Header image: affordable housing in London by architect Peter Barber

This is a guest post from Hayden Donnell

On Friday night’s episode of The Project, planner Graeme McIndoe conjured up what was intended as a frightening vision of a housing-filled future. If the government gets its way, homes will soon be allowed to be built metres apart, with living rooms overlooking bedrooms, he said. “There’s a risk it’ll be a disaster on the scale of the leaky home crisis,” he said.

McIndoe is one of a coterie of planners, politicians, and council officials campaigning in the media against the bipartisan Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Bill, which would allow three houses up to three storeys on sections zoned residential in major cities. These opponents fret that allowing new housing will mean having to deal with demolition waste. They complain that allowing people to build houses will mean having to service those developments with infrastructure. Most of all they fear the bill will enable – in their words – urban slums.

These concerns are overblown at best, and dishonest at worst. Some of the most beautiful places in the world are filled with the kind of “radical” three-storey housing this bill enables. How many of these critics have embarked on holiday jaunts around Europe, wandered the lanes of terraced housing, and remarked on their beauty, only to return home and devote themselves to ensuring the same thing can never happen here?

You don’t have to go overseas to see medium density housing though. It’s also on display in places like Oriental Parade in Wellington, where three-storey apartments and townhouses rise off the footpath. Even in the swanky Auckland suburb of Ponsonby, villas sit within centimetres of each other.

These homes are held up as untouchable character buildings by many of the same people who would make them illegal under the government’s new plan. They were constructed before planners got their micromanaging mits on the architecture of our cities. Many of the design interventions imposed by our councils in recent decades have been infused with an urge to legally mandate the aesthetic preferences of the comfortably housed. That’s often been counterproductive. Setback rules have incentivised the “sausage flats” seen in many places across Auckland. Height-to-boundary ratios have limited density where it’s most desirable.

Opponents of the government’s housing bill have made loud calls for a continuation of this persnickety approach. In its presentation to the select committee considering the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Bill, Auckland Council proposed a four-metre setback at the front of every property, to allow space big enough space for a mature tree. Apparently in Auckland, berms are reserved exclusively for parked cars.

Elsewhere, developer Nigel McKenna told the committee that medium density housing doesn’t suit Aotearoa because of our national addiction to grilling juicy steaks. “We have different needs. So densities that actually work in other countries don’t actually work here, because we actually do want to live outdoors and have barbecues,” he said. Auckland mayor Phil Goff shared that sentiment. “They’d love to have a bit of a barbecue on a front lawn,” he said, to justify his argument that barbecue-enabling layouts should be mandatory in new builds.

At their core, these proposed rules are less about incentivising better design than about stopping houses being built. It may be true that we love to barbecue, but that doesn’t mean it should be illegal to not have space for one. People who’d rather eat takeaways, or who feel comfortable grilling skewers in a park, shouldn’t be forced to live in homes that don’t suit their needs. Neither should every renter have a mature pōhutukawa foisted upon their lawn.

At least these submissions focused on the people living in these new homes. In general, planners, politicians, and architects have been more worried about the impact new development will have on existing homeowners who have seen the value of their biggest assets rise 25% in the last year. Some have claimed new housing will “rob” these homeowners of sunlight, and proposed regulations to ward off that potential larceny. The Project presenter Laura Tupou opened the show’s segment on the housing bill with the words “could you wake up to find your neighbour building a three-storey house next to your place and there’s nothing you can do about it?”.

These complaints show how many of the people who are influential in shaping our cities are operating in reverse. A sensible approach to growth would ask first how to enable enough housing supply in the areas where it’s needed, then how to design that growth in the prettiest way possible. Instead they’ve flipped those considerations, asking first how to regulate and reshape development to make it suit the preferences of rich homeowners, then how many houses can be built once those concerns have been accommodated. The resulting rules are billed as creating liveable cities. In reality their main purpose is protecting privilege.

Look at any planning map from Auckland or Wellington, and you’ll see visual evidence of our councils’ overriding impulse to insulate the wealthy from the effects of development. City fringe suburbs in both centres have been virtually exempted from dense housing. In Auckland, Ponsonby, Herne Bay, Grey Lynn, Birkenhead, and Mt Eden all contain large expanses of single house zoning. In Wellington, the same is true for suburbs like Newtown and Mt Victoria.

These rules may limit development, but they don’t stop population growth. While many of the councils submitting on the housing bill complained about the potential it will cause sprawl, their own planning rules essentially make that sprawl inevitable. Their decisions to limit housing near city centres ensure growth is diffused to outlying areas. In Wellington, that means Upper Hutt. In Auckland, the most intensive development is taking place in working class suburbs like Massey and Henderson in the city’s west and Manukau in the south. A tour of those suburbs will show why the hand-wringing about sunlight and setbacks from the bill’s opponents rings hollow. Our cities are already filled with the kind of housing some of them have decried as “uglification”. They just never get as worked up about shading effects if they’re happening to poor people.

A map showing the lack of dwelling consents in areas around Auckland’s City Centre, and large-scale growth in the South and West- Credit to Timmy

Henderson isn’t the only place helping keep Herne Bay preserved in amber. As the city fringe sits unchanged, developers are also paving over forests, wetlands and productive land to construct new satellite towns in greenfields areas in Millwater and Kumeu. Worse still, a portion of our city’s growth is being forced into crowded flats, emergency motels, and sometimes, cars.

On The Project, McIndoe concluded his interview with a warning. “Blinds will be drawn, they’ll be miserable places to live,” he said, of the housing the bill enables. But a new, warm house isn’t really a miserable place to live. A mouldy flat is a miserable place to live. So is a motel, or a car. The opponents of this bill talk a lot about slums, but the gross inequities of our housing crisis are far more likely to cause social and economic problems than any new building typology.

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For too long, our councils and planners have been prioritising their fears of drawn blinds and absent barbeques over those very real harms. Now they’re asking us to listen to them again. But their concerns are a kind of Trojan horse. They’re designed to sound sympathetic, with appeals centred on stuff we all appreciate like sunlight and outdoor space. Open them up though, and it’s the same poisonous approach that’s already contributed to us having the worst housing crisis in the world. Politicians should be wary of taking advice on how to fix that crisis from the same people that helped cause it in the first place. Don’t let them inside the city walls.

