Inner city living unpopular in Christchurch, research finds

DENSE: New research has found Christchurch people are more likely to buy in the outer-suburbs, rather than apartments like these on Park Tce. PHOTO: MARTIN HUNTER

Plans to make inner Christchurch suburbs more populated have hit a stumbling block – people don’t like living close together.

That is the what new research looking into living preferences in the city has found.

Canterbury University transportation lecturer Diana Kusumastuti’s paper, Mixed-use development in Christchurch, New Zealand: Do you want to live there? has just been published in the Urban Studies Journal.

It looked at the weight residents put on buying a home, and what factors were more important.

Dr Kusumastuti said the research found more people were likely to buy a home in the city’s outer suburbs because the properties were larger, quieter, private and often cheaper.

“From what we saw, people dislike high density living. An increase in density reduces the probability of choosing in either area.”

It comes as new housing developments are being built in the central city, including anchor project the East Frame, and after District Plan zone changes were made to encourage inner city living.

When Mayor Lianne Dalziel was re-elected last year, she said she wanted 20,000 people living in the central city before 2024.

She was unable to comment on the research yesterday as she had not read it.

Dr Kusumastuti said people did not place much importance on travel times to get into the inner-city when buying because in Christchurch they were under the “acceptable amount”.

“It might be 45min to go to your work compared to the inner-suburbs. But you have to pay more for property there.”

The central city, Merivale, Papanui, Fendalton, Riccarton, Addington and part of Linwood were all classed as inner-suburban areas, while the rest were outer-suburban areas.

The study used the responses from 141 people through an online survey. Respondents were asked to rate the importance of 24 “neighbourhood factors” when deciding to buy a home.

Of those, respondents said the most important factors were safety, quietness, privacy, the type of neighbourhood,
location and proneness to flooding.

Respondents were also asked to indicate their liking for living near 12 different activity types. Of those, most were happy living near a park, supermarket, playground or school.

But few wanted to live near offices, a cinema, a rail station, clothing shops or bars.

After the February 22, 2011, earthquake, the existing District Plans needed to be replaced, which was done through the city council and an independent hearings panel.

As part of the process some zones were altered to allow for higher density housing developments.

Dr Kusumastuti said that had scared some people who were living in those suburbs because larger developments could be built there.

Somerfield was an example, with consent being granted to Multay Developments to build four two-storey townhouses at 23 Studholme St which residents are fiercely opposed to.

The research said the planning practices and policies in force to encourage mixed-use development may “reduce the attractiveness” of inner-suburban properties.

But it said the findings should not hinder efforts to encourage mixed-use development living, and more research needed to be done on how to make high-density living more attractive.

Central Ward city councillor Deon Swiggs, who lives in the inner-city, said in foreign countries, they only went home to sleep.

“We need to make our city centre the living room for people who want to live in the central city.”

He said the offer of living in the central city was not as appealing as it used to be. But with new apartment blocks and the East Frame being built, it was improving, he said.

But Christchurch needed to cater for everyone and, for some families, the inner-city was not appropriate, he said.

In July, a city council survey found a lot of people did not feel safe in the central city. To make it safer, it needed to be more populated, Cr Swiggs said.

Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said housing in the inner city needed to be affordable.

“I know the council has had a wish to have a lot of people living back in the central city by a certain time,” he said.

“If the council’s really keen on making that happen, they have to do something to assist that momentum, otherwise it won’t happen to the degree they want.”

Mr Lonsdale said businesses would thrive if more people lived closer, and some could stay open for longer to cater for that.

With more people, came increased safety at night, he said.

He said Christchurch had amenities, such as parks and open spaces in the central city, which lessened the need to own a larger property and backyard.

“Having a quarter acre section is a life of work.”

Dr Kusumastuti said it would be difficult to make inner-city living more attractive, because it was Christchurch culture to own homes with backyards.

But she said culture could be changed because the current outwards spread of housing was not sustainable.

That had happened in Auckland, with many people deciding to compromise on size because of a lack of affordability, she said.

Ways to make inner-city, mixed-use living more attractive should be investigated, she said, which included the design of the buildings to try and reduce noise. The research was supported by the Building Research Association of New Zealand through the Building Research Levy.


  1. I’d love to live in the city. Those places down Dorset Street in the photo looked like they were leaky homes so hopefully that’s not the case with other new builds.

  2. Not everyone wants to live in a square box with shared walls. I would live in the city if there were affordable choices for stand alone townhouses with a small courtyard. Is it developer greed trying to squeeze as many residences as they can on one piece of dirt?