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“Future slums and jail cells” - the public's view on medium density housing in eastern suburbs

Kieryn Morris
townhouse sunset
Townhouses on New Brighton Road  KIERYN MORRIS NZBS

The eastern suburbs of Christchurch are witnessing a significant rise in medium density housing developments.

Particularly in the form of townhouses, while these developments aim to address housing needs and promote urban density, this shift towards smaller and closely-packed housing has stirred some resentment amongst the locals.

Sale sign on Marine Parade
Sale Sign on Marine Parade KIERYN MORRIS NZBS

Facebook pages “Peoples Independent Republic of New Brighton” and “Burwood, Shirley, Mairehau and surrounding areas - Support Local” saw comments stating that the new builds are giving the areas a much needed facelift, bringing money to local businesses, and  compensating for the loss of housing due to Red zones. Others, however, see resemblance in the Coronation Street TV show intro, comparing them to jail cells, pigeon boxes and future slums.

Bronnie Lennox Thompson fears that New Brighton isn’t set up to manage the intensification of water, sewerage, power, fibre, parking and vehicle movements, and she fears it will upset the ability to move around the suburb. 

Others are frustrated townhouses have taken priority in the east side post-earthquake.  

“It's incredible how our neighbours are still trying to repair their family home after the earthquakes and it's still going after 12 years...having major issues over resource consents to the nearest millimeter yet these developers can put 30 units on the site of one house.

"Christchurch had an amazing opportunity to be a city of the future after the earthquakes. Instead we get these future urban ghettos. Soul-less developers," said Gavin Fantastic.

Parked cars on Marine Parade
Parked Cars on Marine Parade KIERYN MORRIS NZBS

Jack Ealam mentions the frustration of living in a townhouse, saying that they are made of paper-thin walls that can be damaged with the slightest bump.  

“What certainly wasn’t disclosed before renting one was the body corp agreement preventing washing being hung anywhere but the designated washing line which just so happens to be in the shade, when issues are raised to property managers regarding healthy homes compliance e.g the main door having such a significant gap that a constant and heavy breeze is filtered through, those are ruled out as teething issues as being a new build almost entirely exempts from criticisms.” 

The major concern amongst the majority was around the Shirley townhouse fire on New Brighton Road, February 27th of this year, where an e-scooter engulfed in flames downstairs. Since there were no fire exits upstairs for the trapped victims, they had no choice but to flee from the upstairs window. The fire saw three patients medically treated, one serious and the other two moderate. 

While the leaves may exhibit autumnal hues, their current appearance is also a result of the fire. 

Townhouse fire
Townhouse fire New Brighton Road KIERYN MORRIS NZBS

Christchurch City Council's urban design team leader, Cecile DeLarue, says medium density housing is a great plan for Christchurch, as building up not out ensures more variety of homes at the heart of the city.

With the likes of new subdivisions such as Kaiapoi, Silverstream, and Yaldhurst providing family homes post-earthquake, smaller townhouses are widening people’s options. Whilst some townhouses provide parking spots for an increased price, she believes it is important to consider those with lesser budgets or those who may not have a car, and travel to work via bus or bike.

Whether your ideal living space entails sprawling acres of land paired with a charming, spacious family abode, or a modern two-bedroom townhouse equipped with state-of-the-art appliances and soundproof double glazing, the trend towards medium density housing continues to grow in Christchurch.