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Medium-density housing in New Zealand

This page provides information on the medium-density housing project completed by the Ministry in 2011. It describes the medium-density housing typologies used in the project, the methodology used to rate medium-density housing developments, and includes links to three case studies that tested the methodology.

About the medium-density housing project

Medium-density housing is being constructed in large numbers throughout New Zealand. This is a relatively new design type and requires high urban design qualities to gain wider community approval.

In 2011, the Ministry for the Environment completed a medium-density housing project to develop a:

The methodology was then tested on three case studies.

Medium-density housing definition

For the project medium-density housing means:

“Medium-density housing means comprehensive developments including four or more dwellings with an average density of less than 350 m2 per unit. It can include stand-alone dwellings, semi-detached (or duplex ) dwellings, terraced housing or apartments within a building of four storeys or less. These can be located on either single or aggregated sites, or as part of larger masterplanned developments”. 

Medium-density housing building typologies

Below is a brief description of the key features of each medium-density building typology.

Stand-alone housing

Key features:

  • smaller lot sizes
  • not attached to other dwellings but close to neighbouring buildings
  • two or three storeys in height
  • can be part of a larger masterplanned development.

The Stonefields case study has some stand-alone dwellings on compact sites as well as other dwelling types.

Addison, Takanini, Auckland

Addison, Takanini, Auckland.
Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Delmain, Christchurch

Delmain, Christchurch. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Rangiora, Canterbury

Rangiora, Canterbury. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd


Semi-detached or duplex dwellings

Key features:

  • two side-by-side dwellings contained within one building
  • one dwelling is usually the mirror image of its partner
  • two or three storeys in height.
Northwood, Christchurch

Northwood, Christchurch (two dwellings in one
building). Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Talbot Park

Talbot Park, Auckland. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Willowridge, Wanaka

Willowridge, Wanaka. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd


Terraced or row housing

Key features:

  • row of identical or very similar attached dwellings that are joined on one or both sides of other houses
  • the ‘end terrace’ house can be different to the rest of the terrace
  • sometimes can be joined by garages between houses and can either be built into the terrace and accessed from the front or can be accessed by a rear laneway
  • two or three storeys in height.

There are terraced houses studied in the Stonefields, Chester Courts and Altair case studies.

Talbot Park, Glen Innes

Talbot Park, Glen Innes, Auckland.
Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Linden Grove

Linden Grove, Hoon Hay, Christchurch.
Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Manukau, Auckland

Manukau, Auckland. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd


Apartments within a building of four storeys or less

Key features:

  • apartments are usually single storey self-contained units within a larger building, but sometimes apartments have more than one storey
  • usually there is common access to a core stairwell
  • private open space is a courtyard or garden on ground floor or on balconies on upper floors
  • often rubbish storage is communal and post boxes are in one central place.


Revolucion, Wellington City

Revolucion, Wellington City.
Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd

Ellerslie, Auckland

Ellerslie, Auckland. Source: Boffa Miskell Ltd


Medium-density housing assessment methodology 

A medium-density assessment methodology has been developed to provide a robust urban design rating system for medium-density housing developments. The methodology can be used to identify particular strengths and weaknesses of developments.

It is envisioned that this methodology, with refinement, could be used to enhance the design of future developments. The Ministry welcomes the use and modification of the assessment methodology to improve the design and ultimately liveability of medium-density housing.

Medium-density housing case studies

The assessment methodology has been tested using three case studies:

  • Stonefields, Auckland
  • The Altair, Wellington
  • Chester Courts, Christchurch.

The case studies were selected to demonstrate various developer responses to differing contexts and a mix of residential typologies.