Let’s start with a quick pop quiz: you’ve got an existing town centre that you want to improve, making it more vibrant and successful. Do you
A) Encourage more people to live locally who will use the town centre
B) Encourage more people to live locally who will use the town centre
C) Encourage more people to live locally who will use the town centre
D) Oppose people living nearby and worry about the cars trying to drive through and past your town centre being ever so slightly hindered.
If you answered A, B or C then correct, have a gold star, but it seems far too often our local boards reach for option D. The latest such example was a few days ago out west were the Waitakere Ranges Local Board have appeared opposing housing in Glen Eden.
Ten-storey towers of mostly one-bedroom flats have been proposed for suburban west Auckland, prompting local fears they will turn into slums.
Developers have applied for non-notifiable resource consent to build blocks of apartments in the centre of Glen Eden, adjacent to the railway tracks and cemetery.
Smaller dwellings and apartments have been touted by many as the future for Auckland and as one solution to the city’s housing crisis.
If given the go-ahead, the apartment blocks would house 168 one- or two-bedroom units and townhouses along with carparking, retail space and some outdoor space for residents.
The Waitakere Ranges Local Board said it was a radical proposal.
The plan for twin ten-storey towers raised many concerns especially as the height would be more than what was allowed for in the Unitary Plan, the board said.
“With most apartments being one bedroom the development will favour young residents. We would prefer to see some three-bedroom apartments and a greater mix of apartment sizes so that all stages of life are covered and a more mixed population live in the area.”
Let’s just think about some of this for a second
Firstly the proposal is right next to a train station and the town centre. That’s pretty much perfect and if anything the local board should be celebrating that. Furthermore it sounds like the closest neighbours are the residents of the cemetery. For some reason I hardly think they’re going to complain about a 10-storey apartment building nearby.
One of the oddest comments is the local board trying to get more three-bedroom apartments. If this were a brand new area or even perhaps the city I might agree that would be good – not that it should be regulated for. But this isn’t the city and is surrounded by many dwellings have 3 or more bedrooms. In fact I took a look at some of the numbers from Stats NZ and as of the last census in the areas in and around Glen Eden there were 10,881 dwellings for which they have details on bedrooms. Below is the number of dwellings by the number of bedrooms they have.
As you can see almost three-quarters of dwellings in area have three or more bedrooms. That is quite different to the population distribution where 48% of dwellings house only one or two residents while 68% have three or less. The graph below shows the number dwellings based on the number of usual residents and the number of bedrooms. The biggest single group is for two people to be living in a three bedroom home.
There are of course many factors that go into housing choice and it’s not for us, or anyone, to say how people should live but what this does suggest is that if there’s an imbalance in housing in the area it’s not from a lack of 3 bedroom dwellings but from not enough smaller ones. Furthermore the suggestion that small dwellings are only suitable for young people is utterly divorced from reality. Many older people enjoy the opportunity to live in smaller dwellings where they have less maintenance to deal with and can remain close to friends, family and the communities they’ve lived much of their lives in.
Then of course there is the almost stock standard response we’ve come to expect from so many in housing discussions.
In its submissions to the council, the Waitakere Ranges Local Board voiced concerns on potential traffic generated by Glen Eden’s proposed towers in an already heavily congested intersection.
The developer has requested its application not be made public, to which the board has objected.
Some west Auckland residents are worried about the proposal, saying there is already too much demand for parking in the area and that one-bedroom flats next to a railway line would inevitably turn into slums.
All of this brings us to the point that if we want local board to stop trying to oppose developments with spurious arguments, we probably need some better people on them. Today nominations have opened for local body elections later this year so if you or someone you know have been thinking of standing, why not give it a go.