Unimpressed by the mass of shoebox apartments in Auckland's central business district, Sandi Hall thought she'd finally found a home in a sunny apartment with an outlook to the harbour.
But after moving into the 10th floor Imperial Garden apartment on Hobson St she has learned of a development set to cast her home into perpetual shadow.
"Auckland is thronging with apartments," Ms Hall says. "I went to see one in Day St (off Karangahape Rd). It was shelves, shelves," she says, shaking her head. "I stepped it out," she continues, demonstrating as if walking on a tightrope.
"I have lived in Auckland before but not for some time. I'm working as a writer so I was looking for a place where I could live and work.
"I don't have a car so I wanted to live central and use the bus and public transport system."
Ms Hall was first shown through what would become her new home by three letting agents from City Sales, property realtors specialising in apartment living.
"It was on a day pelting with rain. Because of that I didn't go out on the balcony.
"On the second visit ... it was a beautiful sunny day. I immediately walked out on to the balcony. I asked the young chap, 'What's that?'," she says, nodding her head towards a partially built block abutting the right-hand side of her building.
"'Not sure,' he replied."
Ms Hall has since discovered the block will rise 10 floors, housing a childcare centre, a supermarket and cafe, two levels of executive apartments and 40 Quest serviced apartments, to be completed by February.
"I was stupid and I'm trapped," says Ms Hall of her one-year lease. "What distresses me most is that a great dark shadow will be thrown across my windows until late afternoon. Yes, it will be a pity to lose the view, but dispiriting and depressing to be in the shadow all the time."
Licensing and managing director of City Sales, Mark Dunn, says the letting agent was not aware of the construction of the neighbouring apartment.
"It would be misrepresentation through nondisclosure. If I knew, for example, that the building next to yours was going to be demolished, I'd have to tell you.
"But the letting agent didn't know. We wouldn't be aware unless we got involved in selling the new apartments off plans."
Ms Hall has lodged a claim with the Tenancy Tribunal and has spoken to Auckland Council about her concerns for the future of CBD living and the potential for dark, poky apartments to become inner-city slums.
The developer of the new building, Dennis Parbhu, says the development of more shoebox apartments is unlikely, given barriers put in place by the council.
"I've been a developer my whole life, but this will be my last. The consent to build is suicide. It took two years to get consent. It seems to be an extraordinary amount of time."
He says the cost has made building inner-city apartments financially unviable. "It cost me $50,000 each [apartment] as a one-off fee, as a developer's contribution.
"That will mean nobody will want to build residential."
Auckland Council's resource consents manager, Heather Harris, says development contribution funds are usually $25,000 to $32,000 and help meet the costs of projects such as open spaces, community facilities and the stormwater and transport networks. At present, three resource consent applications are being processed for accommodation buildings.
"These are mainly multi-storeyed and mixed-use buildings with retail activity at street level, perhaps some office accommodation and then residential activities above," she says.
In 2004, a report was commissioned by the then-Auckland City Council to review the onslaught of boxy apartments.
"With the rapid increase in residential development in the CBD during the last decade, concerns were expressed within the former Auckland City Council and the community at large about the standards of residential accommodation, amenity in the area and the quality of the urban environment," Ms Harris says.
"This resulted in shifts in policy on how the district plan could provide improved quality of design and amenity of buildings."
Over the past 10 years, 104 CBD buildings have been granted resource consent. Heather Harris says it is difficult to say how many of these have already been or will be built in future because of the economic climate and the validity period for the consents.