When Auckland Council was formed in late 2010, one of the first things it was legally required to do was put together a spatial plan, a ‘vision document’ for the region. This was finalised in May 2012 as the “Auckland Plan”. The Council is required to revisit the Auckland Plan every six years, so this is happening right now.

For clarity, I’ll call the original 2012 Auckland Plan the “Old Plan”, and I’ll call the draft 2018 Auckland Plan the “New Plan”. I also refer to the ‘rulebook’ for what is allowed to happen where, the “Unitary Plan”. More on that below.

My first impressions of the New Plan were not good. And they haven’t improved since, especially when I compare it to the Old Plan. The New Plan is still open for public consultation until 28th March, so now is the time to get in with submissions and feedback, before it’s too late! Here’s my take on it, and Greater Auckland will also be submitting along these lines.

 

Background

The Old Plan had an explicit target of 400,000 more homes for Auckland over 30 years (2012-2041). It wanted 60%-70% of those homes to be inside the old urban limits, but also allowed for 30%-40% outside the limits.

These overall targets, and the focus on intensification, fed into the Unitary Plan. After a lengthy process, the Unitary Plan is now mostly operative: a rulebook allowing plenty of new homes across Auckland. It’s already making a difference, and this will become even more apparent in the next few years.

In theory, the Unitary Plan ‘enables’ at least 1,000,000 new dwellings to be built. In practise, not every piece of land will be developed. Modelling done for the Unitary Plan estimated that 422,000 homes would be ‘feasible’ in the 30-year period, with 270,000 of those inside the old urban limits.

The targets in the original Auckland Plan (the “Old Plan”) guided these numbers: zoning provisions were tweaked up or down with the aim of getting to at least 400,000 ‘feasible’ homes, and enough ‘feasible’ homes inside the urban limits to be consistent with the Old Plan.

Without the targets from the Old Plan, the Unitary Plan would have looked very different, and I doubt we’d have seen as much upzoning.

The Old Plan

The Old Plan was visionary, even radical, for its time and for a brand-new council. It declared war on the housing shortage which was starting to emerge by 2011/12, and set clear targets for building more, and more intensely, than Auckland ever had before. At a time when home building had slumped to record lows, and underinvestment by the legacy councils meant almost no new land was ‘ready to build’, the Old Plan laid out targets for all these things. Here’s a quote from page 270:

Auckland’s population is projected to grow to between 2.2 and 2.5 million over the next 30 years. Around 400,000 additional dwellings will be required by 2040, which means that at least 13,000 additional houses have to be built each year. This is a huge challenge, given we already have a shortfall of about 10,000 homes, and current levels of house building are less than half the volume required. At present, only 5,000 consents for new homes are issued per year in Auckland… in New Zealand as a whole, only about 24,000 houses are built each year, and the rebuilding of Christchurch will take up a large part of national construction capacity.

I track home consents for my monthly “Development Update” posts, and the data shows that Auckland usually consented fewer than 10,000 homes a year, had only ever hit 12,000 a year very briefly, and was languishing at 4,000 a year when the Old Plan came out. The Old Plan targets – averaging 13,000 homes a year for the next 30 years – were ambitious.

 

The New Plan (draft)

A lot has changed since 2012. Auckland began a migration boom, which is still going. House prices went up hugely, by around 60%. The housing shortage got worse – the undersupply has gone from 10,000 to 50,000 homes. I actually think the Council has done a reasonable job of responding to these challenges, none of which were going to be fixed overnight. But it’s taking time to chip away at them.

Auckland’s population is now projected to grow faster than it was in 2012, largely due to the migration boom:

Source: https://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/plans-projects-policies-reports-bylaws/our-plans-strategies/auckland-plan/about-the-auckland-plan/Evidence%20reports%20documents/evidence-report-developing-the-plan.pdf, page 6

Given all of the above, you’d think the need for more homes is now even more urgent, right?

Well, apparently not, because the housing targets in the New Plan are much weaker. And “targets” is the wrong word, as you’ll see below – the New Plan doesn’t seem to like targets.

The (Missing) Housing Targets

The Old Plan set clear targets. I liked that. The New Plan doesn’t – Matt made this point this morning, in relation to transport.

The New Plan has 6 Outcomes and 33 Measures, plus a bunch of Directions and Focus Areas. Housing is covered by one of the Outcomes:

The Outcome for “Homes and Places” is: “Aucklanders live in secure, healthy, and affordable homes, and have access to a range of inclusive public places”.

That’s all fine, but there are no clear targets. Instead, it’s all about “measuring progress”, or “tracking progress”. This is a step backwards for accountability.

Here are the “measures” for “homes and places”:

These “measures” are also “used to track progress towards the aims of the Auckland Plan Development Strategy”.

But what are the aims? What are the targets? How do we know whether we’re on track, succeeding or failing, or are we just measuring stuff for the sake of it?

