In the attachments to the agenda for the Council’s Planning Committee tomorrow is a copy of a presentation used in a workshop with councillors on changes that will need to be made to planning rules in relation to the Government’s National Policy Statement on Urban Development (NPS-UD) that was released last year.

As a quick reminder, the NPS-UD makes some significant positive changes to planning rules in New Zealand. The two most interesting ones from our perspective is it:

  • requires planning rules to allow for much more development in existing urban areas by allowing for buildings to a minimum of 6-storeys within walkable distances of:
    • existing and planned rapid transit stops
    • city centres
    • metropolitan centres
  • requires the removal of minimum parking requirements (MPRs) from all urban areas greater than 10,000 people
  • removes the ability of planners to hide behind some of their traditional density restricting techniques such as applying blanket heritage protection on entire areas.

Since the NPS-UD came out, the big question has been how the council will interpret these rules, particularly the ones that allow for intensification. Will they, for example, come up with comically small walking catchments as a way to limit the amount of change on some communities that have traditionally been vocally opposed to change. As such, this presentation is interesting in that it starts to give us some ideas of where their thinking is going.

Minimum Parking Requirements

Starting with MPRs, the council are required to have these removed by February 2022 and to do so without going through a normal plan change process.

It seems the main issue the council officers have here is the impact the change on public on-street and off-street parking, which will require more ‘active management’. In other words, they’re worried we’ll need more enforcement.

In response they highlight a need for a review of Auckland Transport’s Parking Strategy – this is something we’ve seen indications of in some AT board papers. The presentation says AT intend to evolve the Strategy and add new sub-components to it. Those sub-components are:

  • Park and Ride Strategy
  • Kerbzone Optimisation Strategy
  • Comprehensive Parking Management Plan Framework.

There are a few big concerns I have, these are that:

  1. AT will see their role as being to provide a bunch of new parking facilities all over Auckland.
  2. In optimising kerb space and on-street parking, it will make it all that much harder to make changes to our streets to provide space for cyclists as well as walking and other safety improvements. To counter this, it’s critical the parking strategy provides a clear hierarchy of road space priority. Particularly on arterials, parking shouldn’t be provided unless there is already safe walking and cycling infrastructure and in most cases, also bus priority too.
  3. AT will be as fearful of and hopeless at properly enforcing parking which will lead to even more cases of issues like footpath parking.

It’s likely we’ll hear more about this around July or August.

Intensification

The changes to enable more intensification are critical to get right and if we do, will likely see significant development occur in many parts of the city. They also have the potential to open up so much more development within the existing urban area that we can then scale back much damaging sprawl that is currently on the plans.

The presentation highlights the key changes. In a later slide they note that most metro centres already provide for this level development but that “very few areas” do for the circles in red.

They say some of the issues they’re working through are:

  • Inconsistencies with our current approach to rapid transit. For example, rail frequencies
  • Potential inconsistency with local authorities
  • Working on alignment across transport and planning documents. For example, RLTP

On that first one, Rapid Transit is defined in the Regional Public Transport Plan (RPTP) as having a minimum of 15 minute frequency services all day and a dedicated Right of Way. But based on that definition we have no rapid transit as the rail network has poor off peak frequencies and the Northern Busway services don’t have a dedicated right of way for their entire journey. However, the intent of the NPS-UD is clear and so it would be incredibly disappointing if the council/planners were to use technicalities like this as a way to avoid upzoning areas around stations.

It’s also worth noting that the definition for Rapid Transit in the RPTP is the same it is for frequent buses. In addition, the definition included by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in their guidance says:

  • rapid transit service means any existing or planned frequent, quick, reliable and high-capacity public transport service that operates on a permanent route (road or rail) that is largely separated from other traffic
  • rapid transit stop means a place where people can enter or exit a rapid transit service, whether existing or planned.

Then Minister of Urban Development Phil Twyford also confirmed last year it is intended to “a high frequency bus service on a main arterial“. All of this suggests most of the city centre focused frequent bus corridors on the Isthmus as well as Onewa Rd on the North Shore should be included.

That brings us to the issue of walkable distances. The MfE guidance doesn’t give a specific definition as to what walkable is but suggests 800m is most common but it can range from 400m a kilometre or more depending on the area – for example, people will walk further to access the city centre than they will to access a frequent bus.

The presentation included these proposed catchments and modifying factors

These at least look like sensible starting points. There is however a bit of a disconnect here with some of the modifying factors. Issues like street crossings and traffic volumes absolutely impact walkability and they intend to include them in the analysis. But instead of changing zoning as a result of these, where identified they should be fed into a programme of work for AT to fix – to make it easier to walk in an area, such as by adding more pedestrian crossings etc.

