This would enable gradual, affordable, high quality development of our town centres.

Think of it as back when people used to buy a section, employ an architect and employ a builder to build the house or simply contract a building company do a design / build to the owner’s requirements.



An idea to definitely test out in the Panuku ‘Unlock’ areas like Otahuhu, Henderson and Takapuna. I would be wary of trying the scheme in a large Transform area like Manukau although opportunities could present themselves in the Mixed Housing Urban area at Rata Vines (located in the south-east area of the Transform Manukau area).


Thanks to Bryce for the guest contribution and idea.


Unitary Plan Mixed Housing Urban Zone update
Unitary Plan Mixed Housing Urban Zone update