I’ll take a leaf out of the New Plan’s book, and structure what I want under a series of Heartfelt Pleas:

Heartfelt Plea 1: Auckland Council should set clear targets for what it wants to see happen in housing (and transport, and other things), insert those targets in the Auckland Plan, track progress against them, and update its strategy accordingly.

The (Missing) Housing Shortage

The New Plan mentions a current “housing crisis” several times, but it doesn’t really talk about there being a housing shortage (there’s just one reference to a “continued shortfall in housing supply”).

But the Old Plan pointed out an undersupply of 10,000 homes back in 2012. Today, the situation is much worse:

Council, the Reserve Bank and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have all estimated Auckland’s housing shortfall at between 43,000 and 55,000 and growing

I get that the Auckland Plan is a vision document and these are often fluffy, but shouldn’t it have stronger language that acknowledges the (huge, and still growing) housing shortage and aims to fix it as a key priority? It’s not like the Council has shied away from acknowledging it elsewhere!

So why doesn’t the New Plan set a target of fixing the housing shortage in the next 10 years, or if that’s not quite achievable, then explain why and use 15 years, or whatever is a realistic timeframe?

Step one of fixing a problem is admitting you have a problem, right?

Heartfelt Plea 2: Acknowledge the housing shortage in the Auckland Plan, and set clear targets to reduce it over the next decade.

The Wrong Targets (Which Aren’t Really Targets Anyway)

The number that appeared throughout the Old Plan was 400,000. This was the targeted number of new homes to be built over three decades:

“Supply 100,000 new dwellings in the period 2012-2022, 170,000 new dwellings in the period 2022-2032 and 130,000 new dwellings in the period 2032-2042”. (page 367: a “target” within Strategic Direction 10, measured by building consent data).

The number that appears throughout the New Plan is 320,000. It’s not a target any more, the language is much looser, and the timeframes are less consistent (see pages 12, 84, 178):

“Around 1.6 million people currently live in Auckland. Over the next 30 years this number could grow by another 740,000 people to reach 2.4 million. This means Auckland will need many more dwellings – possibly another 320,000” (page 178)

Again, there’s no mention of this figure being a ‘target’, they’re just “anticipated dwelling growth”. Pages 207-208 give the most detail, and from that I’ve estimated the breakdown for each decade as:

  • 120,000 homes in 2018-2027
  • 105,000 homes in 2028-2037
  • 93,000 homes in 2038-2047

Those figures are much lower than the ones in the Old Plan. Here’s my comparison of the Old and the New:

By my calculations, the Old Plan was targeting 350,000 homes over 2018-2041, and the New Plan “anticipates” 263,000 homes in the same period. That’s a reduction of 85,000, or 25%. Worse, most of the reduction comes in the next decade, the same time when we should be trying to get on top of the housing shortage. The time when the Old Plan was targeting a huge increase in home building, to an unprecedented 17,000 homes a year.

As a side note, the New Plan suggests we were “on track” to reach the decade one target in the Old Plan (page 205).  That’s not quite true. Home building has grown significantly and has now reached 10,000 a year – but it needs to average 12,000 a year in the next five years to reach the target of 100,000 for the decade.

Under the Old Plan, the council would keep its foot on the accelerator and keep powering past 12,000 homes a year, up to a whopping 17,000 a year for the next decade. Under the New Plan, it’s cruise control once we get to 12,000. That’s not good enough, not with a housing shortage.

Heartfelt Plea 3: Target much higher rates of home building, especially in the next decade. Return to the targets in the original Auckland Plan, or include them alongside new targets.

Infrastructure and Intensification

The Auckland Plan is meant to be a guide for the Council, a strategy that informs where and how much it invests. There’s a real danger that, if the Council only expects 320,000 new homes rather than 400,000, it will build less infrastructure, and it will have a weaker case for going to the government to ask for more infrastructure funding.

The Old Plan was clear that it wanted to provide for 400,000 new homes, with up to 70% or 280,000 inside the old urban limits. It was the Council’s responsibility to provide infrastructure in line with that.

But the new figure, which of course isn’t a target, is much lower at 320,000 (or 317,700 to be precise). And the figure inside the old urban limits is just 195,000, adding together the “development areas” and “existing urban area” figures from the table below (page 207).

Heartfelt Plea 4: Invest in infrastructure in the existing urban area to support at least 280,000 new homes as per the original Auckland Plan, not the 195,000 currently implied in the new draft Auckland Plan.

Conclusion – and What Can You Do?

If you want Auckland to keep building more homes, and to make real progress on the housing shortage, then please submit on the Auckland Plan. Tell the Council to set clear targets, to make them ambitious, and to make sure it provides infrastructure and upzoning to match them. Write a quick submission. It could be as brief as just saying you want them to stick to the housing targets in the original Auckland Plan – but if you have time, ask for targets on transport too.

