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How Urban Housing Redevelopment Affects Wellbeing

Auckland University of Technology has begun research on how urban housing redevelopment affects people’s wellbeing.

Te Hotonga Hapori (Connecting Communities) is a five-year research programme on large scale, multi-billion-dollar urban redevelopment projects by Kāinga Ora and Isthmus (integrated design studio).

The overarching aim of urban redevelopment is to improve livability, social cohesion, and place-based identity by providing more affordable homes and shared community spaces, says Te Hotonga Hapori research lead Associate Professor Scott Duncan. “This research will give developers and policymakers essential information on the multifaceted impact of urban redevelopment on the people of New Zealand, including mental and physical health and a sense of community and place. Findings will give direction to further improvements.”

Dr Duncan says, there is substantial international evidence indicating that countries which enhance wellbeing, not only raise the standard of living for their citizens but also create a foundation for stronger and more resilient economic growth.

“Given the trend to fund major urban redevelopments to revitalise communities, address inequity, and improve social capital, we believe that the outcomes of this research will have a major impact on how future urban renewal projects are designed, implemented, and evaluated in New Zealand and overseas.”

Funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), the $7.95 million, multi-university programme will be conducted by a research team led by Associate Professor Scott Duncan, Professor Erica Hinckson, and Professor Gail Pacheco from AUT’s School of Sport and Recreation and the School of Business, Economics and Law.

Te Hotonga Hapori encompasses three stages.

Stage One will unravel the long-term impact of urban redevelopment on community wellbeing by analysing administrative and population survey data from Statistics New Zealand’s Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI). This stage will determine the impact of major urban redevelopment on a number of high-level wellbeing indicators such as life satisfaction, social connectedness and cultural identity.

Stage Two will focus on Kāinga Ora tenants—a population that experiences significant economic, social, health, and education challenges—to examine their personal wellbeing at various stages of housing development.

Stage Three will work with residents in targeted Auckland communities to explore how urban redevelopment impacts ‘experienced’ wellbeing (e.g., states like stress, anxiety, mood), physical activity, social contact, sense of community, neighbourhood interaction/mobility, and cultural identity. It will use methods like Citizen Science for Health Equity, a community-based participatory research and innovative measurement techniques such as custom smartphone apps, accelerometers, and portable GPS devices.

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