November 8, 2021

Aotearoa Update: The end of single-family zoning in New Zealand

As soon as the news hit that the New Zealand government was essentially abolishing exclusive zoning for single-detached dwelling (Fumano reports here), Viewpoint got in touch with the Kiwi who may know the most about our respective cities, Auckland and Vancouver.  Darren Davis reports:

Kia ora Gord,

Good to hear from you and ngā mihi mahana ki Aotearoa/ warm greetings from New Zealand. We are in day 72 of our fifth lockdown here in Tāmaki Makaurau/ Auckland. Cabin fever has long since set in.

A couple of thoughts about the effective abolition of single-home family zoning in Aotearoa’s largest cities:

This is the most centralising government in living memory in an already fairly centralised country, and Central Government is clearly frustrated about how NIMBY issues are blocking progress on addressing housing (un)affordability.  This is tied in with resource management law reform which also aims to stymie typical NIMBY resistance to densification/ intensification.

The National Policy Statement on Urban Development requires minimum six storeys around rapid transit in the largest centres and eliminates minimum parking requirements in all urban areas with more than 10,000 residents.

The work has been rushed and there is plenty of potential for perverse effects.  Character and heritage protection have taken a strong step backwards in a country where getting heritage building closer to building code requirements could cause a bow wave of heritage building decay and demolition by neglect.  But so far the single-family home change is supported by both major political parties in a rare example of putting partisan interests aside.

Planning and zoning rules are either enabling or disabling – but don’t guarantee outcomes. The same basic rules of what creates viable Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) still apply, meaning that single home sites have pretty limited potential, particularly with the 50% site coverage rule.

The Auckland Unitary Plan was reasonably facilitative of intensification around rapid and frequent transit and the various recent changes will help with this.  There is already reasonable market appetite in Auckland for medium density with Hobsonville Point and New Lynn TOD  being a great proofs of concept.

Hobsonville Point under development in 2014:


New Lynn TOD



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  1. Vancouver’s RS Districts are definitely not ‘single-family’ areas – ie one house with one household. Maybe it’s time to rename them to clarify that they are not ‘single-family’ districts.

    Depending on the size of the lot, in the City of Vancouver you can have up to five (maybe more?) dwellings on a RS zoned site. So Vancouver has been way ahead of many other cities on permitting more dwellings on RS sites.

    It’s notable that the City of Vancouver begin eliminating ‘single-family’ zoning in the 1980’s and completed the job in about 2003 when a house with a rental (not just Family) suite was permitted in all RS zones. Later that decade a third dwelling was permitted with the addition of laneway houses. More recently with the last Vision Council, RS got amended again to permit even more dwellings on a RS zoned site.

    Now you can have a two-family dwelling on RS-1 lots with plus also the option to have a lane way house or a lock off suite in the house or each of the two-family dwellings can have a secondary suite.

    The NZ permitted height house areas is about a metre higher than what is permitted in Vancouver and both jurisdictions limit site coverage to 50%.

    RS zoned areas are really ‘house’ districts as the preeminent form of building. Now the built form question is whether to permit townhouses (3 or more), including stacked townhouses or apartment buildings rather a ‘house like’ form of development in RS Districts.

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