Understanding the types of urban environments that New Zealanders want to live in and the neighbourhood characteristics that contribute to wellbeing was critical to addressing the overarching research question of the Resilient Urban Futures programme: which potential urban futures would result in the most resilient, liveable, competitive cities?

A stand-alone house on a sizeable section has been the traditional New Zealand dwelling type and it remains the housing aspiration of most New Zealanders. However, the affordability of this type of housing is beyond the reach of many and the sprawling urban form it creates is at odds with the resilient, compact city model advocated in the growth plans of our major cities. Medium density residential developments, located close to public transport and community amenities, offer an alternative urban future.

The researchers interviewed residents as they moved into, lived, and moved out of case study medium density neighbourhoods. They were interested to understand the perceptions and circumstances that determined the housing choices households make, including the trade-offs made between dwelling and location characteristics, cost and amenity access. Residents’ amenity use, transport patterns, and experiences of neighbouring and sense of community were also explored.

Case study sites were located in Auckland and Christchurch. They included developments that had received significant public sector investment, for example, Hobsonville Point, a greenfields site in North West Auckland. The case studies included development histories and analysis of how sites were marketed to potential residents. The Christchurch study analysed consequences of post-earthquake population movements and examined factors that facilitated the formation of new communities.