Bayleys Real Estate Ltd
Property Services
News and Editorial

Commercial -


Walkable cities and value of upzoning

The X-minute city is a global urban planning concept intended to challenge thinking on how neighbourhoods are developed, built and managed, and to question “car-first” beliefs.

In its purest form, planners and developers would concentrate on live, work, play models where every touchpoint is within say a 15- to 20-minute walk, bike ride or convenient public transit option of where someone resides.

The value upside and societal benefits of the walkable city concept are discussed in the latest edition of Bayleys’ Total Property portfolio, with the firm’s national director commercial and industrial Ryan Johnson saying Auckland is showing positive signs of change.

“Walkable catchments and inner city neighbourhoods like the Willis Bond-driven Wynyard Quarter, epitomise mixed-use precincts with intensified residential living, office premises, vibrant hospitality and retail options, and effective connectivity to the CBD.

“Further out, Kiwi Property is shaking up Mt Wellington with its mixed-use Sylvia Park precinct where a huge build-to-rent (BTR) scheme will soon deliver long-term rental accommodation next to multi-modal transport options including rail, and high walkability with pedestrian links to its 250-store retail centre.

“It intends replicating the BTR model on a reduced scale at its LynnMall precinct in New Lynn, again to provide choice that optimises liveability and walkability, with mixed-use zoning providing scope for diversification and new property typologies.”

Bayleys’ global real estate partner Knight Frank said while walkable cities and neighbourhoods promote healthy sociable lifestyles and communities and assist developers/investors to meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) targets, the idealistic 15- to 20-minute framework won’t work everywhere as not all cities have the infrastructure to support the narrative.

However, if developers and planners benchmark any proposed development against its fundamental impact on walkability, then efficiencies and benefits will follow.

Successful precincts of the future will be mixed-use, mixed-income, walkable places, and in cities where those fundamentals have been achieved, there’s been a shift in thinking on car ownership.

Bayleys head of insights, data and consulting, Chris Farhi, says more intensive development around key public transport hubs and where existing infrastructure and zoning supports it, is changing the shape and form of our urban environment and reinforcing the wider consumer trend towards less dependency on owned vehicles.

“Research shows that younger people are less likely to own a car, or if they do own one, less likely to use it every day, opting instead for public transport, rideshares, cycling, e-scooters or walking to get around.

“This ‘green commute’ is seen as highly desirable from a health/well-being perspective and for the environment, but naturally has limits for those who may be mobility-challenged and is confronting for those who feel driving is the norm.”

Farhi noted sentiment shifts from residents post-pandemic about the liveability of local neighbourhoods.

“When people were mandated to work from home, the ability for their essential needs to be met locally was highlighted and many city fringe and suburban locations excelled.

“We saw some suburbs flourish as town centres effectively took the place of the CBD. Subsequently, with hybrid working models becoming common practice, many are looking to live, work and play in a more contained neighbourhood.”

Auckland Council chief economist Gary Blick said the Auckland Unitary Plan (AUP) was a bold change in 2016 to boost housing capacity by rezoning much of the city’s residential land to allow for higher-density housing.

This “upzoning” added housing capacity in existing urban locations, some of which have proximity to public transport and are within reasonable walking distance of services and amenities such as town centres and green spaces.

“Recent research from the University of Auckland points to the AUP as being significantly responsible for a surge in new homes,” he said.

“Around 22,000 new homes consented from 2016-2021 were a direct result of the AUP and would not have occurred in its absence – that’s around one-third of the 67,000 new dwellings consented in residential zones over that period.

“This has been driven by new multi-unit dwellings, in particular townhouses, as people choose to live in locations upzoned for higher density living, to get closer to employment, transport options, and amenities.”

Introduced under Labour, the National Policy Statement for Urban Development (NPS-UD) 2020 is a government directive to allow residential intensification in main cities. The focus on “quality compact growth” would see more townhouses and apartments developed along rapid transport corridors and where existing infrastructure supports growth.

Blick said the NPS-UD builds on the AUP by allowing for an even wider variety of homes in some places, with Auckland Council’s response, known as Plan Change 78, currently before an Independent Hearings Panel.

“It proposes allowing up to six storeys of residential development, such as apartment-style living, in the walkable catchments around many of our town centres and rapid transit network stations, to allow more people to access jobs, transport, and amenities like shopping, parks, or schools.

“When there are more of these development opportunities, we get competition among landowners and more choice for current and future households. Over time, this can support improved housing affordability.”

This article first appeared in Bayleys’ Total Property portfolio. Read the full version here.

Contact us

Office Hours
Office hours: 8.30am-5.30pm, Monday - Friday
Contact Phone
Contact Email
Bayleys House, 30 Gaunt Street, Auckland Central 1010