Kōrero: Inner-city living

Whārangi 4. Inner-city people

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In their 2005 report using 2001 census data, Statistics New Zealand examined inner-city apartment living in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The comparison group was those living in apartments in the wider metropolitan area of each of the cities. Between 1991 and 2001 the number of people living in inner-city apartments grew 240%, from 2,532 to 8,607. The number in Auckland quadrupled, and that in Wellington tripled. It increased by only about a quarter in Christchurch.

Age and marital status

The median age of inner-city residents was 28 years, compared with 33 years in similar dwellings outside the inner city. One-quarter were between 20 and 24 years – a reflection of the fact that many educational institutions were nearby. Inner-city dwellers tended to be single: 47% had never been married and were not in de-facto relationships, compared with 34% of apartment dwellers elsewhere.


Immigration had a lot to do with the increase of apartments. Some 18% of those living in inner-city apartments in 2001 were recent immigrants (compared to only 4% of the national population). About 33% were students – 22% were enrolled in full-time study and 11% in part-time study.

Government landlord

In 2001 many inner-city poor lived in state rental flats. Of these, 35% lived alone and 18% were aged over 65. Because the rents of low-income tenants were subsidised, state tenants paid significantly lower rentals than other inner-city renters.


In 2001 only 8% of those living in the inner city were children. The survey noted that becoming a couple did not cause inner-city residents to move to the suburbs, but that having children often did.

Education and work

Inner-city dwellers in 2001 had higher levels of formal education. They were more likely to hold a bachelor degree or higher at all ages – particularly in Wellington – and were far less likely than their counterparts outside the inner city to have no formal qualifications. They were also more likely to be employed: 75%, compared with 66%. Just over half of inner-city apartment dwellers in paid employment worked in the central city (62% in Wellington), compared with 28% of suburban apartment dwellers.

Long hours

Some 33% of inner-city residents worked at least 50 hours a week, compared with 25% of those who lived in outer urban areas. A large proportion were professionals in jobs demanding long hours. Demographics also played a role – the single and childless had more freedom to work long hours than those with families.


Just over 70% of inner-city residents rented their dwelling. There was a strong relationship between age and tenure: 88% of those aged 20–24 were renting, whereas 58% of those aged 55–59 owned their apartment.


Inner-city apartment dwellers had higher incomes than their suburban counterparts. In 2001 the median income for the former group was $27,000, against $19,800 for the latter. Wellingtonians had the highest income ($31,200) and Christchurch residents the lowest ($21,400).


The revival of inner-city living has extended the range of housing options, mostly for non-family lifestyles. The market has supplied high-density living that can compete with alternative commercial land uses. Local government support, a trend to delay or forego marriage and children, interesting and well-paid city jobs, and vibrant street and night life have also contributed to the revival.

However, in 2009 most New Zealand dwellings were still single units – the change has taken place in a relatively small, concentrated area.

Me pēnei te tohu i te whārangi:

Philip Morrison and Ben Schrader, 'Inner-city living - Inner-city people', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/mi/inner-city-living/page-4 (accessed 18 June 2024)

He kōrero nā Philip Morrison and Ben Schrader, i tāngia i te 11 Mar 2010