Unfortunately, we’re not sure what the feedback from councillors was on this, whether they supported the proposed levels or wanted changes made. The included timeframe suggests we should get more detail from their June Planning Committee meeting with any consequential changes following that in a July or August meeting.

We hope the council officers don’t try to find ways to get out of or limit the changes that need to be made and instead present councillors with some bold options for upzoning the city.

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86 comments

  1. Interesting piece Matt and very exciting stuff.
    With respect to the parking piece. We need to start simply valuing on-street space as just land. Rather than starting from the position that it is land for parking. Then we can start to value the opportunity costs for other uses along that on street strip, some places it will make sense to reallocate to Bus Lanes, others cycle ways, others pavement widening. There will be a plethora of different use cases depending on where the on-street land is located. The difficulty will be developing strong methodologies around how this ‘best use’ is measured. I’m not sure AT is equipped to do that…

    1. Yes, I agree. I would like the Planning Committee to be clear to Councillors that residential parking schemes are inappropriate and stem from a belief that the land there is primarily for parking. The existing ones should be wound down and removed.

    2. There is going to be more restriction on on-street parking.

      Most likely upset existing residence who are currently enjoying it.

      So there will be a nimby fight against new development which provides no carpark and expect their new tenants to park on street.

      1. Also people moving in expecting to park on the street.

        It is not just about cost, but also about the pigeon hole principle. It is hard to make more parking. At some point full is full. Then what do you want people to do? If you live in Auckland without easy access to a car, you are now part of an underclass — the city will rub that in your face every time you leave your front door.

        It is an understatement to say this will not be a popular thing to do. And I’m not convinced there is any ambition about lifting the status of car-less people.

        1. Maybe the government should encourage the use of motor scooters and small motor bikes in urban areas instead of taxing them off the road. Compare the parking space requirement for 3 Vespas in a household vs the now standard ToyMis 2.0 and larger.

      2. It certainly incentivises large malls. You can create an internal carpark with free parking that has little pedestrian connectivity to the external streets. A tenant’s choice is locate in a mall with parking or locate where car drivers can’t stop.
        The only viable alternative is for shop owners to band together and lobby the Council to pay for carparks like they did before minimum parking rules came in. (They existed for a reason after all.)

        1. Parking levies could level the playing field. Help recoup some of the costs of all that driving that we’re all having to pay for, too…

        2. “The only viable alternative”

          Lets not think narrowly here. Cities all over the world work fine with very limited parking in their shopping centres. They work because (one of) the reason parking is scarce is that once lots of people live there, you can’t provide it.

          To respond to more people in your area (new customers) by wanting more car parking, at exorbitant costs, for customers from further away, is foolish. Kinda understandable if that’s the mindset one has worked in for decades, but still foolish, and largely unnecessary, and largely impossible.

  2. The problem with intensification in Auckland is that we have barely enough water for existing residents let alone incomers

    1. We have barely enough water because of silly rules. We take 0.7% of the Waikato’s flow rate
      175000/(86400*280)*100=0.72…..

      And it’s about 40% of Auckland’s water intake

      The city will not run out of water, and there are other measures watercare could use too. Further loosening the rules around rain water storage (it’s still a pain in the ass to get one for your garden), treating water at the sewerage plant to be up to drinking standard again etc.

      Water is one of those backyard barbecue issues, like the harbour crossing.

      1. “The city will not run out of water”

        Oh yeah? We’ll see if that bears out… Seems to me like Auckland has an excess of people and cars, and an under-supply of electricity and water…

        We can check back here in 10 years time and see how you’re doing as a city.

        1. Did you read my comment? 0.7% of the flow of the Waikato. There is also significant opportunity to have seasonal increases in allowed water take from the river. High winter flows when the take will be less impactful on the ecosystem could be used to take all the pressure off of the reservoirs in winter, which would be topped up to 100% every winter, to be used more heavily in the summer.

          I overestimated how much water Watercare can take earlier as a portion of total flow. Average river discharge is 340cumecs, max auckland take is 2.03cumecs. So that is 0.6% of average river flow at an absolute maximum.

        2. Go and stand beside the Waikato river and open your eyes … it is indeed true Akld will never run out of water.

  3. I hope one of the unintended consequences is not that people fight rapid transit improvements in their area even more as a way to prevent up zoning.

  4. The intensification stuff is very light weight having had 7 months to work on it. It almost entirely ignores Policy 3d which is actually the tricky bit of the NPS and just focuses on the much easier/ more directive elements of Policy 3a, b and c. The NPS directes that almost the enitre urban area of Auckland should be “upzoned” yet the focus remains on a small fraction of this.