If we don’t have a strong Auckland Plan, there’s a danger that we’ll end up without a clear vision or targets on housing, and that the housing shortage which affects so many people will never be fixed.

At the more extreme end, there’s a risk that we’ll actually lose some of the progress we’ve made – NIMBY groups like Auckland 2040 could use a weak Auckland Plan to their advantage and actually try to ‘downzone’ Auckland again. Even if this doesn’t happen, a weak Auckland Plan will make it hard to get more ‘upzoning’ in place.

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77 comments

  1. Just imagine how much worse the housing shortfall would be now if the last Government hadn’t forced Special Housing areas onto a reluctant Auckland Council.

    1. Reluctant perhaps, but the Council also wanted a speedier pathway to get the Unitary Plan implemented in full, so swings and roundabouts really. And I’m not sure which one of the two parties was to blame for the Housing Accord taking so long to get signed from when it was first announced…

        1. The council wanted the unitary plan operative from the her go which would have angered the requirement for most of the SHAs and would have been fat more effective than a few SHAs. The government prevented that.

          1. Apologies for my randomly autocorrected comment above. What I was trying to say was that the council wanted the Unitary plan operative in 2013. Government said no.

          2. Which was always an unrealistic goal. The simply should have known that was never an option. As it was when all struggled with the SHA’s a bit where we had to use the notified version of the Unitary plan which included bits that even the Council had moved on from.

          3. Unrealistic because we are all governed by the rule of law. People have an expectation of a fair process.

  2. And why the growth trajectory should still be at High not medium which has given the 320,000 new homes. Forget and ignore that NPS on Urban Development Capacity, it will set it us up for failure and we need to advocate to get it scrapped.

    1. I did have a paragraph talking about the NPS-UDC but took it out as I thought it was a bit too technical. Interested to hear what you think is wrong with it though? There’s nothing in it that prevents the Council providing for a higher level of growth if they want to?

      1. If Josh is still here maybe he could (if he can) give a brief run down on the NPS UDC consequences to the Auckland Plan 2050 – the New Plan. This include if Council could go to High trajectories (and should and be there for at least until the next AP review in 6 years time)

        My understanding when I questioned why the New Plan downgraded the growth rate from 400,000 in the old plan and 422,000 under the Unitary Plan to 320,000 it was due the UDC projecting for medium growth and medium growth only.

        My initial dismay at the UDC can be seen here: https://voakl.net/2016/06/03/urban-development-capacity-or-urban-growth-why-the-national-policy-statement-misses-the-mark/

        I further built on a new NPS here: https://voakl.net/2018/03/20/national-policy-statement-on-urban-development-mk2-transit-orientated-developments-present-opportunity/ This new NPS would be inline with Government’s UDA drive that still recognises the Unitary Plan’s 422,000 new homes through to 2042.

        1. I think it’s helpful for us to clearly distinguish between different phrases here:

          1) Capacity – this is the number of extra dwellings possible if every site was redeveloped to the maximum extent (with the lower level resource consent requirement, obviously the RMA allows people to push the rules if they go through a consenting process). The Plan’s development strategy says there’s capacity of around one million extra dwellings, although I’m pretty sure that’s just in the residential zones and there is a huge amount of potential capacity in business zones (centres, mixed use zone etc.)

          2) Feasible capacity – this is a sub-section of the above and essentially relates to what proportion of total capacity could you realise tomorrow and make a profit on. Feasible capacity fluctuates (seemingly a lot) based on things like land prices, construction costs, interest rates and a whole pile of other things that change year by year. Therefore it’s not a great long term planning tool as it’s essentially impossible to guess how much feasible capacity there might be in two or three years, let alone 10 or 30!

          3) Projected growth – essentially this is the “demand” for housing that comes with population growth and addressing the current housing shortage. It is a good point that to both address the current shortage, provide enough new dwellings to meet future growth and have some sort of “buffer”, it’s likely we will need to build more than 320,000 homes in Auckland over the next 30 years. Expect a few changes in the final plan to make this clearer.

          In terms of whether or not it matters whether we use a medium or high population projection, in terms of capacity I would argue that it probably makes little difference as we already have *a lot* more capacity than even the highest of high growth rates. Plus capacity can be increased over time as required through rezoning and other planning changes.

          Where using the medium or high population growth rates might make more of a difference is when it comes to projecting our future infrastructure requirements, as these land-use projections are used in transport modelling that forms a key evidence base for major investments. That said, it’s clearly impossible to estimate where and when every single new home or job will be located over the next 30 years – which is why much of the Auckland Plan talks about the need to move to more of a “scenarios based approach” to planning and major investment decision making.

          I hope this is helpful.

