You Be The Planner: Figure Out How To Grow A City Responsibly

Play this fun web game to try to figure out how to cram an additional million people into the growing New Zealand city of Auckland.

From participatory budgets to civic engagement games, cities are coming up with all kinds of new ways to bring citizens into the planning process. And here’s another nice idea: a “housing simulator” from Auckland.


New Zealand’s largest city already ranks pretty highly in global quality of living surveys. But success comes with challenges. The city’s government estimates that an additional 1 million people will move in over the next 30 years, on top of a current population of 1,377,000. That means it needs to find at least 400,000 new homes.

The simulator allows residents to choose where the homes should go. For example, if you want no height limits in the city center, you can meet 2.5% of the requirement. Or, you can stop at 28 stories, and get 1.3%. Or, you can choose to leave the four most central areas alone, and get to the target by allowing all feasible residential homes further out, and building on virgin countryside as well (the “sprawl” option). In all, there are 3 million ways to get the 400,000 figure. Once you’ve decided, you can send in your plan via the feature at the bottom, or share it with your friends.

Officials hope the tool will help residents engage with its Unitary Plan, a blueprint for the city’s future. “Auckland’s a big and varied place, but the simulator gives people a really simple way to visualize some of the decisions that need to be made through the unitary plan,” says Auckland councillor Michael Goudie, in a press release. “It shows the trade-offs between heights in our centers, growth in density across suburban Auckland and growth out into rural areas.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.