    The modifying factors approach also seems back to front. instead of reducing intensification, this work should be used to inform projects that better enable intensification (e.g. reducing traffic volumes on Road X, reducing ped waiting times/ new crossings)

  5. Council’s can’t have rules requiring parking (that was a tack-on at the end of the NPS), but they can still have policies and objectives. So the simple way is have a trigger that any house without one carpark is a non-complying activity. You don’t need use rules for non-complying activities.

    1. Nope. The NPS says at 3.38(1) obs, pols, rules, or assessment criteria that “have the effect of requiring a minimum number of car parks to be provided”. So that indirect trick is shut out. It would also require a plan change to do that and wouldn’t get through – they’d be pilloried at submission and at the hearing stage for trying to subvert the NPS.

      1. Yes you are right. You would have to finesse it a bit more. You can define a lack of parking in an area as a matter for assessment and leave it open to how it would be addressed. You can’t specifically require spaces be provided. The NPS doesn’t remove parking as an adverse effect under the Act, it just limits what can be put in a plan. I guess this is what happens when you jamb something into a policy statement in a hurry.

        1. Agree. I’ve already seen arguments to the effect that despite a development’s literal doorstep being on the edge of a centre it should provide heaps of on-site parking so on-street demand isn’t affected. No car-free development here please! *groan*

  6. Parking- Is transport the ONLY infrastructure available for private use that does not self-fund?
    Water, wastewater, electricity, internet, telephones, airports, seaports all generate their own income.
    I can understand that public transport, like public health/education/housing etc., is paid for my taxes/rates, but why is private use free.
    Maybe that’s why we have such transport chaos in our cities.
    AT should be able to generate a lot more of its own income. They could probably raise $500m
    In a time of serious budget cuts and funding shortfalls we have to prioritise public services and more private users can pay for their own share.

    1. Council, too. Parking levies would be a fair way of internalising some of the costs of car ownership and driving, and would reap good income for Council to deal with those costs being imposed on wider society.

  7. Specific words matter. NPS policy (3) says “enable”. It doesn’t say “require”. In planning that is a big difference. In practical terms it means removing barriers that might prevent someone from constructing a 6 storey building. But it doesn’t stop someone constructing a two storey building. Underdevelopment isn’t something we’ve tackled in Auckland. I’ve seen it already on sites zoned THAB where two storey housing is built. Can’t stop it – weak policies. It’s an issue in other countries I’ve seen tackled with more stringent minimum densities and incentives for higher density. In Auckland there is no stick requiring a minimum density for areas identified for higher growth. I know stick methods aren’t popular, but I don’t see much in the way of incentivising either.

    1. The TH in THAB standas for terraced housing … 2 storey terraces are entirely anticipated in that zone.

      Regarding under development generally, the difference in cost between terraced housing and apartments is not insubstantial so the prevalent 4/5 storey limit on apartment heights is difficult to make work financially across most of the sites zoned THAB due to underlying land value/ future sale price. Much of the THAB zone is in the wrong location, if it was expansive around the inner isthmus I dont think we’d get major issues with under development.

      1. I don’t think two storey is really intended. Sure there’s a stated intention to

        “transition in height from the centre to lower scale residential zones.”

        but given the lower scale residential zones should be two or three storeys anyway, new THAB developments should really only rarely be three, and should start from four storeys. Otherwise they don’t meet the purpose of the zone:

        “The purpose of the zone is to make efficient use of land and infrastructure, increase the capacity of housing and ensure that residents have convenient access to services, employment, education facilities, retail and entertainment opportunities, public open space and public transport. This will promote walkable neighbourhoods and increase the vitality of centres. The zone provides for the greatest density, height and scale of development of all the residential zones.”

        And policy:
        “H6.3(2) Require the height, bulk, form and appearance of development and the provision of setbacks and landscaped areas to achieve a high-density urban built character of predominantly five, six or seven storey buildings in identified areas, in a variety of forms.”

        It’s important to do this properly, as intended, because the two storey terrace houses being built typically have way too many vehicle crossings and way too many garages, creating car dependency and making walking and cycling dangerous. Plus they’re not leaving enough green infrastructure.

        1. Hang on. If terraced houses were a problem, then the Netherlands would have figured that out a long time ago.

          You’re looking for alternative arrangements for parking. One example is in the post about Almere, over there it is all on-street parking. Alternatively, a parking building has one driveway for many parking spots. I think the driveway at each house pattern can also work. Driveways aren’t busy, especially if your area doesn’t require you to drive everywhere. We’re just building them in the wrong way: you have to make sure your footpath has a proper continuous kerb so you can’t turn in at speed.