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  1. Very Informative thanks. Having 50 houses built across the road from me and expect they will all be stand alone dwellings built as cheaply as possible. Even if three story they would not shade existing houses at all but I am sure would be easier to heat. Their outdoor pay space would be covered by Waiuku college 200metres away. So an “easy as” chance for a multi story build missed

  2. Great post Hayden
    I have found the Auckland councils submission helpful.
    What I have missed is a conversation measuring demand for the type of housing people are most afraid of.
    My count comes to 3.5% to 5% of the housing market. For Hamilton this could be about 437 to 625 dwelling over next decade, (40 to 60 per year). It is also possible they will look more like Space Boxes.

    1. Looking at existing demand for transport in an urban environment that has been heavy distorted and sprawled with low zoning, and projecting that over to 10 years in the future is not accurate I think.
      With people being able to build density, amenity and work will follow, the walkability will increase, and so too would walking / biking modeshare.

  3. The pictures here look like terraces, possibly perimeter blocks. They will have decent setbacks at the back and looks like a couple of metres at the front if there are room for trees. I think what you want for the future – density done well – is exactly what many people giving feedback said. Architects, urban designers, many of whom have worked around the world, and have long been advocating for the sort of building you describe, also expressed concerns over this laissez faire approach and suggested design rules like form codes. One of the risks of the bill as it currently stands is that it actually disincentives perimeter blocks near public transport because it makes it so easy to build sausage flats in the suburbs. Council can see that some of the post aup developments are not perfect and can see how some more rules might help. It sounds like you are against consultation which seems odd as the point is to improve bills so they work better. In the meanwhile there is huge amounts of construction already going on. Intensification is happening but let’s do it well.

    1. Seeing that the MDRS doesn’t quite get us to perimeter block housing doesn’t align you with those submitters advocating against the MDRS on the basis of needing “better design”. The MDRS reduces the recession planes, and so is a step towards pbh. This can be improved further but those calling for it to be improved are the ones in favour of the MDRS. The outraged resistance against the MDRS is from submitters using “better design” as a way to oppose the bill, and as a way to oppose enabling 3-storeys and 3-homes as of right.

      Sausage flats have occurred because of bad Council planning:
      – regulations that included side set backs and recession plans
      – regulations that included minimum parking requirements so the designs have centred around car access
      – no protection of permeable green space. Council officers have manufactured rules that stretch the permeability requirements, and then ignored the blatant “miscalculation” of the areas that’s going on.
      – a Council failure to understand the problem of vehicle crossings.
      – Council refusing to translate the Auckland Plan goal of a low carbon city with sustainable transport options into what that means for planning: EVERY suburb should have quality transport options, so EVERY suburb can be intensified.

      1. Hi Heidi, you are overly simplifying with your statement about 1960/70s sausage flats being driven by Council regulations. A big part of this was driven by cross-lease titles which are particularly of NZ. As I understand it, cross-lease circumvented Council development rules of the time.

        1. So if Council development rules had allowed perimeter block housing, would there have been any demand for crosslease?

        1. Very keen on perimeter blocks, and I agree with the criticisms lodged by the Coalition for More Homes. But I don’t agree that many of the submissions were actually ambitious in this way, especially from councils. Instead they appeared to want a continuation of the overbearing approach which is currently enforcing poor design.

        2. Hi Heidi, again I believe that is too simplistic. Cross-lease facilitated in-fill housing on single blocks. Perimeter housing requires multiple properties to develop. That raises the bar of who can develop land.

        3. Why are you under the impression that developing perimeter block housing requires multiple sites? That’s not how it developed in places where it’s common, and it’s not required here.

          We just need regulations to enable it.

        4. Hi Heidi, I believe we are talking at cross purposes. I am not advocating for sausage blocks over perimeter blocks. I am pointing out that the causation of sausage block is more complex than council regs, apologies if I didn’t make myself clear. Namely, cross-lease is a NZ legal phenomenon which as I understand it developed in the late 60’s. This allowed for the development of single housing unit into units. I believe you are referring to town-housing, where there is a shared party wall, that makes sense when developing on one unit title. To my mind perimeter block housing is a specific housing type, which develops the whole block as town-housing, often with a shared garden etc.

        5. Many examples of perimeter blocks consist of small lots that were developed independently.

          You can amalgamate sites and do it all in one go. An example are the boulevards in Paris built by Haussmann. But you don’t have to.

          In many examples the houses are built one at a time, and renovated, added to, or demolished one at a time. Blocks developed this way are easy to recognise because the neighbouring houses often have different materials, different number of storeys and different stud heights. You may have the occasional empty lot creating a gap in the row of houses.

          There will be some regulations concerning party walls, for example if your lot is empty you are legally required to give your neighbour access to this wall for maintenance. Or if you demolish your house you are responsible to waterproof the walls to your neighbour’s house.

          Since areas like our inner suburbs are already subdivided into a similar pattern, the most logical outcome is that gradually, over a few decades, the houses are replaced with terraced houses or small apartment buildings one at a time. Maybe a few lots get amalgamated to build bigger buildings. Maybe some get subdivided into two side by side townhouses.

          That is of course assuming we make this legal.

        6. Mark, I think it’s a good discussion. I take your point about the effect of the cross lease legislation, but still think this would not have been required, or even used much, if the Council regulations had allowed property-by-property perimeter block housing development.

          I am referring to town-housing with a shared party wall on each side. This develops into a perimeter block housing form when enough of the sites are developed for it to make sense to combine the back yards into a communal space. Even two or three put together can make a wonderful social space.

          This article is worth reading (HT to Roeland): http://urbankchoze.blogspot.com/2015/05/traditional-euro-bloc-what-it-is-how-it.html

          Importantly, the article shows that developing the entire block at once runs the risk of introducing some counterproductive effects. We need to establish the regulations that allow this to develop organically.

        7. Hi Roeland/Heidi, to mind I think they’re slightly different, but hey whatever, po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Of more interest to me, is your comment regarding party-walls, is this a zoning thing? I can imagine one off town houses being pretty expensive due to having to 2x self-supporting fire walls.

        8. The regulations about height to boundary and recession planes will shape the options available to a property owner, so yeah, that is a zoning thing. I guess they would include going to the boundary and building the fire walls or stepping back to avoid the fire wall requirement but still being able to go high. (Someone else can probably advise on this.)

          The “town-house with party walls” being able to create “PBH” becomes clearer with something else Roeland often discusses (did you have a good link, Roeland?): plenty of “town-houses” in Europe would have had something like:
          – ground floor = retail or commercial
          – level one = apartment for the grandparents, or rented out
          – level two and three = family home
          – level four = “artist’s garret”

          So it’s apartments *within* a townhouse… in case you were imagining pbh is more an apartment thing than a town-house thing.

