Downsizing to an apartment

Publish Date : 11 Jul 2016
Downsizing, pros and cons
Artist's impression of Wynyard Central, image provided by Architectus

Downsizing from a family home to an apartment can open up opportunities for a change in lifestyle, meeting new friends and exploring a new community, according to Aucklanders who’ve made the move.

Jan, 69, and Jeff, 70, swapped their two-storey, three-bedroom Kohimarama townhouse for a two-bedroom apartment in Stonefields, Mt Wellington, two years ago.

They gave their insights to Housing Challenges, a report prepared for Auckland Council that looks at the wide ranging experiences of 15 Aucklanders dealing with the city’s housing challenges. 

Jan and Jeff (not their real names) work in their insurance brokerage, mostly online. Their priorities for a new home were staying in the eastern suburbs and affordability.

“The move here was motivated mainly by our children’s desire to see us move into a maintenance-free, simple environment.”

Pros and cons

It enabled them to declutter and simplify their life. “There are some detractions to apartment living but on the positive side it does make you realise that you don’t need as much space as you once had.”

Another plus has been the sense of community and making new friendships within their block. Concerned it would be like living in a retirement village, Jan appreciates the family atmosphere. “The nice thing about it is there’s a good spread of age groups so we’ve got some children here.

“We’ve got new friends and sometimes there’s quite a family atmosphere when we have get-togethers. A lot of us have similar interests and we have great conversation. So the social aspect is good.”

The couple say they appreciate the apartment’s security. “It’s very secure. It’s lock up, walk out, come back, everything is as it should be.”

However, the move was a step into the unknown and does have some downsides — “things that would have been in another room are in the lockup in the basement”; their dog, Bella, can’t get out whenever she needs to; and Jan misses gardening, though she has some pots on the balcony.

Based on their experience, Jan and Jeff have some concerns about Auckland’s future housing challenges. They have seen bad examples of infill housing and apartments in the city, and also worry about a lack of green spaces, and children growing up without being able to get outside and play. However, Stonefields and Hobsonville Point are good examples of well-designed communities, they say. Character is also important to them, and they believe that heritage and history are a part of the ‘story’ of an area.

“When you think that there’s 5000 or 6000 people living in here [Stonefields] now that were not here seven or eight years ago, and there’s nothing wrong with it, it’s very positive.”

The changing face of Auckland’s waterfront 

Wynyard Quarter is another example where new homes being built are set to change the way people view terraced housing and apartment blocks, according to Rob Marler, Place Shaping Director at Panuku Development Auckland.

Panuku is the Auckland Council organisation responsible for the council's landholdings in the waterfront area.

"Gone are the comparisons with Coronation Street and soul-less towers, and in its place is a new level of design not seen before in the local market," Marler says. "With homes designed by some of New Zealand's finest architects including Athfield Architects and Architectus and at a minimum of 7 Home Star sustainable building ratings, they are true representation of density done well".

Panuku and its predecessor, Waterfront Auckland, have sought to grow a sense of community built around public open and green spaces, local events, and activities via a concept called Placemaking. This has been demonstrated to great success with the popularity of markets and outdoor cinema at Silo Park and its waterfront workshops for kids, Marler says.

By proving that living in terrace houses and apartments need not be at the cost of amenities people are used to from suburban living, the urban regeneration agency is looking to replicate the approach in other Council-owned sites across Auckland.

The views expressed by interview subjects are not those of Auckland Council.

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