        2. Terraced houses aren’t the problem. Two storey terraced houses with a garage and vehicle crossing each, and without accompanying green infrastructure, are a part of the problem, though.

          But terraced houses are less of a solution to Auckland’s enormous planning problems than many people think. Our repair job is both enormous and urgent. The decades of atrocious planning that stymied the city’s evolution means the more moderate housing forms (that were appropriate in cities that developed more organically) will play less of a role here.

          If we are focused on the goal of making liveable this dysfunctional city, and of restoring ecological health – and not sprawling – in the timeframe that matters, we’re going to have to go higher than 2 storeys in the development we do.

        3. That 2 storey height + parking, isn’t that merely an artefact of zoning laws?

          The key thing is to actually allow it. And not just in a few select spots but everywhere. The idea that there are any places within a few km from the city centre where you are not allowed to build 3 or 4 (maybe 5) storey terraced houses is insane.

          I think it is a good solution. You keep many advantages of regular houses, like having your own private space, not being tied to other households by a body corporate, (in theory) ability to turn your ground floor into a business.

          I can see this happening in the ‘lower density’ areas not directly next to stations or town centres. (in quotes, since even this pattern will have already 2 or 3 times the density of our current single housing). You just have to allow people to subdivide laterally.

          (incidentally those organically grown cities overseas, a lot of those townhouses will upon closer inspection turn out to be low rise apartments)

        4. The height in relation to boundary rules are the biggest problem. They need to go.

      2. There’s a weird mishmash in the THAB zone. It contemplates terraces, and terraces are included in the zone name. But the planned built character is 5,6,7 storeys.
        Very confused planning.

    2. But why would they build such low buildings though. How would you ever recover the cost of buying that land if you did that?

      I’m curious about the land value vs. improvement value of that building.

      1. For most sites in the THAB zone it is still impossible to build 4 or 5 storeys due to a range of other development controls without huge consenting risks around notification unless you are able to amalgmate a bunch of sites which is no easy feat (although appears to be becoming more common). There are a range of other objectives and policies around amenity etc which actively work against intensification in the THAB zone which is one of the things the NPS-UD has specifically sought to change.

        Further the terraced typology is now well understood and can be rolled out quickly/ efficiently – many with no carparking at all. Build costs in terms of structure ramp up from 3 storeys +, and with apartments there are additional costs around vertical circulation, fire rating etc on top of difficulties around bank lending requirements. Overall, the AUP, Building Code, Construction costs, bank lending etc all work in conjunction to make terraced housing a lot easier/ quicker/ safer to deliver.

      2. I work with a lot of developers in Greenfield THAB zones. They – rightly or wrongly – feel that people don’t want to buy an apartment in Westgate or Kumeu way, especially one without car park, and I can’t really fault them for that.

        I do agree tho that making it *possible* (and reasonably easy) to build apartments in large areas of the city is the way. I’m not a fan of rules enforcing it. Unless they are something like rates-based rules taxing such land more they could lead to perverse outcomes (including no development, because the owner can’t build a townhouse in that zone anymore like they can now). And a rates-based option would be difficult to manage – sure, it might drive more apartment where the market is ready, but how do you – with a very slow to change mechanism like rates – respond to whether an apartment is viable or not in a SPECIFIC location? You might end up over and under-charging all over the place. So no, on this one deregulation is the way (to a reasonable degree – still lots of things that need to be regulated for apartment buildings to get a good outcome for everyone).

  8. I’m interested to know if they will use a 800m circle, or rather a more nuanced ped-shed approach. I am hoping for the latter with a dynamic consideration of its use to allow for new street connections to be added that extent the 800m catchment. It might actually incentivise council / developers to make smaller blocks if there is a up zoning benefit for them.

    1. The guidance says circles aren’t appropriate and should use more nuances ped-shed analysis, including from each entrance to a rapid transit station

  9. That parking part though. They’re going to have to manage on street parking properly. Maybe they will have to start asking ‘market rate’ for resident parking schemes.

    Oh, no. Can you imagine that shit storm?

    1. Well I can imagine a few different shit storms, actually.

      Including the shit storm Council should be kicking up right now about a number of different places around the city where parking being reallocated to different uses – which should be all good – is creating in some dinosaurs’ minds the idea that it should be replaced elsewhere.

      And I can imagine the legal shit storm that will be kicked up on the basis of utter climate neglect if Council don’t do something about it.