        9. On one hand you must have a firewall, on the other hand you don’t need as much insulation. Terraced houses are very common in cities at all sorts of price points, so that cost doesn’t seem to be a big factor. In the old days you would see these terraced houses even in small villages. About those rules I think they are part of the law, not the zoning code.

          FWIW most examples I’m aware of are in areas where most buildings are brick. The fire risk may be one of the reasons for not building with wood.

          The upside of having all those individual lots is that it doesn’t require a body corporate or even a residents association covering the entire development. You still have a collection of largely independent buildings. This makes being neighbours a lot less awkward.

        10. A self supporting fire wall is very cheap. It’s literally just a stud wall with a double skin of Gib Fireboard. You also don’t need 2 per house. You need less than one per house. i.e. 8 terraces need 7 firewalls

        11. @Sailor Boy The question is how would this work if every lot is developed independently.

          In areas like that every house is basically a standalone house that just doesn’t happen to have side setbacks. I don’t know how they do fireproofing between those houses. This is maybe a reason why wooden houses are so unusual in some places in Europe.

      2. Sausage flats occurred in the 1960s and 1970s due to very liberal planning rules at the time. There were big community reactions against them, hence the planning rules across many boroughs in Auckland were hugely tightened in the late 1970s / early 1980s.
        That shows that very liberal planning regimes without decent design and amenity requirements can be, over the medium to long term, counter-productive.

        1. The main reason the sausage block boom collapsed was economic rather than regulatory, that came later ie 1980s on. The oil shock and loss of guaranteed export markets bought the NZ economy to a grinding halt after the long expansion of the post war period. House prices dropped substantially during the second half of the 70s in real terms, though not in nomimal figures. Population growth dropped right off as well.

        2. Probably a combination Zippo, but good point I agree. Planning regs against sausage flats started tightening in the late ’70s, overlapping with that economic / building slump.

        3. Hi Zenman/Zippo, thanks for that, very interesting points regarding both development of council regs & economic background of that period.

  4. Thanks Hayden. These MDRS provisions are very mild and any urban area should be able to use them if we’re to step away from US suburban car-fixated typology.

    I listened to the presentations to the committee on Friday. There were presentations from conventional designers whose careers have been focused on designing the best thing for a site given the zoning regulations. Beyond seemingly being unable to imagine change, or to translate good urban form into a new set of regulations, the consistent problem with the arguments presented was an almost complete lack of understanding about transport.

    None of these people seemed to have a clue about sprawl’s effect on traffic volumes, and therefore on everything: safety, social cohesion, children’s independent mobility, public health, air pollution, parking demand, how land is allocated.

    In the process, their submissions – which sometimes had an “outraged and morally superior than thou” tone to them – were simply a protection of their has-been practices, a damaging step beyond their actual knowledge base, and they amounted to a call to retain an urban form that is socially and environmentally destructive.

  5. Thanks Hayden. There’s some really important and complex issues here, and I would encourage everyone commenting to engage as constructively as possible. There’s a lot of shouting at each other on social media around this topic right now and I suggest it’s not all helping progress to a good outcome. This site has always managed to be a key part of positively elevating the debate. Personally I would hate to see the debate on getting better urbanism and housing go backwards in response to this set of proposals.

    More positively, I found this really helpful and relevant – Jarrett Walker discussing transit, but the parallels to discussing the basics of planning and design for housing are very clear. Both matter, but there is a logical hierarchy:


    I agree with Hayden that we’re not doing the basics of housing provision well, and many are focusing on only the higher levels of policy refinement (superficial design), not the foundations (city-making design, equitable and sustainable planning), even if they are engaging in genuine dialogue and good faith.

    I sure hope the Select Comittee makes changes to get both more and better homes; the design-by-politicians method is turning out far from ideal (I’m not saying that professional planning has been doing any better recently). Housing policy is crucial to so many outcomes – we have to get better at this.

  6. Nice post, but you’re misrepresenting what McIndoe and many others are saying. He’s no more in favour of single storey housing than you or I, and as one of NZ’s leading urban designers, he is acutely aware of all those examples you show in the pictures in your post. In fact, he would no doubt be very happy if we had some more of the housing types shown in the pictures from Amsterdam, Boston, etc.

    The problem is that the Medium Density Residential Enabling Bill is a blunt instrument trying to achieve density, and in the change from an extremely low density suburbia to a more medium density urban streetscape, you need to be very careful with how you do it, or you will indeed get the sort of urban slums he is talking about. Have a look on the Select Committee website and look at Urban Auckland’s submission for some pictures of what is happening in Auckland – its not density done well, but density done really badly. Actually, its easier for you – just have a look out the window and you may well see some done well – but also some done badly.

    The problem is that the Bill will still not allow any development like Amsterdam to go ahead, and obviously, Amsterdam has a certain watery condition and a thousand years of careful development that has enabled it to end up looking like that. The other problem is that the Bill removes any chance of anyone saying “Hold on, let’s stop and have a think about that” – it enables everything to go ahead and be built without anyone asking any questions about whether it is appropriate or not. And the issue is that NZ’s typical section sizes, our typical ways of building etc, our existing development habits and our world-leading use of cars are bigger issues that will stop any of this intense infill housing ever achieving anything like Amsterdam. Yes, we can and indeed should make our cities much denser, and urban designers are not trying to stop that. But removing all the controls and then expecting quality housing to spontaneously arise is like throwing all the ingredients for a cake in a tray in the oven and then expecting a perfectly formed cake to rise in its place. You may possibly get some good tasty bits by accident, but mostly you will get an ugly doughy mess with burnt patches, that no one wants to eat and that everyone will say “Let’s just throw that out and start again, but this time we will follow the recipe”.

    In times of urban densification, even more care is needed, not less. It is noticeable that in all of the thousands of submissions given to the Select Committee, there was only one which was wholeheartedly in support: that of Don Brash, well known urbanist and non-racist. Nearly all the other submissions said some version of “this blanket approach to intensification is not the way to get quality urbanism”.

    1. Don Brash’s other point was to remove the unfair city limit boundary, and let people build out further and further into the country, if that is what they wanted to do. Because endless sprawl is an expression of the people’s choice.