          1. Thanks for commenting Josh. I agree that Auckland has a lot more ‘enabled’ capacity than required under the NPS-UDC, and I’m reasonably happy with the ‘feasible’ analysis that has been done and is regularly updated.

            But I think targets are important. A key part of good public policy is having clearly defined goals. The (new) Auckland Plan doesn’t lay out its targets, and the one that is most clearly implied is a target of 320,000 homes by 2048 – which is nowhere near enough (or fast enough) in my view, as I’ve tried to show above.

            There’s also a distinction between “targets” that we’re actually aiming for, and a “projection” which is just an extrapolation of what has happened in the past. I think projections are less useful here, especially since household projections rely on further assumptions about how people’s living arrangements have/ will change (on average), and they’re being extrapolated from the current situation, even though it’s acknowledged that there’s a current housing shortage which means many people currently aren’t living how they want, or even how they did in 2013 or 2006.

            To put it another way: looking at the graph of population projections in the post, the new ‘medium’ projections show almost as much growth as the old ‘high’ projections. So shouldn’t we be aiming for just as many new homes? The only reason we aren’t is because of changed assumptions in those living arrangements. Plus, given that we haven’t built enough homes for the level of growth we’ve already had, we need to add more, faster to address that too.

            The best way to do this is with targets. Targets, targets, targets. Let’s keep them in place and do our best to achieve them. Better to try and fall a little short then have no targets at all and fall much shorter, but for no one to know or care or hold anyone accountable because the targets have been quietly dropped!

          2. One last point – the new projections imply that the average number of people per household will stay higher, for longer, than the old projections. And I’d argue that implies a material drop in people’s living standards, given 1) the increased prevalence of overcrowding, mentioned as a ‘measure’ in the New Plan, and 2) that declining household sizes are the norm in the rest of NZ and the developed world, as the population ages. Given that the new homes are also likely to be smaller – which is quite necessary for affordability – then we could actually end up with a lot less floor space per person, and that’s a wellbeing issue too.

          3. Seems to me too that averages here aren’t useful. The (affluent) trend towards living with fewer people and the (poor) trend towards overcrowding need to be separately measured. The (more conscious) trend towards eschewing material possessions and choosing to live in small homes and the trend towards larger homes full of more possessions also need to be separately measured. Plus what different ages are doing.

          4. Less floor area for some people would *improve* wellbeing. But wealthy people in 300m2 homes won’t be the ones with less floor area, it will be people living in poverty cramming relatives into a smaller house to make ends meet :/

          5. Thanks for that Josh. Wish that was in the Development Strategy of the Auckland Plan 2050 currently put for consultation.

            Thinking on #2 there: “what proportion of total capacity could you realise tomorrow and make a profit on. ”

            Technically does not apply to Housing NZ, the upcoming Housing Commission UDA or even Panuku when either of those entities are developing their own land with no intention to onsell to the private sector. If the UDA is buying private land to develop that might be something else.

  3. Seems pretty logical for Auckland (and other NZ cities) to stop with this reluctance of low-rise building apartment blocks near commercial centres and transport nodes instead of only continuing the suburban sprawl that’s failed everywhere (as much as its advocates avoid admitting it). It makes sense on every level; it offers choice to people and pretty much has no downsides. That is; provided the apartment blocks are low-rise (no more than 5 stories high) and not some 20 story ghastly tower jutting out like what I’ve seen planned for New Lynn and parts of Sydney Australia.

    If its not your cup of tea; it’s not like the existing suburbs of detached housing are suddenly going to disappear anyway.

  4. Can someone please school me here…

    The lack of housing is due to overpriced land (spending $200k on a building is easy, finding $800k for the dirt to stick it on is another matter). So realistically, once the council sets its ambitions build targets, then what???

    As long as people use land (which is a precious natural resource) to store and passively gain wealth, then there is no incentive to sell it to others who just need somewhere to live; they just sit back and watch values rise, rise and rise. Apart from issuing new transformative plans that then get shot down in NIMBY-coloured flames, what can AC do?

    I’d love to see a decent land tax progressively introduced over 30 years (with corresponding reduction in income & company tax) to slowly depress land values, and kick the “land is gold” mentality. Otherwise, eventually the only realistic way to obtain land will be to inherit it— a classic “haves and have-nots” society, and we’ll all be poorer for it.

    It would need to be gradual so it doesn’t disadvantage baby-boomers and gen-xers who depend on land values for their retirement. I guess that’s the big problem- it would be a political football for 10 election cycles, but hell, I’ll vote for it.

    1. Lack of housing is not due to lack of land. It’s due to lack of dwellings.

      More people, less houses. So existing house prices go up faster.

      The depreciated value of any given house doesn’t really change and the past cost of construction is a small proportion hasn’t really increased. So we see land price increases.

      eg. 500k house in 2008 at 250k land 250 house is now 1500k or 1200k land and 300k house. Assuming the house has had some work done and regular upkeep.

