What is MDH?



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Medium-density housing comprises a diverse range of attached housing types. BRANZ divides MDH to three categories.

Category 1: 1–2-storey attached houses

Category 1 MDH buildings are the lowest density within the MDH definition. This category includes single-storey units, 1–2-storey duplexes or triplexes and semi-attached terraced houses.


Examples of 1–2-storey attached houses that make up category 1 MDH buildings.

These houses can range in size with multiple bedrooms and can have a similar layout to traditional detached houses. Back gardens or patios of varying depths are also common. They are popular with residents who enjoy entertaining, eating outdoors and gardening and families who use the (smaller) back garden for play.

Because they follow a similar layout to a traditional detached home, category 1 MDH is considered suitable for a broad range of demographics, including young professionals, families and retirees.

Category 1 MDH units can offer a more affordable option than a stand-alone home and enable buyers to invest in their preferred location, trading off private space for location amenity.

Because category 1 MDH dwellings can be a similar scale to dwellings in existing low-density suburbs, they are often easily assimilated into the existing suburban fabric. A range of nearby neighbourhood amenities such as cafés, supermarkets, medical and community facilities (if available) enhances liveability. It means that, while residents may have traded off private space to make this housing choice, where they live is convenient for them.

Category 2: 2–4-storey attached dwellings

Category 2 MDH buildings include 2-storey, 3-storey and 4-storey terraced houses.


Examples of 2–4-storey attached dwellings in category 2 MDH buildings.

Terraced housing or row housing refers to individual dwellings connected on two sides via a shared or party wall. Individual residential units are stacked or separated vertically and are typically only one unit deep. They are suited to both urban and suburban locations.

While a few examples of category 2 MDH came to prominence during the 1970s, it is becoming an increasingly popular form of housing in the main centres.

Category 2 MDH dwellings cater to a wide demographic due to their versatility. They are popular with young professionals, smaller families and those who no longer have children living at home.

Given New Zealand’s shift towards later family formation, smaller families, single-parent households and an ageing population, it is likely that category 2 MDH buildings will increase in popularity in the coming years.

The physical bulk of category 2 MDH dwellings often integrates well into existing neighbourhoods. However, due to the increased number of residents living in a given area, additional parks, food shops and cafés, medical facilities and other services may be needed. This can mean attached dwellings are better suited to town centres and other areas where such amenities are welcomed.

Category 3: Apartment buildings

Category 3 MDH buildings are 3–6 storey apartment buildings. An apartment building is a multi-storey building in which one or more residential units are vertically separated on each floor. Individual apartment sizes vary greatly from around 40 m2 to greater than 180 m2. They can be studio apartments or have any number of bedrooms. 


Examples of apartment buildings up to 6 storeys high that make up category 3 MDH buildings.

Some apartment buildings offer shared indoor and outdoor spaces, such as a courtyard with play spaces, pool facilities and landscaped gardens or lawns. The maintenance of these facilities is organised by a body corporate to which residents pay fees.

Because apartments can vary greatly in their size and spatial layout, as a broad category, they suit all demographic groups.

Category 3 MDH below 3 storeys may not have lifts, which doesn’t suit all residents, especially those with disabilities. Those that do incorporate lifts often provide easier access than category 2 terraced houses with stair access only.

Category 3 MDH buildings are generally located in town and city centres. They are ideally located within walking distance of a range of local amenities, including local parks, to offset the lack of private outdoor space.