      1. Hell yes, of course there were. Different regs to what we have now, and different ways of implementing them, but definitely, yes, places like Amsterdam had huge amounts of community say in what was built. Of course, back then, the “community” was just the coterie of rich men that controlled all the purse strings – perhaps that’s not so different to today.

        For more on this you might like to read: “Metropolis in the Making: A Planning History of Amsterdam in the Dutch Golden Age” (2020), by Jaap Evert Abrahamse.

        “Metropolis in the Making tells the story of one of the cradles of early modern capitalism and at the same time one of the most meticulously planned cities in the world. Its broad approach of planning makes this a standard work on early modern urbanism.”

        1. Can I ask, did Amsterdams golden age planning rules run to maybe 5 – 10,000 pages as whatever age the Wellington region is in right now do? In what ways did they restrict what people could build on their own property? Just by looking, it seems like the Dutch mostly built to what was physically possible on a site at the time, with no side or front setbacks, no HIRB rules, and possibly no height rules?

        2. Hi Conor

          I am sorry, but it is nonsense to claim the planning rules in Wellington run to 5-10.000 pages.

          For any given site, its pretty straightforward to determine what sections apply and any Council will provide that information – what rules apply to the site – free of charge.

          Wellington City’s District Plan is much simpler than the Auckland Unitary Plan, and the provisions in the AUP are actually more restrictive than those in the current WCC District Plan (on which parts of the AUP were modelled).

          Can we at least stay vaguely in the realm of facts in this conversation?

    2. The other problem is that the Bill removes any chance of anyone saying “Hold on, let’s stop and have a think about that”

      The other problem is that the Bill removes any chance of anyone saying “I don’t want more housing in my neighbourhood, lets put these people wanting to build through years of legal battles and hundreds of 000’s of dollars of legal fees, over subjective terminology with a sympathetic nimby devonport resident judge”

      1. Yes Jack – everyone who opposes the Bill is saying that. They are all just very clever and cunning liars. No-one could be concerned for example that half-way houses and long term residential care facilities for young adults could lose their sun or that McMansions could shade the homes of retired working class people.

        Planning rules enable conversation and compromise, take that away and you get a winner-takes-all approach.

        These rules for example apply to renovations and extensions so wealthier neighbours will be able to shade poorer fold next door without a care in the world. That has zilch to do with housing people. Enabling indifference and contempt for others, and pretending location and context don’t matter, is not the same thing as enabling housing.

    3. Your argument (and that of McIndoe et al) is so silly as to appear to be in bad faith. The Medium Density Residential Standard is a MINIMUM standard. Nothing is stopping councils upzoning their suburbs to allow, for example, 5 storey height limit and zero setbacks in the front 20m of every section, which would enable perimeter blocks. Nothing is stopping councils using other policy levers like development contributions to incentivise density done well.

    4. Guy are you saying that every house should be designed by the council and the neighbours? Or just the ones that are not the “kiwi dream” stand alone single story?

      1. YES!! That’s the central question. Because continuing to build the “kiwi dream” standalone houses over the last few decades, instead of intensifying, is what has imposed the most on “neighbours”, society and future generations.

        Sprawl is a key reason for our dysfunctional car dependence. Advocates need to demand a justification for any continuation of sprawl, not of allowing intensification.

        The mayor and the chair of the planning committee, in their assertions that Auckland Council knows what it’s doing and is planning well, have entirely overlooked this fact. They aren’t planning well; they’re failing to regenerate our streetscapes, and they’re continuing to allow the housing typology that is at the root cause of the problems.

        Council’s planning has made people sick, and if it takes the government to step in and fix that, so be it.

      2. No, for God’s sake stop being so silly. On many things in the world you may be right, but on this case you may be wrong. I – and no-one – is saying that “every house should be designed by the council and the neighbours” – that’s just total bullshit that I have never said and never would. I cannot stand the typical kiwi single storey house and the large swathes of suburbia. I’m an architect and an urban designer and what I am after is the same as you: more density, more intensification, more people living in the inner city, and much more medium density housing – I’m writing a book about Medium Density Housing as we speak.

        But what McIndoe and most of the people are saying is that this Bill is badly flawed, and it is going about things the wrong way. This Bill will enable more housing, yes, but it may also result in crapness on a grand scale. The application of a blanket provision of more housing everywhere is highly likely to get more development occurring where the land is cheaper, ie out at the edge of suburbia, rather than where the Council can support it with transport infrastructure, on the main routes near RT.

        1. PWC’s analysis shows that the shift will be for less development on the outskirts, and more development centrally. Their assumptions and methodology look OK to me. What exactly do you think they’ve done wrong?

          “In times of urban densification, even more care is needed, not less.”

          This is a myth. Sprawl is literally a killer. We CAN repair densification done imperfectly. We CANNOT undo sprawl.

        2. If I was designing a city, then I wouldn’t start by asking PWC, a company of accountants. But I confess, I have not read what PWC have said in this case – if you can point me at it, I’ll go and have a read.

          Heidi, you’re a fantastic commenter on transport related topics, and usually I really enjoy and respect what you say. You’re at the top of your game on transport issues. And I completely agree with you that sprawl is a killer, and should be stopped asap – couldn’t free with you more on that. But all I’m saying is that this Bill is going about things the wrong way. This is an area where Urban designers and architects actually do know what they are talking about. Its absolutely not an issue of “patch protection” as someone up above has suggested – there’s more than enough work for everyone – but it is an issue regarding achieving quality living spaces for all.

        3. Thanks for the compliments Guy, and I like your comments often, too.

          The problem here as I see it is that people whose careers have been shaped by NZ’s regressive zoning systems aren’t doing the reflection required about whole-of-system transformation.

          The status quo = insufficient housing where people want to live, and sprawl. We need to halt sprawl. We need to change the status quo. Nitpicking about design standards while any level of sprawl is allowed and while insufficient intensification is happening, is being blind to the biggest negative effects on children.

        4. “The application of a blanket provision of more housing everywhere is highly likely to get more development occurring where the land is cheaper, ie out at the edge of suburbia, rather than where the Council can support it with transport infrastructure, on the main routes near RT.”

          Anyone making this argument (mainly architects and urban designers according to you) fundamentally misunderstands economics… In which case they probably shouldn’t have any input into planning or urban design.

        5. Guy, maybe PWC were mainly accountants back in the day but that’s far from a reasonable comment now. They offer diverse services from urban economics through to transport economics, and their services are not to be sniffed at or dismissed as you have done, IMO.

