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Nostalgia, Community and New Housing Developments: A Critique of New Urbanism Incorporating a New Zealand Perspective

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We set out the arguments for and against the concepts and practices of new urbanism and neo-traditionalism that have emerged in the USA and discuss them in the context of Christchurch, New Zealand. Our interpretation of the similarities between new residential neighbourhoods in Christchurch and the aesthetic and community values inherent in new urbanism leads us to the conclusion that in New Zealand, at least, new urbanism is primarily a form of rhetoric designed to sell houses profitably rather than a community development project based on new forms of housing. In support of this perspective we use data from our research in Christchurch to demonstrate how contemporary social life sits awkwardly with the concepts of community and traditionalism associated with new urbanism. We focus on the ways in which the creation of community in new urbanism rests on socio-economic homogeneity rather than diversity; homogeneity created by the people who design, build, regulate and sell housing and reinforced by the cost and appearance of the houses in new neighbourhoods.

Keywords: community; neighbourhood; neo-traditionalism; new urbanism; planning

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: E.S.R., Christchurch. Email: Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Canterbury. Email: Environment, Society and Design Division, Lincoln University, Canterbury. Email:

Publication date: June 1, 2003

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