      You could view this land price increase as actually a market signal that instead of one family living on this section of land, that three families should live there.

      Current cost of finance and cost of construction are all other factors.

      The final factor is transport policy. It’s hard to develop intensity without transport. Replace a two car family with three two car families and suddenly you get busy roads.

      1. The lack of dwellings is absolutely caused by the lack of available land. The ability of aspiring homeowners to buy houses goes down as the cost of the land the houses sit on increases. There is heaps of land ripe for development within the existing city, but it isn’t “available” as such because the landowners have no incentive to sell it. As a finite, precious resource they would prefer to sit on it and watch its value soar, so the “supply and demand” equation ends up hopelessly skewed.

        Developers used to be essentially builders. With land now comprising the major imbedded cost of their product, they are now better described as land speculators. It’s made it way tougher to make a viable development.

        Only a land tax with proper clout (like rising to 6%pa for mean $/m2 land) would stop the spiralling land prices, of 300% in 10 years like you say.

        Nothing else will.

        1. Where does the typical supersizing house renovation sit in this analysis, though? The land’s available, often for more than 3 or 4 homes now, under the AUP. Yet still the developer chooses to supersize the house. Often not for living in, but flicking on, too.

          1. It’s easier. Council will definitively give you consent to supersize (they should), it’s a lottery whether you’ll get it for four dwellings (it should be certain).

    2. Previously we had a 0.4% tax on land on top of council rates. So an $800k section could owe $3,200 tax p.a.
      Labour ruled out the Tax Working Group investigating Land Taxes or CGT on family home/land.

    3. Land is still expensive, but it’s not the constraint it once was. There’s now much more land which serviced, zoned, and ready to develop – the SHAs and Unitary Plan have seen to that.
      The main constraints now are in getting more homes built on that land. There’s very little spare construction capacity, and another factor (less significant, I think) is developers struggling to get finance.

      1. I disagree here.

        There is also the factor that getting consent for a standalone house on 800m is far easier than getting consent for 3 terraces on 200m each. A developer has to build a 250-300m2 house on the large site to make money. Building a 300m2 house or 3*80-100m2 terraces takes the same amount of construction labour. The consenting risk and complexity encourages developers to build a number of large houses instead of a larger number of houses.

        Long Bay is the classic example of this council and NIMBYs forced developers to build half as many dwellings as they wanted. Rather than continuing to fight to build more houses, the developer gave up and built a number of large houses instead of a larger number of houses.

        We need government to make a law that council cannot refuse consent to any restricted discretionary activity that meets all rules. That will give developers confidence that if they have (for example) 2,000m2 in mixed housing suburban, which can comply with all rules and accommodate 10 houses, then they will actually get consent, and get it in 40 days.

      2. I was looking at Long Bay in the GIS viewer and noticed something odd: the ratio between “improvement value” and “land value” is very low, almost always under 1.5:1. The same low ratios can be seen in the townhouse developments further south.

        I would expect a larger ratio for new builds.

        If you have eg. $1,000,000 worth of land, does it actually make sense to build only $1,500,000 worth of buildings on it?

        1. If your other choice is to spend 10s of millions of dollars in court before you even start then yes. It’s the *only* sensible thing to do.

          1. So this is basically the limit of what the zoning code allows. It looks very low to me.

            Teleport to Ponsonby and you have parcels of land worth over a million, with houses on it which are essentially worthless, often valued at just 10% of the land value. And you’re not allowed to build anything more substantial than a single house. This is an extreme example, nevertheless the existence of it is fascinating (and there’s a substantial amount of SHZ in those central suburbs). But, I’m sure some economists can give a 100% logical and rational explanation for this.

            So the new plan allows for somewhat more capacity, meanwhile the land values have risen by, what, 50%? What if it started fluttering a bit, and there’s some risk of dropping? I think it’s a miracle we still have a non-zero amount of feasible capacity.

          2. Last week I was told that Ponsonby should be left as it is because it is like living in an art gallery.

          3. +1

            It is so difficult, expensive and time consuming to do anything complex such that it isn’t worth the time or hassle.

            I have a large plot of land with 1 house. Under the AUP I could put in another 2 houses or demolish the existing and put in 4-5 terrace houses but the rules are so difficult to work through and the consenting process so expensive and annoying, I can’t be bothered doing anything. That isn’t even the problem of finding a builder and borrowing money to finance the build. It is far far easier for me to just let the house sit and reap the capital gains tax free for no effort on my part.

  5. Why are we planning for an even higher rate of minimal growth when we couldn’t keep pace with the previous projected levels? Outside of the CRL, are there any badly needed projects we require now and today to serve the current population? Infrastructure and hosing first. Once we’ve caught up, more people.

    1. Valid points, although I think Auckland is getting to “the previous projected levels” as fast as can be expected – the Old Plan recognised that it would take time to scale up.