          Much better to play the ball (critique their analyses) than the person.

      3. “I’m an architect”: so I guess that means you aren’t stand up comedian Guy Montgomery (I always wondered…)

        1. “comedian Guy Montgomery”. No, I’m not him, and did you mean “alleged comedian”? He’s not really very funny at all.

  7. How mad that none of these planners or councillors made a even a fraction the level of fuss about shade, when townhouses/denser housing stated being put up in outrageous places like Kumeu.

    Denser housing should be happening on the most accessible land in the city, with the best infrastructure and amenities (it already get the lions share of investment as far I can tell). Its absurd that central government has had to intervene to force this issue, and yet they are still frantically trying to wriggle out of a modest compromise.

  8. In Flat Bush there are 1000s of 2 storey homes, all very similar and about 3 or 4 meters apart. There is a 2m high fence on 3 or 4 sides. The views on 2 sides are the neighbours house and curtains are drawn. There is a back deck. There is mostly no garden that is covered in black plastic and rocks. The double garage is used for storage of stuff or has been converted to a living area and rented out. The front is 100% concrete to accommodate 2 to 4 cars. Extra cars park on the street and often neighbours struggle over the spaces.

  9. I’d like to see the plan go even further and allow 4-5 stories…in inner suburbs (just like many of the examples in the post).

    1. The plan does, cant forget the rest of the NPS-UD has 8? stories for locations near rapid transit stops and town / city centers.

  10. I see Winton,the developer of Sunfield,are miffed that Kàinga Ora,have not enthusiastically endorsed said development at Ardmore. K O have correctly identified,this as sprawl,with an electric car,which would inflict a restrictive lifestyle on it’s inhabitants. Good on them ,for recognizing greenwashing, their, K O,developments,in underutilized suburbs where existing infrastructure exists,is a much better way forward. Good to see some common sense being applied to housing,makes a good News talk ZB headline though “Govt dept rejects housing offer”

    1. Now we need Sunfield to be able to do a car free development within the built environment.

      The Unitec site should be car free; there are plenty of others.

    2. I imagine KO are mainly against it for a host of other reasons, which they haven’t stated. Amongst many, they could include flood hazard risk, airfield noise, and infrastructure challenges.
      I thought it looked like a lovely looking scheme until I dug into it a bit more and saw that it was profoundly flawed.

  11. I’d be interested to hear a response to Simon Wilson’s OP in the Herald yesterday. It’s paywalled but here are the key questions he raises:

    The NPS-UD, in my view, for its capacity to make Aotearoa New Zealand a better country to live in, is quite possibly the most important policy to have come out of this government.
    But by my reckoning this new bill subverts the NPS-UD in at least nine ways.
    Julie Stout, a leading architect, spokesperson for Urban Auckland and member of the Urban Design Forum (UDF), a coalition of design professionals, calls it “a slum enabling act”.
    Those nine factors:
    1. While “up to three” dwellings can be built on any site, there are to be no minimum section sizes. You could put two extra dwellings on your section, or subdivide it into two, or three, or more, and put three dwellings on each new site.
    2. The “do it anywhere” provision is an invitation to developers to build where it’s easiest and cheapest.
    That, says Auckland Council, “would see widespread intensification dispersed across the city in places not served by essential public transport, water and community infrastructure and in areas located far away from employment centres. This includes smaller coastal and rural towns on the outskirts of the city.” It’s an invitation to urban sprawl.
    The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) says this could even lead to “areas with significant landscape and environmental values, like Waiheke Island, being destroyed”.
    3. Developers will no longer be required to consider sunlight, privacy, safe pedestrian access, access to nature, servicing and the interface with the street.
    4. There are standards governing size and location, but even they are flawed. They’ll encourage what’s called “sausage flats”: rows of apartment blocks running back at right angles from the street, with little usable land for a garden or backyard.
    5. Want to object? Sorry, it’s all “permitted activity”. The council can’t do much, either. Even on matters of national environmental significance, there’s no recourse to the Environment Court. The minister for the environment will decide.
    6. Will developers have to include any social housing in their projects? Nope. What about universal design standards, so at least some of the units are fit for people with disabilities? No again.
    7. Are they preserving environmental standards or keeping up with the demands of a changing climate? Also no. Encouraging urban sprawl fails that test. So do the lack of standards for construction techniques and emissions over the life of the building. There’s no requirement for trees or other vegetation, either on sections or in public spaces near larger projects. “The first casualty,” says Stout, “will be the trees of the city.”
    8. The “rules and standards one might expect to find in a district plan”, as the EDS puts it, now rest with the Government. It means councils could become bystanders in the development of the cities they are supposed to be running.
    9. Why the rush? The announcement was just over a month ago and already the deadline for submissions has passed.
    It’s not like nothing is happening to address the housing crisis. Nearly 50,000 new homes will be built nationwide this year: that’s more than at any time previously.
    Housing Minister Megan Woods (left) with National’s Judith Collins and housing spokeswoman Nicola Willis. Photo / Mark Mitchell
    About 40 per cent of them will be in Auckland, and most of those are apartments and town houses.
    It’s still not enough, but there are capacity constraints stopping the numbers being higher. Not land: the city is full of multi-unit construction sites. Not consenting regulations, either, as the record numbers attest.
    Instead, as AUT’s John Tookey says, the urgent need is for more “strategic investment, skills training and availability of finance”. That’s what the NZI said too.
    “The constraint on housing in Auckland,” says mayor Phil Goff, “is … the cost of the infrastructure needed to support new developments, as well as skills and building shortages.”
    They’re right. And the new bill doesn’t address any of these constraints.
    The bill also ignores the years of debate Auckland went through over its Unitary Plan, a process that eventually enabled denser housing in places where it makes the most sense, while preserving the single-house zone and character overlays.
    Arguments continue about whether it is too timid or too permissive, but the UP allows for the construction of 900,000 new dwellings and unlocked the record growth we’re seeing now. It hasn’t controlled runaway house prices, but nor will the new bill.
    What should happen now? Critics of the bill, including Auckland Council, have stressed that they support the intent. “The Bill’s heart is in the right place,” says the EDS.
    “We strongly support the intent,” said the Coalition for More Houses, but added that the proposals were “likely to exacerbate” the problems of poor medium-density housing it was supposed to relieve.
    Submitters have proposed solutions for all the problems listed above, as well as a national set of minimum standards. Several also argued for an expert working group. The Government is said to be keen on that, but wants the body to convene now, with no authority, and finish its job within three weeks. That’s called bad-faith consultation.
    Why has this happened? Because councils have been too frightened of a nimby backlash to embrace density, so Parliament is removing the political risk and doing it for them? That may be true, but it doesn’t explain why the bill is so flawed.
    Fundamentally, this is a clash of the two big approaches to government. Do you regulate to improve, or do you leave it to the market? The Enabling Housing Supply Bill should be the former, and it masquerades as such, but it embraces the latter.
    And, as Greg Severinsen from the Environment Defence Society says, “If design controls are rejected, then we risk the market providing the cheapest options and producing urban slums … They will be hard and expensive mistakes to undo.”

