Building up not the answer for New Zealand’s housing shortage?

With the announcement of plans to build the country’s tallest habitable commercial building earlier this year, queries have been raised about whether the housing market in New Zealand will respond to the skyscraper model.

 A recent article in the Australian Financial Review’s Luxury magazine, looks at the trends among high-rise buildings internationally. Melbourne is planning some 41 towers across its CBD, Southbank and Docklands areas including the Australia 108 which will be the tallest tower in the southern hemisphere; London has about 230 in the pipeline (80 per cent of which will be residential); and last month Sydney’s Urban Taskforce put forward proposals for dozens more super-tall towers.

Their proponents argue that future cities have to be denser if they are to be greener and that something needs to be done about the housing shortage in major cities throughout the world. However, there is a concern that these high-rises will only benefit the cities wealthy. The expense of these buildings means that they are not a solution to the mass housing needs of most cities.

In a Stuff article about the announcement earlier in the year, Bill McKay, associate head of Auckland University’s school of architecture, expressed his concern that the sprawling city of Auckland does not have the kind of inner city population to sustain really tall buildings. He said the important factor was not so much the height or size but the building’s contribution to the local economy.

In Melbourne, the threat is that the towers will create slums in the sky, with cheaply made buildings, too close together, shading each other. While London critics are worried that developers are disregarding regulations and changing the look of the city without proper planning.

 As plans for the Auckland skyscraper progress and other plans for Auckland housing emerge, we will see how the New Zealand market responds to this trend.

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