Globally there is a shortage of sustainable and affordable housing. Innovative solutions and new partnerships are emerging that increasingly involve third-sector housing providers in an attempt to grapple with these issues. Medium-density housing designs have been forwarded as potentially more sustainable and affordable, but in countries where suburban detached housing forms have traditionally been idealised, such as Australia and New Zealand, these types of dwellings have often been poorly received and viewed as unsuitable and unappealing for families with children.
As a medium-density housing development specifically aimed at young families, the Waimahia development brings into question this apparent lack of appeal. Located in Weymouth, South Auckland, Waimahia was developed by a consortium of Māori organisations and community housing providers (CHPs), to provide affordable, quality housing, with a particular focus on meeting the housing needs of low-income Māori and Pasifika families.
The research presented in this paper comes from a multi-phase investigation of the initial expectations and experiences of Waimahia residents. This paper traces the experiences of young families living in a medium-density community housing development in an outer suburb of Auckland. The focus of the paper is the initial motivations and trade-offs that the participants felt they were making by moving into a mostly unfamiliar higher density suburban environment and how these expectations were borne out. The research provides a valuable perspective on the increasing prevalence of suburban densification and an example of young families adapting to higher density living that runs counter to conventional expectations.