      1. Europe is in the process of figuring out just how expensive climate change is — they’re trying to figure out how expensive it is to dam the entire North Sea between France, Great Britain and Norway. It is mostly a thought experiment, but the answer basically amounts to “oh, shit”.

        They’re not going to be happy about other countries not giving a damn about climate change.

        1. Well, our first dams may have to go across narrow neck on the Shore and between Orakei and North Head – or the City Centre and many of those suburbs will go underwater. That’s what happens when you know about a problem for decades but do nothing. The bill accrues interest.

  10. I am becoming increasingly confused. This post and numerous other comments talk about 6 stories or greater being mandatory (i.e. MUST happen) within walking distance of town centres and train stations whereas the official documentation uses terms like MUST ALLOW FOR 6 story development. There is a significant difference so which is the correct interpretation? I live about 600 metres from a train station in a largely single-storey residential neighbourhood with a minority of 1.5 or 2-storey houses and a sprinkling of very recent 3-4 storey apartment buildings. Are we to expect the entire hood to be THABed or something more nuanced?

    1. Mandatory as in must allow for it. We aren’t yet having a conversation about minimum required densities but who knows, that may happen in the future.
      And as for zoning, based on the guidance we should expect pretty much the entire isthmus to be THAB.

    2. The land MUST be zoned to ALLOW 6-story development, but there’s nothing stopping someone from building a single-story building right beside a train station.

      1. The thing that will stop most people from building a single storey building right beside a train station is the cost of the land. For example, land prices in the Takapuna THAB zone have increased strongly since it was designated.

    3. Here we are in 2021 and a train station – presumably within AELB, so close to town! – has a neighbourhood that is primarily single storey.

      Such reckless planning we’ve had. To recover from this, we clearly do need minimum densities.

    1. You don’t have an electric car. You use the bus. Welcome to realising what a city is (as opposed to a town, or a village).

      [And don’t worry – the people who can afford electric cars in the next decade or two have private car parks. At home and at work]

  11. The NPS says council plans must “enable” (i.e. ALLOW) at least six storeys but does not say it must REQUIRE at least six storeys. Whether a land owner takes up the opportunity to build six or more storeys is up to them and is subject to a myriad of considerations.

  12. The Modifying factors has unintended consequence.

    If council wish to limit intensification, the easy work around is to make walking harder so the “Modifying factors” kicks in to make the walking radius smaller.

  13. Will be interesting to see how this plays out in the wash with typical nimby areas in the ithsmus. It would be hard to argue that pretty much all of Parnell isn’t within walking distance of their train station.

    1. The buildings right next to Parnell train station are all multi-storey anyway.

      Compare, for example, Pukekohe, Papakura, Te Mahia, and Manurewa which are all nestled in between shops and one storey buildings once you get through them. (Papakura is also next to a park, a swimming pool and an athletics stadium/rugby club.)

      Takanini’s a little better in the sense that most of the new development not /that/ far away is at least two storeys.

      If you want to have a go at traditional Nimby suburbs, I suggest Remuera. Neither Remuera Station nor Greenlane Station are any different to Papakura and co. although they do have the excuse of the motorway.

    2. The really interesting thing will be the difference in heights relative to location of an RTN stop. I dont think you could make a sane argument that if 6 storeys (the minimum) is appropraite for say Manuwera that the same applies for Kingsland or Morningside. We should hopefully be seeing much more than 6 stories enabled at RTN stops in areas with high underlying land value and closer to a wider range of amenities.

    3. Just out of curiosity, who is a “typical NIMBY”? Is that anyone who cares about their environment and community?

      My concern is that this kind of language and the thinking that underpins it, and the NPS-UD, is that contempt for democracy is a very dangerous thing to foster…. Its always starts with the easy targets.

  14. People still don’t get that the biggest problem is not planning, but rather the whole market is fundamentally screwed. Land and construction costs are too high.
    If anything, upzoning to give effect to the Nps could simply make things worse.
    The only answer is a much more active role for the government in terms of urban development. They have the tool to do it – the Urban Development Act – but seem very shy to use it…

    1. “Land and construction costs are too high. If anything, upzoning to give effect to the Nps could simply make things worse.”

      HOW? The ability to build an apartment in, say, 25% of the city as opposed to say 5-10% now (figures made up) will reduce the cost of land because someone who wants an apartment building can pick and choose and negotiate with many more land owners.

      Sure, in the short run, apartment specialist builders will be swamped. That could increase costs. But in a market where there’s certainty that govt won’t suddenly make apartments illegal again like they did with sausage flats, the response in the market will be (eventually) for a lot more builders to get the hang of building apartment buildings.

