Auckland property-owners selling after homes bowled over to make room for townhouses

Homeowners in west Auckland are banding together and selling their houses in lots to developers and making even more money out of the intense market.

Quiet, suburban streets are being turned into huge construction zones as townhouses and apartment complexes sprout up.

It's all because of the Auckland Unitary Plan allowing for higher buildings in residential areas to cope with the super city's growth.

The plan was put on paper by the council in 2010 but now residents are seeing it with their own eyes and for some the reality is confronting.

Recently three neighbouring west Auckland properties were auctioned off together for just under $6 million - each property owner pocketing almost $2m.

One of the properties sold is an 809-square-metre, 1950s, three-bedroom house. But no one cares for the house - for developers the money is in the mud.

"Apparently we're zoned for seven stories so anything up to that," the seller says.

The seller didn't want to be identified as the issue is controversial among locals.

Under Auckland's Unitary Plan, he and his neighbours are zoned for terraced housing and apartments so the three owners got together and thought outside the square.

"We were like 'okay let's maybe team up to see if we can get a good deal' and it just snowballed from there. Within two weeks we had sold at auction," the seller says.

Given the house was once purchased for around $450,000 it's a huge capital gain - $1.5m.

Others on his street are doing the same. Classic Kiwi homes on what was once an ordinary-looking suburban street are being bowled over for townhouses or apartments.

Real estate agents Rosie and Daniel Deans worked with the three homeowners and with others doing the same and say there are higher returns in selling as a group.

"We had one vendor and after the auction I thought she was going to have a heart attack for good reasons. Blown-away. It's very emotional, it's life-changing, it's like winning the Lotto," Daniel says.

"Before COVID they would have maybe got $1.1m and now they're getting close to $2m or over," says Daniel.

One woman told Newshub she recently sold for a very high price. But money wasn't the driving factor - she just didn't want to live next to all the townhouses.

"We visit a whole of these homes that have the beautiful quarter-acre or full section for their family," Rosie says.

"You know, it's the quintessential Kiwi family lifestyle and they're almost being forced out of their own homes because the townhouses are going up next door. In the same breath it's the Unitary Plan that allowed this to happen."

The Auckland Unitary Plan zones land to specify what can be built and how high it can be built.

Zones include: 'mixed housing urban zone' - which allows for up to three stories - and a 'terrace housing and apartment building zone' where developers can build up to seven stories.

Auckland Council came up with the new zones in 2010. A decade later residents are seeing it all with their own eyes and in many cases straight over their fence.

"So we've got five being built here right on our backyard," Te Atatu South resident Siobhrin Burmester says.

"We used to be able to see the water and the horses over on the peninsula and you can't see any of that now because they've built us out.

"Straight over the road, another nine are going to be built so yes definitely feeling invaded."

Burmester grew up in this house and is still here with her family today.

"We get letters and we get phone calls. We just don't even answer them now. We just hang up the phone and the letters just go in the rubbish bin cause we're not ready to sell," she says.

Neither is Te Atatu Peninsula resident Jessie Vuletich. After almost 60 years on the same street she's staying put. But she has her concerns.

"I find it really frightening because the infrastructure is not built for it and it's just going to be a mess in the end," she says.

The government's removed the requirement for developers to include car parks in their plans so some complexes are built with no parking meaning the only option is on-street parking.

Auckland Council chief of strategy Megan Tyler says that means there will be more cars on the street in some neighbourhoods.

"I guess the flipside to that is that we are also as a council wanting to provide more transport modes like public transport whether its trains, buses, walking, cycling. So there will be many people over time that will choose not to have say, two cars or even a car at all in order to get round the city," says Tyler.

But Rosie and Daniel Deans believe the issue of parking needs to be regulated.

"They need to regulate car parking and they need to make garages," says Daniel.

Residents say all the development is putting huge pressure on other infrastructure and services.

"Our schools are just about full now so where are the children going to go to school," says Vuletich.

Tyler says the Council spends billions of dollars every year on infrastructure.

"Infrastructure - things like parks, libraries, public transport but also the underground like stormwater and wastewater. It's incredibly important for us to get the right infrastructure at the right time," she says.

Auckland Council says the super city is catching up with the rest of the world and literally growing up.

"It's the most logical way of addressing demand, absolutely. We can't build a wall around Auckland in my view and stop people coming in," says Tyler. 

She says Aucklanders need to get used to a new way of living and accept townhouses and apartments will no longer be confined to the city centre.

"We're not forcing anybody to develop. It's an option we enable. We don't do the development ourselves. If you want to stay on an 800-metre section forever then it's entirely up to you and you can do that. It just seems that a number of people these days are choosing to sub-divide or change that development in some way."