      1. Disagree with nearly every word of that article, and I think Scoot’s response is great. But I think the bit that gets me the most is the idea this will encourage sprawl. In case no-one’s looked at a planning map lately, sprawl is what we’re getting now. A much better bet is that the prime effect of this bill will be opening up development in the incredibly desirable, central areas where it’s currently banned.

        These opponents say they’re worried about housing being built on the outskirts of town, but look at that map showing where dwelling consents are currently being granted. My guess is they’re actually more worried about housing being built in the centre of town. Same thing for infrastructure. They say they’re worried about housing going where there’s no infrastructure, but I suspect a lot of them are actually worried about housing going where there’s good infrastructure.

        1. I normally agree with Simon Wilson but of all his complaints only one or two had any validity and they can be fixed up in Select Committee. Mainly on better enabling perimeter block developments, by being more permissive to building at the street font half of the plot and less permissive in the back yard

  12. I think you are missing the point, it’s not all about the density, its the fact they can be built without resource consent, ie no oversight on design. That’s complete madness. We will end up with terribly outcomes that will be a blight on the landscape for decades to come. It’s disingenuous to show photo’s of beautiful terrace housing from London and Boston – our high density housing under these new laws will look more like the slums of Rio. If you think otherwise you are terrible naive.

    1. Lol, imagine thinking that brand new 500-800k homes are going to be ‘slums’. Meeting the building code with every other urban deign ‘rule’ broken would mean anything build is better than the majority of existing buildings in Auckland.

      If you think otherwise I think you’ve been reading / listening to too many NTZB or Devonport flagstaff articles.

      The resource consent rules are topical actually, recent ruling means they’re going to totally derail projects that meet all of the zoning requirements bar the dwellings to plot ratio. Will subject developments to far more stringent rules than the AUP.

      1. Will subject developments to far more stringent rules than the AUP.
        As Hayden points out though, almost entirely the rules / considerations are about existing residents impact. Again the rules are set up to disadvantage newcomers.

      2. To clarify, they won’t be slums on day one, but in 20-30 yrs they will be. Poor design means that overtime they will become less attractive to live in and will spiral downward.

        1. Gotta love the ‘slums’ argument.

          I want to stop something now because although I have no evdience to back it up, I think, possibly, it might not look good in 30 years time. Better not build any roads then, might be flying everywhere in 30 years time. Stop all major road projects…

      3. 500K to 800K, your dreaming. These places in Mount Eden and Grey Lynn etc are going to be 1.4M minimum each. Take any property value and multiply it by about 3.5 and that is what these places will be worth. To be fair though NZ Architects do build some of the ugliest medium density houses in the world.

    2. We have all those design controls and resource consent standards now and it’s leading to a whole bunch of perverse outcomes and bad design. Happy with some standards but as I say, much of the mindset right now appears to be in reverse. It’s about mitigating the effects of development on our most privileged residents, rather than ensuring new buildings are well-situated in central areas, and built to maximise their benefits.

      1. Hayden – I think you missed “for developers” off the end of your last sentence?

        Your approach is all about internalising profit for developers and externalising long term costs onto others. Generally those bearing those costs will be less well off than the owners of new luxury apartments. Hardly density done well 🙂

    3. Having spent a bit of time living in a slum in Rio where the residents were happy to have recently succeeded in getting a sewerage system, and there had only been one murder that week, I think your imagine is running wild. On the other hand, maybe you have a point? The human scale of Vidigal, with walkable short cuts and a shop on every other bend, and frequent public transport (vans or motorbikes for 50c to the top of the hill) was in many ways more fun to live in than the depths of car-dependent suburbia.

    4. I personally think a lot of the stuff being built within the current rules is more like a slum. Especially “stand alone” houses that have to be 4m from the road and 1m from the boundary that then have no back yard at all, how is that any better? I prefer Ponsonby over Flat Bush any day of the week, others may see it differently, I guess they can choose with their wallet just like anything else.

      1. I agree, a lot of these houses are on tiny properties. If we are going to live far from the center of city then at least we want some land to enjoy. We need choices but the intensification should be in the inner suburbs not in Drury or Flatbush, or Kumeu.

  13. I would bet that more New Zealanders die from the effects of red meat, particularly partly burnt cow meat, than die from a lack of sunlight.

  14. Hi Hayden, thanks for the article. I don’t believe that the proposed legislation will not have the outcome that is desired. I also believe that heritage areas also have value. Similarly I am supportive of affordable housing, denser urban formation, and the provision of multi-modal transportation. Unfortunately, so many people both left & right wing are ideologically captured by supply-side economics that thinking an alternative is almost impossible. Both Council & Government in the past we’re heavily involved in Social & affordable housing. The current housing crisis isn’t caused by Nimbyism or heritage rules or red-tape but the lack of state investment in this sector over the past 30 years. I would like to see actual planning proposals by government re-using brown field sites as is proposed around the Mt Eden station. Leaving it to the market is lazy politics.

    1. I’m highly wary of anyone who says ‘the housing crisis isn’t caused by this, it’s caused by that’. In reality it’s more likely caused by all of the above. Our lack of investment in social housing is a national shame but the Nimby protection racket is also a factor and that’s the ideological force making its voice heard right now.

      1. Agree. In the housing crisis finger-pointing is just another form of denial that avoids actions (which requires a multi-factorial approach i.e. more permissive planning rules + more social housing builds + ….).

        1. Hi Hayden/Brendon, hypothetically if we remove restrictions on greenfield development this would increase supply too? Why not that? Or really what we are discussing is an ethico-political question regarding value. And what is valued.

      2. Hi Hayden, thanks for your response. Sure there will be a number of economic forces driving up the cost of housing certainly won’t argue otherwise. The point is politics, I believe heritage is a value that sits a longside environmental concerns. I argue that the logic of governmentality is the primary driver of the housing crisis.