      Not to say govt SHOULDN’T intervene actively. For example, a lot of Auckland’s current , smaller walk-up apartment blocks are built by Kainga Ora (ex Housing NZ). On the way there they are training a lot of smaller and medium construction companies how to do apartments.

      1. From casual observation, sausage flats seem to be a 60’s – 70s phenomenon. What were the changes that enabled them / stopped them?

        1. Not a planner, and wasn’t even living (or living in NZ) then. So can’t talk about the specific rules. But I think the following KIND of rules killed them off:

          – car parking requirements (2 car parks per ANY dwelling, even a small flat)
          – height to boundary (you want a double storey building? better move that back a couple more meters from the boundary. Yep, on BOTH sides of your narrow site which made you design a sausage flat in the first place)
          – rules specifically prohibiting / complicating multi-dwelling units in many zones in the name of “character”, “good sanitation/habitation” etc.

        2. I am curious why people assume the big driver was a change to planning rules? The 1960s and early 70s were a time of significant sprawl, with a strong preference for “formica palaces”. It may simply be that people stopped building sausage houses in preference for new homes at the periphery?

          That said. New Zealand’s early 70s planning was around supporting the idea of a home with green space around it, with parking added on later as car dependence grew steadily. In Auckland, this reached its extreme with the motorway/sprawl active planning. So it is entirely possible that sausage flats were discouraged because they didn’t allow people enough green space.

          Here’s a 2011 GA post on the way the then rules stopped more being built. This isn’t necessarily an indicator of why construction stopped in the first place 🙂

          https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2011/07/22/exploring-our-planning-problems/

        3. It was changes to planning rules that killed them. There was a public outcry in the 1970s.

        4. Thanks for the sausage flat info! I shudder to think what that place in Sandringham is now worth.

      2. That’s all good in theory but it doesn’t work that way in reality.
        Because of non-planning constraints, the amount of sites that can be readily developed is a fairly small subset of those zoned.
        So *readily developable* sites, if not scarce, are not abundantly available either.

        1. It needs to be a lot. The majority of these sites will not be developed this year, or even this decade, for the simple reason that houses last much longer than that.

        2. One way of addressing this is raising the cost of holding houses vacant, land vacant or used for car-parking and keeping low-quality commercial buildings with no housing.

          Prioritising this has the great advantage that much of it is located in areas close to the centre and public transport. Further prioritising this land means that you aren’t making people homeless to build new housing.

    2. I totally agree – but there is a fake news cult of supply which says its all the fault of evil regulations and nasty NIMBYs – take those away and we will be in paradise. The arguments goes that some ill-defined vested interests are using the system (again in unspecified ways).

      Someone said to me the other day, people who oppose these changes are just old rich white people protecting their wealth. “Middle class capture” is a slogan from the 80s and 90s; people talked about how deregulation would stop the greedy middle classes hoarding privilege and create opportunities for those on low incomes. How did that go?

    3. There is a fundamental belief that the there is a shortage of land for development. I say belief, because it is unsupported by analysis of land occupancy as even casual inspection shows. The most pressing policy changes to actually drive intensification are

      (i) raising the cost of keeping houses vacant, holding land vacant and using land for ground level car parks;
      (ii) giving Councils the power to incentivise development on classes of land / buildings

      If land availability is not a constraint then changing the planning rules will raise the cost of land rather than lower it. This is because the price of land is driven by the expected return on investment, which is higher if you can build a block of low-quality apartments on 100% of the site.

      If you think about land banking, its obvious that the higher land prices are driven by an expectation of higher future returns.

      The main financial beneficiaries of planning changes at present are existing landowners and developers. The other impacts of using deregulation rather than planning and public investment to drive density – a “missing middle” with the main focus on high end and low quality, loss of coherence to urban form, loss of heritage and amenity, adverse effects on well being due to loss of agency. increased GHG emissions (esp compared with planned intensification) – are more widely felt.

      1. I agree about there not being a shortage of land, and the problem that happens where land prices are pushed up through zoning changes.

        However, this is true only because we make planning rule changes incremental. If they are made across most of the city in one go, the cost of land shouldn’t change much, because the higher cost of newly upzoned areas is all about scarcity value.

        The idea of needing to “drip feed” upzoning was always as flawed as the idea of needing to “drip feed” new greenfields land.

        1. What you say is true only if site availability is a significant constraint and/or the planning system is a significant cost. Neither is true in New Zealand in an objective sense.

