New criteria for buying a house: What can I walk to?


A new housing initiative to be launched in the Bay of Plenty this year may be a long-term solution to countering petrol prices and fostering closer-knit communities.


Based on historic New Zealand precedents and successful international models, Excelsa Village in Papamoa East is being developed by Bluehaven Management, and has been designed to free residents of their dependence on cars as their only mode of transport.


Bluehaven general manager Jason Macdonald says one of Excelsa Village’s big benefits is the planned “walkability” of the neighbourhood, meaning it has been designed to be within walking distance from amenities we usually drive to.


“Taking into account the worldwide situation with petrol, the new criteria for buying a house is going to be ‘what can I walk to?’ 


Classified as Traditional Neighbourhood Design (TND), Excelsa Village is a twist on the traditional approach to neighbourhood building. Key elements of the village include narrow pedestrian-friendly streets, a mix of housing types, quality streetscapes and community facilities.


Roberts Day is an internationally-recognised urban design company consulted on the planning of the village. Australian-based principal Stephen Moore says the development is one of the first to embrace the TND philosophies in New Zealand to create a contemporary coastal village.


“There is a global renaissance of TND neighbourhoods because people want to feel connected to their immediate neighbours and broader community. They foster social interaction, along with health and well being,” Mr Moore says.



He says creating neighbourhoods which are not car dependent is one of the best mechanisms to address housing affordability.


“Owning one less car enables housing to be within easier reach of people. The typical yearly cost of owning a car is around $9000 which constitutes a $90,000 mortgage repayment.”


Excelsa Village will offer community-focused open green spaces, including a tennis court, children’s playground and barbecue facilities.


Bluehaven Management is so confident the model will work it is building 10 houses immediately, all of which will be completed in October this year.


“Based on overseas models, it has become expected that homes in intimate and highly planned neighbourhoods will be very sought after. There is more demand for houses in these communities than conventional suburban residential subdivisions,” Mr Macdonald says.


He says their strategy is about smart growth, not suburban sprawl.


“It is similar to traditional New Zealand neighbourhoods that were constructed prior to World War II. These places focused on the pedestrian, and today they are some of the most cherished and valued places in the country.


“This development has added improvements that enhance lifestyle and safety. For example you’ll drive into your garage from behind the home so children can safely walk, run and ride bikes along the front of properties without the risk of being hit by a reversing car.


“There are so many ‘tipping points’ here — petrol prices increasing, obesity soaring, re-connecting people into functioning communities.”


Mr Macdonald says Excelsa Village will be a special mix of seaside, urban and retail experiences. In the village there will be various types of housing, including free-standing cottages, houses, terraced houses, mixed use and apartments.


The first 10 houses, to be built by Ultimate Homes, Classic Builders and Jennian Homes, will be free-standing, and ranging in price from late $400,000s to early $500,000s.


Amenities such as parks, schools, retail shops, a gymnasium, a civic building and town square are planned to be built in the future.


“This is a seven-year process which will eventually see around 100 houses, 160 apartments and convenience retailing set within around 8ha that Excelsa Village comprises,” Mr Macdonald says.

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