      Infrastructure and housing is the whole point – tackling the housing shortage and catching up on infrastructure investment.

      Auckland Council doesn’t have the ability to say “no more people”. Immigration decisions are up to the government. And even if immigration dried up, we’d still have population growth, from births and from people wanting to move to AKL from other parts of the country.

      Plus, Auckland is investing in infrastructure that will help the existing population while also enabling more growth – the CRL is a great example, as is the Central Interceptor. It’s much easier to make the case for expanding Auckland’s rapid transit networks when they’re needed to enable growth; if we had much lower growth, we’d probably get stuck with the status quo and find it very hard to make those changes.

      1. The problem is the status quo and the future have the same outcome: No ability to fastrack infra we need today. I guess the challenge is for the Council and Govt to show that there’s going to be some change in the way and timeframes these things are delivered.

  6. Seems to me that the lack of targets is a deliberate ploy to enable perfidious obfuscation.

    As the old saw has it; what gets measured get done. Take away the measure and what do we have left?

    eight tenths of sweet fa…

    And on the point about land… the easiest way to create ‘land’ is to build up, but ‘up’ has significant development and funding risks not associated with semi or fully detached dwellings.

    1. Correct. This issue is more about space than land – people need to start thinking in 3 dimensions.

      There’s also the fact (mostly overlooked) that land at the centre and land on the fringes, is not fungible. Freeing up sections in Pokeno etc actually takes no pressure off prices in areas where it’s feasible for people to actually live.

      The reductio ad absurdum is saying that freeing up land in Hamilton should lower section prices in Ellerslie as you’re increasing New Zealand’s total supply of land. Given Auckland’s current and planned transport infrastructure, we’re already at the limits of expansion where it’s practically possible to be employed in the same city.

  7. To get the infill to happen requires a development corporation which can designate properties and amalgamate the titles and then on sell them to developers to build the density.

    1. And sell at below market value? Or rather, somewhere in the region of where market value should be?
      Then watch the land bankers liquidate real quick.

      1. Where did you get below market value from? The strawman factory? Intersetingly, this is what Todd Developments did at Long Bay, and what others did at Greenhill. Buy a large block, reconsolidate to sensible section sizes and get someone else to build them.

  8. What about the reason for the growth? Very high immigration by international standards with roughly as many Kiwis returning as are leaving. Either persuade more Kiwis to leave or persuade fewer to return or actually think about immigration.
    Those who are strongly in favour of immigration say the following industries would fail without immigrants: dairying, care-homes, tourism, fruit picking. If all care-homes were built outside of Auckland then all the critical immigrants ought to be outside of Auckland but we know most immigrants head to Auckland (the way immigrants head to the biggest city was noticed by sociologists in the USA 100 years ago). So if Labour kept its electoral promise about reducing low-skilled immigration especially that related to pseudo-education in our PTEs then Auckland would have the breathing space needed to fix housing. That promise was 30,000 fewer inhabitants each and every year.
    Reviewing Auckland’s plan takes six years but immigration can be switched on and off (ref National’s arbitrary suspension of the family reunion).

    PS. Thanks for the article and its reminder to make submissions. The idea that targets would be weakened is bizarre; you would expect the opposite.

    1. We have to face the fact that we’re #3 on a liveability list – for people with very strong purchasing power. The target is well and truly sighted and we have incoming from all directions. Economically this is a great position to be in, for both Auckland and NZ. By all means prioritise intake, but I don’t see how tanking our rating by implementing excessively obstructive measures can do us any long term good.

      1. So you would reopen the family reunion route. I tend to agree with you – of course being careful to prevent NZ being a net loser with paying pensions and health care (fairly easy to handle with insurance).
        The family reunion category was mainly elderly parents who will not be adding to congested roads and PT during the rush hour so less impact on infrastructure and of course no cost providing education for kids. This would bring in some wealthy people both from the UK escaping a society that is changing too fast for some Brexit supporters and from the loneliness resulting from the one child China policy and SA farmers willing to leave their farms to the ANC. These immigrants would be beneficial for families (I know of one experienced teacher who left Auckland to return to the UK to look after his elderly parents) which has to be good. Usually they will be buying lifestyle blocks and easily have the finances to build new houses. Certainly a better outcome for Auckland than the students squeezing ever more people into overcrowded city apartments (ref Hobson st) and inner city suburbs.

        My point is these plans are based on population flows that the government can control without even asking for parliaments approval. Even in Vienna.

        1. “Usually they will be buying lifestyle blocks and easily have the finances to build new houses. Certainly a better outcome for Auckland than the students squeezing ever more people into overcrowded city apartments (ref Hobson st) and inner city suburbs.”

          I think you have that the wrong way around. The city cannot handle all of the driving that lifestyle blocks require.