          I have very good post grad qualifications in economics, but I am not a fan of neoliberal ideology. 🙂

          The Christchurch article is about greenfield development, and its an interesting spin to claim the heavily planned partnership process the article describes was in some way “competitive”. The houses are also in the wrong place and contributing to sprawl – its a real shame some of that housing wasn’t instead built on the hectares of poorly used central city land that is currently vacant or car yards.

          .

        2. What happened in central Christchurch anyway?

          From what I have heard there were buildings in the city centre before the earthquake. Those buildings must have had owners. Did none of these owners build anything new after the earthquake?

          Also how did that east frame thing happen? That lot cannot possibly have been owned by only one developer before the earthquake.

        3. The “basic economics” is too basic for the situation, essentially. It is releasing land and creating sprawl that puts house prices up, whereas densification will help bring them down.

          The ITF reports that, “Auckland house prices are expected to triple over the period 2018-2050 on current trends and by implementing a set of land-use policies that enable widespread densification this could be reduced to a 57% increase.”

        4. Heidi – a serious question – why do you associate densification with deregulation.

          Sprawl wasn’t driven by limits to densification in Auckland. I strongly agree that densification done well has benefits but what is going on in Auckland at the moment lacks the “done well” caveat. Instead you get pepperpotted sites selected on the basis of immediate profitability and availability of willing sellers. This has two effects

          (i) net housing capacity is rising much more slowly as a result of densification because essentially we are removing dwellings rather than prioritising land not used for housing.

          (ii) we are getting car dependent densification because development is focussed on individual sites and profitability rather than on building “15 minute communities” – what we used to call “urban villages”.

          This is bad for people, bad for the climate and bad for affordability. What’s more, this is all well documented, from the planned affordability of Europe to the “gensification” problem in Vancouver.

          I contrast two pathways to densification:

          1) planning, participation and public leadership – which is the proven track

          2) deregulation, de-democractisation, and developer leadership – which is the model this blog champions.

          I’d really like to know why people believe in 2? Where has it worked? What is the evidence base that this is the solution?

          I am really really puzzled where the idea that deregulation will solve our housing problems came from?

        5. I was just mentioning Chch as an easy example from recent NZ history to illustrate the idea that if you have more lots land prices tend to come down.

          Roland “site availability is a significant constraint and/or the planning system is a significant cost”. Why do you think these qualifications have an influence and why don’t they apply in NZ. I’ve asked you to come up with references related to the latter point before but you’ve never replied.

          Heidi ” It is releasing land and creating sprawl that puts house prices up, whereas densification will help bring them down.” 🙂 I realise you are against land release for other reasons, but you’re just denying reality here. How do you explain what happened in Chch – which is just an easy NZ example.

        6. Roland, I’m concerned about particular regulations that I know prevent quality development. I am in favour of good planning.

        7. Sherwood, land supply reducing house prices is a simple contributing factor in the equation. In Auckland, it is immediately more than mitigated because sprawl increases transport, health, social, environmental costs in so many ways that both taxation and operational costs for businesses are increased, which of course adds to building and infrastructure costs, pushing up housing prices. Also, the commute becomes so burdensome that the relative value of more central suburbs gets inflated. Those are two mechanisms that mean releasing land ends up not reducing house prices. There are probably others in the ITF study.

          I’ve never looked deeply into the Christchurch situation to see how the central government recovery investment changed things.

          Economists’ theories aren’t science; they’re simply ways of looking at things that may, or may not be helpful.

        8. @roland, because there are dozens of regulations currently that directly oppose and disincentive building density and 15 minute communities. Want to open a dairy out your front yard in front of your house? Nope, zoned no commercial buildings. New developments seem to be the least regulated and the most progressive urban environments in Auckland at the moment.
          You can point to many many issues in the city and peel back a layer and find a regulation or government push that is forcing such outcomes. More people driving this way, oh there’s no bus lanes or cycle lanes and every house has to have at least 3 parking spaces. this entire neighbourhood is only single family homes, oh its because its zoned this way.

          All the areas that I can think of that has had the blogs ideas decently applied to it has pushed the desired outcomes significantly. All the arterials that are up zoned and have decent PT, have dozens of new dense developments on them. Exactly as desired. But only on a small portion of the city. “Why would this way work?” You ask, because we tried the other way (nz pre 80s), got what we have got now, and this blog way is clearly having the desired effect. If only it were applied to enough of the city to actually have a significant impact.

          All the public leadership has got us at the moment is swaths of poor zoning and incredibly expansive car infrastructure. “Democratisation” as you say prevents people building developments in convenient locations in the inner city from push from NIMBYs, and prevents AT from taking away car parks to provide bike and bus infrastructure. It protects the status quo.