        1. Heritage and character are intrinsically intertwined. Both are about the way people experience spaces and places, and connections are established through time. The experience of heritage and character is dynamic but far from arbitrary.

      3. Also – Kainga Ora submit strongly in favour of upzoning whenever it’s happening. The only people building social housing in this country want to see significantly more of it. Let’s also keep in mind that the only political party opposing this bill are ACT

        1. You are right – there is a contradiction between Kainga Ora’s advocacy of deregulation and “trust us” and the Government’s Housing Policy Statement. Essentially Kainga Ora’s view is that you can trust them to do planning. Ironically they also admit that the planning system has not prevented them from doing anything they have wanted to do. Personally I’d rather see them do good design and set a good example, without also trashing other people’s rights to have their voices heard.

        2. KO’s net delivery of social housing is still way under par. There’s been some progress, but pretty slow.

      4. I agree the causes of our housing crisis are multi-faceted but the planning system and local democracy are way down the list of causes. The ideological voice that dominates right now is extremist anti-democratic deregulation advocates. Recycled neoliberal tropes have credence largely with people who didn’t see their consequences the first time round.

        The evidence-based counter-argument being made with increasing force is that there are better ways to do densification. These will deliver more housing faster, better quality of life and lower emissions. The fact that we are actually seeing an evidence-based discussion at Select Committee rather than random hating on democracy, planning and NIMBYs is a very positive sign.

  15. If the planners had just allowed density near the centre (Mt Eden, Epsom, etc) then none of this would be necessary. People could have their back yards that aren’t over looked and their BBQs, just in the outer suburbs where they belong. But because the planners were not capable of doing their job properly the government had to intervene. Its just like any industry; if you take the piss, sooner or later the government will have to regulate.

    1. This is an incredibly accurate comment. The MDRS is not the best way of doing a highly complex job, but Councils (especially Auckland Council) have fought tooth and nail against implementing NPS-UD in good faith, so government no longer has any trust in them to do the job – so has needed to take this approach.

    2. +1
      I was half way through typing my comment saying the same thing.

      I’m convinced that with any attempt or any rope given to get councils to do intensification ‘well’, the first rules they put in place will be the anti build zones in inner city suburbs we have currently. We could very easily result a worse outcome than current status quo. The councils and their planning departments clearly can’t be trusted at all, they’ve used up their mandate and goodwill entirely, allowing their claimed individuals “advocating for intensity” to be overridden by nimby interests.
      They should join supporting the bill but asking for changes, and accept that councils are not the organisations that should be setting minimum standards.
      Even if the councils are filled with people trying to encourage density done well. They clearly haven’t been able to enable anything reasonable in closer suburbs, and the response needs to come from central govt. The councils are incapable.

    3. It’s a real pity because good planning rules would have been much better then no planning rules. Unfortunately AC just kept on making up excuses to prevent density near the city centre, and its not surprising that the government has had enough.

  16. I think I’m against this, but I really don’t want to be. The key success of the Policy Statement change in 2020 was that it focused intensification around areas that had rapid transit corridors. This releases some of the pressure to intensify on those routes, although to be fair we’re probably a crisis point for housing supply so that is arguably understandable.

    And I’m not sure that the central suburbs will get ‘opened up’ the way people think they will. Developers are still going to want cheap land. Why would you build three on one section in Greenlane when you could build seven on two for the same money in far flung West Auckland and pocket far more?

    At least we’re not tying development to rapid transit corridors that the government obviously has no interest in actually building, I suppose that’s something.

    1. The problem is that the developers are currently building “seven on two for the same money in far flung West Auckland”, either because the unitary plan allows it (all the allowed density seems to be in the outer suburbs) or because resource consent is easier in those places because fewer people complain. If anything I think this will decrease density in the outer suburbs: why wait for resource consent to build 4 when you have a right to build 3. Anything less than 3 doesn’t really add up for brownfields does it?

      1. Depends, I’d have thought the high initial land price would be the main issue. Having said that, no one’s going to be spending quintillions on land and then plonking crapboxes aimed at FHBs in the really premium bits of Auckland.

  17. There’s plenty of single houses being built right now without enough space to do a barbecue in the backyard. If you’re worried about barbecues, terraced houses is a much better pattern than big single houses with a 1m setback on three sides.

  18. To be fair, the barcode townhouses that we’re building aren’t anywhere near as nice as the RADICAL buildings in Boston or London to look at. I invite you, again, to consider my walking tour of infill in Papakura to find what I mean by “barcode housing”:


    I mean, it’s possible, probably even, that the same people would oppose those kinds of architectural styles before but I do think it’s as I say in my tour:

    “I think these are townhouses rather than apartments but you can see that the black and white (or, at least, dark and light) design is basically the major theme in Papakura’s infill projects. I’m not an architect but I feel like the overwhelming theme is “functional”, which means the existing buildings aren’t going to build support for the merits of density. I mean, yes, it’d add cost to make things like these have some kind of character… the kind of non-functional flourishes that people like about the big old houses (even if, in practice, a lot them tend to be hidden behind trees) in the leafy suburbs and character areas.”

    “Infill offers us the prospect of better looking neighbourhoods that accommodate more people. Whether or not achieving the latter comes with the former benefit is clearly open to question, even in places that currently look tremendously dull.”

    People don’t like “modern” art (they mean contemporary art and other post-1940 art, usually) and they don’t like “modern” architecture either. It’s a bit disingenuous to use examples of the same (approximate) function that have a totally different form to go “why do people have a problem?”. We’re not building places that look like that.

    The Montreal examples are better but as Heidi pointed out the other day, we’re not planting street trees to accompany the barcode houses.

    1. Nice tour. Personally I think the townnhouses were more appealling than most of the rest of the architecture on your tour. The standalone houses, for instance the two big 10 year old ones with garages in the middle. Or the strip mall retail.

  19. Loved my terraced house in North London. Could BBQ all i wanted in the little courtyard out back (loads of sun in summer), or walk 200 m to the nearest park which had beautiful trees, tennis courts, football fields, and loads of human interaction. Shops, pubs all within walking distance and anything further was a bike ride.
    Immensely more enjoyable then driving to the nearest big box mall or supermarket which most of Auckland needs to do.

