There were a number of interesting comments this week in relation to intensification in Auckland. The first came from the Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler talking about how Auckland needs to do more to enable intensification in the city and address NIMBYism to address housing shortages.
Wheeler said the Reserve Bank estimated Auckland had a backlog of unbuilt houses of 15,000 to 20,000 and needed to build 10,000 houses a year for the next 30 years to keep up with demand.
“If you look at permits at this point they are running at an annual rate of around 7,500, which is a huge improvement on where they were 2 years ago, but still well short of the 10,000,” Wheeler said.
“I think some very good work has been done on opening up new areas but a major challenge there is getting houses built quickly enough, and a lot of those areas are in the periphery of Auckland where people may decide that the transport costs are less attractive for them, or the infrastructure needs might be considerable,” he said.
“I think work needs to be done in inner Auckland in addressing the height restrictions and the Not-In-My-Backyard syndrome that’s there.”
Wheeler said he welcomed the Government’s commissoning of work by the Productivity Commission on how issues around zoning decisions, regulatory reform and approval processes
“I am very interested to see the outcome of that sort of review. But we see it mainly as a supply side problem,” he said.
We’ve certainly made it easier to develop greenfield land and with the unitary plan it should get even easier with the proposed Rural Urban Boundary (RUB) which is larger and more flexible than the old urban limits. However even that looks set to be watered down to enable more greenfield development.
The independent panel hearing submissions on the Auckland unitary plan has told submitters the council’s proposed provisions for the new rural:urban boundary “may be overly stringent” and that a more flexible boundary would be better.
The panel also said in interim guidance it issued on Monday: “A rural:urban boundary is the most appropriate method to achieve the objective of a quality compact urban city when compared to the principal alternatives of the operative metropolitan urban limit & no boundary.”
The number of dwelling consents issued over the last 12 months is around 7,700 which is up considerably on the low of just over 3,200 in August 2009.
In response to Wheeler’s comments, Bill English – who has in the past spoken about the NIMBYism issue – has said calls for more densification in Auckland’s housing were “about as popular in parts of Auckland as Ebola” would be. Suggesting that putting a few terraced houses or low rise apartments in an area is provides a similar fear to a deadly disease is probably taking things a bit too far but also highlights why the council need to do a better job of explaining the benefits of more people being in an area – such as that it provides more opportunities for local businesses and amenities such as local cafe’s, shops and more/better parks.
Mr English, who spoke today for the seventh year in a row at the annual Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Massey University lunch in Auckland, said the city’s local government had said homeowners couldn’t build up but have now recognised that means there has to be a “build out.”
The government will confirm details in the new few weeks about further decisions on the Tamaki Redevelopment Co, a joint venture between central government and Auckland Council in 2012 to rejuvenate the suburb. The entity is expected to build about 7,500 new houses over the next decade. Once old properties have been removed or demolished, that will increase the area’s housing stock by 5,000, of which 2,800 will be Housing New Zealand-owned.
“We want to accelerate this type of activity, so small and large redevelopments of Housing New Zealand land and properties are completed with more urgency,” English said.
Lastly he had this to say about housing and infrastructure in general:
The minister said the government had learnt a lot over Auckland’s housing issues and that should lead to a more constructive process than previously about the region’s infrastructure needs, including a second harbour crossing.
‘We could do with a common understanding of the strategy. To government, it has looked like a series of projects arriving for political reasons as well as economic ones and we have to have that common view.”
Coming up with a region wide strategy was one of the key reasons behind amalgamating the previous councils into a single region wide council and requiring a 30 year plan (The Auckland Plan). The problem wasn’t the plan but that the government chose to ignore it for ideological reasons and as such kept fighting it. I’d also suggest that unless he’s prepared to fight the NIMBY issue then there’s not much point in even discussing a second harbour crossing as the local board areas on the North Shore have some of the lowest levels of population growth forecast across the region – in part due to much of the area fighting any form of development.