          1. Minimal driving if they are elderly. Prof Spoonley at a U3A meeting last year said we should all be grateful for wealthy Chinese making our house prices soar. He must have thought U3A means having no children – my house has tripled in price (value stayed the same) but my children don’t have the opportunity I had only 16 years ago to buy an acceptable house for a lowish multiple of salary. That’s a digression – other countries allow foreigners to buy new houses only – stimulating the housing market.
            There is some relevance to ethnicity and housing density: my Chinese friend who was brought up in poverty in a small Hong Kong apartment will never swap her largish house on a section for an apartment but my UK nephew who was brought up in a series of typical English houses with gardens swears he will never live in anything with a garden.

          2. Older people make fewer trips, but from a lifestyle block they will all be driving. Students and young professionals. People ‘squeezing’ into apartments in the city centre will rarely ever drive.

          3. That is an interesting digression, though. Interesting what people will say when they think the audience is accepting of it.

          4. Of course, SB, that’s a whole topic in itself. There is disagreement amongst progressive designers about the lack of small lifestyle blocks in the transect model. Given our uncertain future, our poor mainstream agricultural practices, our lack of vision on how to minimise our urban waste, our food insecurity, there really should be a choice of non-commuter small lifestyle block options. We may indeed need them next to our cities for food security, and done well they could provide the traditional role of also accepting and processing waste from the city. But the transport plan is key to preventing them becoming more of the same sort of lifestyle block that contributes to driving that we know. Essentially, they should not be connected to the city by private car. Where is this even an option in Auckland?

          5. I have no enthusiasm for lifestyle blocks. And it seems many buyers change their minds and move on within 18 months. The success of Auckland’s retirement villages is worthy of a post. By success I mean remarkable contentedness of occupants, profits made by the owning companies but especially the speed they are consented and built. If only all our housing market was as responsive to demand.

  9. There are no transport targets either. This is a massive fail. A mistake I can only assume made for some political rather than real reason. I will try to find time before the deadline to write some for them and post here.

  10. Agreeing with the above points on scarcity and need for more housing (and targets) it would be great to see a wider range of housing types in the plan. There is not much diversity of choice, regardless of cost. It is either a detached house or high rise apartments and little in between. Australian urban planners refer to the “missing middle” and it is missing here too. Lots of cities with high amenity have medium density housing – say 3-4 stories – not high rise, in walkable nerighborhoods. I think it would be an attractive option here too, and might help bridge the gap between what the city needs and what existing residents in low density suburbs are willing to accept. We need some nicely done examples of medium density housing to shift perceptions and remove fears of blight. The leaky buildings episode was a disaster for getting public acceptance of higher densities.

    1. +1. The increase in density that can be achieved just by a terrace of 2 story houses with micro gardens is astonishing. It would more than solve Auckland’s housing woes for the next century.

      Your comment about leaky homes is dead on. Auckland council needs to give a guarantee for such properties – and not like the leaky homes then spend taxpayers money fighting every case through the courts. A rock solid believable building guarantee may well be the best single thing the government can do to get the types of housing recommended in this blogsite actually built and inhabited.

      1. Indeed. Under the unitary plan three story terrace can, by right, give you a 200m2 house (McMansion sized), single garage with a second parking space on the driveway in front, and a garden twice the size of the minimum outdoor living space… in 150m2 of land.

        With careful design eight of those can fit on a quarter acre section.

        You basically can’t build leaky homes anymore. They’ve really cracked down and reregulated what is permissible. I notice a lot of the terraces coming on the market now are clad with brick and masonry. Not necessarily any better than properly designed weatherboard or panels, but they certainly look and feel like the proverbial brick, er, townhouse.

      2. The difference between terrace housing that has worked historically and much of what I see in Auckland today is the waste of the first floor to parking, ruining the connection with the street and the flow to the exterior. I hope this stops being allowed, because I agree this would otherwise be a useful form.

        The advantages of four storey apartment blocks over 3-storey terrace houses would be a bit more permeable ground for the same density, and the easier amalgamation of land into big enough spaces for big trees.

        1. Recently spent a hot afternoon in Sydney having cold beers amongst the dense terraced housing of Paddington.

          Narrow streets, packed together dwellings, little offstreet parking but shops, bars and restaurants all within walking distance. Aside from somewhere near the beach, I couldn’t think of a better place to live in that city.

          Shame it will never be built in Auckland.

        2. I wonder if there needs also be consideration for services in the broadest sense. Terraced housing streets in the UK generally had a corner shop ( that sold produce at a fair price), a local pub ( community centre) and schools virtually on the door step.

