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Apartment neighbours like ships in night

Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014
Jess Lee

SOLITARY EXPERIENCE: One apartment-dweller says residents don’t stay long enough in apartments to get to know their neighbours.

Laura Howard
Jess Lee
KNOCK KNOCK: Laura Howard lives in an apartment in Grey Lynn with her husband and young daughter and would like to know her neighbours better.

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Hundreds of people can live side-by-side in an apartment building, pass each other in the corridor and stand next to each other in the lift without ever knowing each other's names.

Laura Howard has lived in her apartment for 18 months and doesn't know any of her neighbours well.

She lives with her husband Michael and their young daughter Siena in a building in Grey Lynn which houses a mix of families with young children, single professionals and retirees.

"It's interesting because even though you're all living on top of each other in an apartment building, in a lot of ways it's such an individual way of living," Mrs Howard says.

"But to be honest it's probably the same as neighbours in a housing area - some people are smiley and friendly and some don't make eye contact."

She has got to know more people since she stopped working fulltime to take care of Siena.

"I would love to know my neighbours more - if I see them I do stop to have a little chat. It's such a big building though and there are a number of entrances so there are some people you just never see."

Traditional neighbourliness is sadly a thing of the past for most of us, she says.

"I don't think that's been around for decades.

"People live such individual lives and are so private. It would be nice if we could switch to being a bit more friendly and community focused."

But the couple has no plans to move their young family into a house.

"I'm pregnant with baby number two and we're really happy staying here," Mrs Howard says.

One 62-year-old apartment resident, who asked not to be named, says her fellow residents don't stay in the building very long.

She has lived in her Parnell apartment for nine years.

"It's basically like a hotel-feeling. Obviously not as transient as a hotel but they come and go all the time," she says.

"The ratio of owner-occupied versus investment apartments on my floor is two to nine."

She says she wouldn't feel as comfortable asking for a cup of sugar or for help with something as she would if she lived in a house.

"If I can't reach a lightbulb to change it, I have to pay for someone to do it for me.

"The building manager is so good but I wouldn't want to bother them for something like that."

The building holds a pool party each year which is a great place to meet the neighbours, she says.

"I do miss little things like garage sales and feeling more part of a community, but I love the location of where I live.

"I wouldn't change it - it's easy living."

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