          “ Sprawl wasn’t driven by limits to densification in Auckland”, no it was driven by motorway infrastructure building by the strong planning and powers of the government of the day. However sprawl is currently driven by regulations against densification in Auckland, and by improper infrastructure by the government. (Difference between why it was built this way and the reason its not changing now)

          I do realise this is a somewhat futile argument. Just like I could point to regulations for why something is like it is, you could point to developers or unmoving home owners.

        9. Heidi, we’re talking about prices not costs. And infrastructure costs only make up a small fraction of total costs anyway.

          There is a spectrum of ideas in economics ranging from the solid to the very disputed. But the law of supply and demand is at the hard end. If you think you can deny its application to property then stop wasting your time posting here, go get the Nobel prize in economics and win a big, enduring forum for everything else you want to say in life.

        10. Sherwood, I didn’t dispute the law of supply and demand, I said it was a factor and there were other factors.

          The OECD knew to test the effect of releasing more land supply on house prices because they’ve seen elsewhere that it raises them. In Auckland’s case, they’ve worked out that releasing land as we’re currently doing will raise house prices 5-6 times what a different set of policies, enabling densification, would do.

          They aren’t disputing the law of supply and demand or its application to property either; they’re just looking more holistically at the situation and including more factors.

        11. Heidi, I meant to ask what is the ITF report you mentioned above. And have you got a reference for the OECD report (assuming its not the same one).

          You may be mis-interpreting the OECD report. It may be that the 5-6 times differential exists because not enough land is being released.

          Your interpretation would be so newsworthy given all the discussion here about property prices that I am surprised it has not been mentioned in the media if it is an accurate representation of what the OECD said.

          I’d have to see it to tell though.

        12. Sherwood – “I’ve asked you to come up with evidence” as to why a problem doesn’t exist??

          In general, I would say if someone wants to claim that site availability or the planning system is a major contributor to housing challenges, the onus is on the person to prove it. I have OIA’d Ministry for the Environment on this point re the NPS-US so I am reasonably confident in my statements.

          I did undertake to see if I could find an online link to the OECD’s comparative review of planning systems. So far no luck.

          Heidi – can I ask what for you is good planning? Do you prefer
          Copenhagen or the NPS-US? I ask because they are polar opposites in approach.

          Jack – I know regulations can be so annoying, wouldn’t it be great if we could just do what we wanted where we wanted without having to ask anyone or think about anyone else 🙂

          You said “because we tried the other way (nz pre 80s), got what we have got now, ” honestly – really. That is so far from the truth I am not sure how to respond.

          So how is it that the best examples in the world are all the way they are on the basis of making 1 work, and 2 so far has been a recipe for inequality and exclusion in New Zealand?

          I am sorry but I lived through the 1980s and 90s listening to this sort of rhetoric, and it isn’t evidence. I don’t see much “innovation” in the low quality, high site coverage apartments being built in Auckland at the moment. What I see is future slums, which will be in major need of overhaul in 15-20 years.

          There is nothing in the NPS that will create 15 minute communities; it will make some people very rich and undermine community coherence, as well as setting back the creation of 15 minute communities and reduction in car dependence. But those are just annoying incidentals compared with those pesky regulations, eh.

          You’re right it is futile to some extent. I do wish advocates of deregulation could start considering that someday they may be the ones whose voices are stifled, and whose communities are destroyed. Its all to easy to assume you’ll always come out on top.

    4. Issue is subdivision cost is too high and the consents takes time and risk. If there is a nimby against the development the project may fall-over.

      The current system make it cheaper and more profitable to build green field sprawl. So the system is indirectly encouraging sprawling.

      The way to fix it is make those subdivision cheaper and more predictable.

  15. Thanks Heidi, its nice to hear someone acknowledge that there isn’t a shortage of land. I hear the hope that if we just deregulate everywhere there will not be issues with land prices. However that assumes that planning is a major driver rather than a tweak around the edges. So while I hear the optimism in your final sentence my questions is this:

    Why is it that the cities we cite as good examples – Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Vienna etc – all have very tight rules and a clear pipeline (drip feeding), whereas the laizzes faire examples in America are seen as much less appealing?

    1. 100% agree. Planning regulation is an important factor but it’s exaggerated.
      Until people *get* that govt intervention is the only solution, we won’t get anywhere.
      Unfortunately this country has been very well indoctrinated by neoliberalism!!! Even some of the ‘lefties’ on this website seem to be a bit infected by it!!! Certain Labour Ministers (and especially ex Ministers) are too.

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