High-Density for Families

April 21, 2017

Design for Auckland

Following on from last week’s post on the future of apartments in Auckland, this week the ADM looks at family-orientated housing and how it can be provided within a high-density environment.

Like many cities around the world faced with rapid population growth, Auckland is looking to progress as a ‘compact’ city with dense urban centres. These include our City Centre, Metropolitan Centres such as Manukau and Takapuna, and Town Centres from Pakuranga to Te Atatu.

However, planning policy and apartment design in Auckland has largely neglected a family-orientated approach in favour of providing for empty-nesters, couples without children and singles. As a result, many of the apartments in our urban centres are not suitable for family living.

As the city’s density increases, it is important this new housing stock caters for families with children. When designed well, high-density housing can provide healthy environments for children to develop; when designed poorly, it can isolate children and inhibit their social growth.

Beaumont Quater family apartments

Beaumont Quarter, is an example of well designed apartments and terraced housing that includes options for family living

 

So, what is considered suitable housing for families?

The total and per-room floor area of a house or apartment is the primary consideration when providing quality accommodation for families. Inadequate space for household members can lead to serious health issues and place strain on their relationships.

Activities which are easily affected by inadequate living space include how, and where, people prepare and eat food, the ability to socialise with guests or other members of the household, access to outdoor spaces and natural light, and whether sufficient privacy is afforded for studying, working, or relaxing. An inability to engage in these activities negatively impacts the day-to-day living of inhabitants, as well as their happiness and wellbeing.

Apartments should be large enough that all residents are able to easily engage in common household activities.

Apartments should be large enough that all residents are able to easily engage in common household activities.

 

In Vancouver, the Canadian National Occupancy Standards (NOS) stipulates, as a minimum, that one bedroom be provided for each cohabiting couple, each additional child, and each unattached 18+yr old household member. Additionally, the city’s High-Density Housing for Families design guidance recommends that all family units should be:

  • grouped together in the most appropriate parts of a development (e.g. on lower floors/facing common play areas)
  • within 0.4 km walking distance to a playground and a public transit stop
  • located within 0.8 km walking distance of an elementary school and its outdoor play area, a day-care centre, and an after-school care facility.

In London, generous minimum space standards are set for all new dwellings. In both cities, these policies have led to a surge in the delivery of well-designed, high-density dwellings for families.

While Auckland’s Unitary Plan doesn’t impose minimum room sizes, it does impose a minimum dwelling size of 30m² for studio dwellings and 45m² for one or more bedroom dwellings. In the future, further development of our policies and rules may need to be considered  in order to better provide for suitable family apartments.

New planning policy has led to a surge in the delivery of high-density dwellings suitable for families in Vancouver.

Appropriate planning policy has led to a surge in the delivery of high-density dwellings suitable for families in Vancouver.

 

But what about the cost?

Apartments are generally more expensive per square metre than single, detached dwellings. In some respects the issue is an unavoidable one; units are more expensive in the city and town centres precisely because they are within walking distance of amenities and the conveniences of city-living. As a result, families struggle to compete financially and are often pushed out to the suburbs, where family sized accommodation, in the form of detached housing, is less expensive.

Auckland is certainly no exception to this trend, though more efficient construction techniques and a changing public mindset on high density living have led to a rise in affordable apartment developments such as the proposed Mason Square in Otahuhu. ‘Affordable’ in that the units are cheaper than a median-priced house with an equivalent number of bedrooms. The market has also responded with a range of space-saving home décor that reduces the demands on space through improved storage, hide-after-use and multi-function furniture.

A concept design of the proposed Mason Square development in Otahuhu

A concept design of the proposed Mason Square development in Otahuhu

 

However, it’s about more than just housing…

Developing a functional and supportive high-density environment for families, including children, depends on both building design and environmental factors.

As Auckland delivers more high-density housing for families, it is essential that sufficient amenities and facilities are provided to support them.  Developers need to consider both the natural and built environments when creating play spaces, while also understanding the challenges that exist in creating a safe social environment.

Suitable social spaces for both children and adults need to be delivered alongside high-density family housing.

Suitable social spaces for both children and adults need to be delivered alongside high-density family housing.

 

For Auckland, while there’s no denying the city’s historic offerings for high-density family housing have been poor at best, the shift towards a compact city brings with it the potential for a change in our urban centres. Changes in planning policy, a changing public mindset towards high-density living, and an awareness of market demand by developers will hopefully lead to an increase in the quality and amount of high-density family housing. Combined with the appropriate services and facilities, our urban centres have the potential to become places our children can safely grow up and thrive in.

For case studies and apartment design solutions, check out the Auckland Design Manual’s Apartments Hub.

Next week, we finish April with a look at a leading example of high-density living across the ditch.

One Response to “High-Density for Families”

  1. Daniel Says:

    “30m² for studio dwellings and 45m² for one or more bedroom dwellings”

    This is higher in the Business – City Centre Zone.

    35m² for studio, 50m² for one or more bedrooms.
    Can be proportionally reduced for one or more bedroom dwellings if there is a balcony.

    Reply

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