        3. KLK: 25 years ago I lived in Woodseer st, Spitalfields, East End of London – sure you can find it on GoogleEarth and I echo the comment about Paddington (except probably fewer bars and more restaurants). They could do something similar in Northcote but I expect they won’t.
          Heidi: I’ve been following this blog long enough to suspect you are not an avid car enthusiast. 2-storey terrace will suffice – better to have noise either side of you than noise above or below and those fun staircases become less appealing with babies and especially when you are elderly. You are right about the parking consuming too much space whether under a 3 storey or in front of a 2 storey.

        4. This parking, well the alternative is having people trying to park 1 or 2 cars on the street for every house. I don’t see that work well either, and even if it works out, you arrive at the same situation — parked cars blocking the flow to the street.

          1. Do you think the 1 or 2 (or more) cars per household is something we can’t reverse? I agree we can’t reverse it with design of a particular street in new sprawl subdivisions, a drive away from any amenities. But we can reverse it through locating the new homes in the midst of amenity.

          2. Purely anecdotal, both for Paddington and other inner-city suburbs in Sydney where people I know live, there are very few households with more than one car.

            I lived in two households where none of the working professionals had one at all. So the inevitable 1-2 cars on the street isn’t, well, inevitable…

          3. I do think it’s hugely important we reverse this.

            But AFAICT we won’t reverse it, mostly because of self-inflicted limitations.

            One problem is that pedestrians are still very much second class citizens on the street. Any news on the proposal for sane give way rules? This makes walking super annoying and sends a clear signal that you really should be driving.

            Northcote will be an interesting opportunity but I think those stupid give way rules, the generally very wide roadways, and the lack of proper access by PT will condemn it to the usual houses on top of parking pattern.

            The prime locations to break this pattern are the inner suburbs. Close to the CBD, and quite suitable for proper PT. If only. Look at our zoning map. Someone tell me how it makes sense to cover Ponsonby with single housing zone. And more generally, to cover most of the rest with a 2 storey limit. Oops.

            Making ground floor parking on townhouses illegal? No. We’d be shooting the messenger.

          4. This HNZ development in Pt Chev looks like it has an in and an out driveway to parking at the back. So the streetscape isn’t ruined (probably improved, actually) and I’m assuming the garages are on the shady side (one can be seen in the other view, for the house in the back corner, so I imagine they’ll each have a garage or carport. (North is roughly towards the camera).

            https://www.hnzc.co.nz/housing-developments-and-programmes/auckland-housing-programme/auckland-housing-programme-by-suburb/view/moa-road-walmer-road

            This development is 170m from the outer link bus route, 750m from Great North Rd with its frequent buses. Plus walking distance to supermarket, shops, library, community centres, all level of schools, kindy, daycares, beach, parks, museums, zoo… The provision of 2 or 3 communal carparks, with a car share scheme in the area must surely be the next step in designs like these. It would also have left a little room for some raingardens, fruit trees, natives…

  11. Also, I didn’t mention Kiwibuild in this post… but given the government’s target of building 50,000 Kiwibuild homes in Auckland in the next decade, the New Plan saying there will only be 120,000 new homes in total in the next decade seems a bit out of step with government ambition too.

  12. Adrienne Young-Cooper here, chair of the HNZC board. Thanks for being such a well informed and engaged bunch of Aucklanders with so many thoughtful comments. HNZC and HLC are building the missing middle all over Auckland. We have successfully created a lot more land through vertical zoning ( thanks Auckland Council for the Upzoning). We have a very ambitious funded programme to build more state houses and more affordable and other housing throughout Auckland. The programme is well underway.

    1. Hi Adrienne, My community group in Pt Chev has been establishing community gardens in the knowledge that our suburb would become more densely populated and people would need places of refuge, community contact, nature and fresh food. We now have three community gardens and an additional community orchard. HNZ has quite a few developments planned in Pt Chev, as do some private developers. Please pass on my welcome to the teams involved in the developments. I don’t know how much your teams deal with the eventual tenants, but we would love to be able to give the new tenants a tour of our gardens so they feel welcome to join in.

      We also need more small parks and mid-block access-ways to increase permeability for cyclists and pedestrians, so if HNZ’s designs can ever provide this, assistance on that front would be great (don’t think it’s possible with your Pt Chev locations, but it may be possible in other suburbs).

    2. Thanks for commenting Adrienne – HNZ and its partners are doing some great work. I edited this post down a bit, but the original version talked more about HNZ’s important role in getting the Unitary Plan passed in its current form.
      But HNZ’s leadership role was aided by the targets the council had set itself in the original Auckland Plan around the 400,000 homes over 30 years, and by the work by various experts showing that target wouldn’t be achieved without significant upzoning.
      Hopefully HNZ and other government departments are thinking hard about how the new Auckland Plan supports (or doesn’t) that vision, and are submitting along those lines! Certainly my main issue boils down to: the Auckland Plan needs to retain strong, clear targets on housing.

  13. Thanks John for this post. I have sent it on to community groups, and I’ve plucked out your heartfelt pleas and adapted them for my own submission. Cheers!

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