  20. The MDRS intent is great. The devil is in the detail.
    NZ has a awful type of intensification because historically we have had large and long sections with the original house located at the front of the section. This housing typology was oriented to the street and backyard.
    Then the back yard and side driveway was sub-divided.
    Then the original home was replaced creating the sausage flat typology.
    Now the orientations of the main living areas are sideways towards the neighbours.
    Making the above type of intensification even more permissive will possibly cause problems.
    But if we made it more permissive to construct larger buildings that were oriented towards the street and backyard in the front half of the section then we could get the loved built environments depicted in Hayden’s article.
    There is more detail about this here.

    1. Thanks Brendon, I didn’t really talk about this aspect but I agree. I’m only worried about the critics who seem to want to water down the bill with the same kinds of counterproductive rules that are currently in place.

  21. Chucking rocks at those who disagree is not very helpful. I too support intensification but am opposed to the Resource Management (Enabling Housing Supply and Other Matters) Bill as currently drafted on numerous grounds. It is not necessary (30 years supply of housing land is already provided for in Auckland) and will encourage development in all the wrong places – thereby undermining one of the key planks of both the Auckland Plant and the Unitary Plan which encourage and incentivise “Density done Well”. On larger sites the proposed regime will work well but the Bill proposes allowing intensive development of even the smallest sites as of right (without the resource consent process to ensure that they will provide liveable conditions for the occupants or their neighbours. One of the best changes that the Select Committee could make is to allow Councils the ability to limit the areas where such development can occur to those well served by proximity to jobs and public transport – and by corollary those areas where such development would be prevented or at least limited. In fact they have already done this but the Bill proposes to subvert all that. For the record I have had 35 years experience on all sides of planning – as an applicant, as a submitter up to Environment Court level, and as a Planning Commissioner.

    1. The AUP only provides 30 years of housing “land” by allowing sprawl, Graeme. Using that development capacity is incompatible with our C40 commitments and with reducing our emissions in line with the Paris agreements. Sprawl is a regressive, unsustainable development approach.

      We must halt it. With any level of sprawl, we can neither decarbonise quickly enough nor afford the maintenance on all the new km of infrastructure it requires.

      The MDRS isn’t perfect but the PWC analysis shows that it improves where it will put the development. What’s your reason for thinking it puts it in the wrong place? Do you have specific arguments against the PWC analysis?

      Limiting “the areas where such development can occur to those well served by proximity to jobs and public transport” is an excuse.

      There is no area in the city where Council shouldn’t be providing good transport options that provide proximity to jobs and amenities. Only regressive AT staff who use arguments like “it’s too hard to change the 70% driving modeshare” have prevented the investment and planning of a full-city public and active transport regeneration. We can decarbonise the city’s transport system in a way that provides everywhere with quality, sustainable transport. And we can do it quickly.

      Thus, there is no area in the city that should be excluded from intensification.

    2. “30 years supply of housing land is already provided for in Auckland” — since houses usually have a life span longer than 30 years, that probably doesn’t allow enough development to happen every year.

      And also I don’t get the argument about proximity to jobs and public transport. The prime example of that is the inner suburbs, exactly where development is largely not happening.

    3. Not sure 35 years experience in planning is the qualification you think it is, given that would put you in positions of power during the time our housing crisis has spiralled to become the worst in the world. As for what you’re saying, I’m really not sure how you can look at that map of current dwelling consents and say density is already provided for in the areas where it’s needed. The simple reality is it’s happening in greenfields zones and outlying areas while the so-called leafy suburbs are preserved in amber. Houses are already being built in areas that aren’t well-served by jobs and public transport. They’re going into car-centric developments in Kumeu, Dairy Flat, Millwater etc. I suspect the real fear of some the bill’s opponents is that houses will start to be built in areas that are close to well-served by infrastructure, close to jobs and the city centre, because those are really the main places that building is banned right now.

      1. “given that would put you in positions of power during the time our housing crisis has spiralled to become the worst in the world”
        Ouch 😉

      2. Hayden
        – where’s your evidence that the planning system has caused the housing crisis?
        – what is your explanation for the vast amounts of underdeveloped land that could be used for housing under the current planning system?

        1. The Auckland Council like to pat themselves on the back and tell everyone that the UP has increased house building (which of course it has). Doesn’t that imply that planning system prior to the UP was a cause of the housing crisis? And wouldn’t you also expect opening up more land to further increase building rates and decrease development land costs?
          Not everyone wants to develop their land. We could sell our house to a developer who could knock it down and build 5 houses instead. But we like our house and our land so we don’t. So they many many times the required houses worth of developable land.

        2. The “vast amounts of underdeveloped land” are either greenfields – and we don’t want to develop that – or are more central, and this bill is about ensuring it can be developed. “The current planning system” hasn’t ensured that.

        3. Cailin – this bill ensures nothing.

          It enables people to disregard the effect of their actions on others to a greater extent. In practice (I have been a hearings commissioner since 2007), rules serve to enable consideration of site specific effects, and open the door to conversations. Much has changed since 2007-we now live in a world where almost no consents are notified and almost all consents sought are granted. But despite the increasing invisibility of this process, it still manages effects and those effects still matter.

          I am not talking about greenfields sites. There is enough idle land (called “lazy land” by Palmerston North City Council a few years ago) to house tens of thousands of people in central AUckland, without demolishing a single existing house.

          Here’s one recent article asking to think about parking space – this is just the tip of the iceberg.


          There is nothing in the planning system to stop this happenning right now. So my question remains, what is the cause of all this under-development? The lack of interest in this question is one reason I am so cynical about deregulation advocates apparent concern for housing.

        4. Tim Welch is great, eh? Yes, I agree. This lazy land should be being harnessed. Instead, Council and its CCO’s keep building more parking.

          As to why, well, the more I look into it, the more I get depressed. We’re actually being let down by some key people in Council.

        5. Roland; is this by designating almost all of our urban green spaces like playing fields, reserves and parks as housing land? Because you might find Aucklanders are quite attached to the idea of having trees and such.

      3. Oh and a third question – would you ever be prepared to front up to a debate in real time with the people you are attacking?

      4. Pity you need to resort to personal attacks rather than rational arguments. Yes there is lots of poorly thought through Greenfield development, but this legislation doesn’t help that one bit. On the other hand if you drive through GI, large parts of west Auckland and numerous others suburbs there is more terrace housing being built now than ever before. That’s where density should be, close to rail and bus routes – and all done with the requirement of a RC to improve outcomes.

        1. Yes there is lots of poorly thought through Greenfield development, but this legislation doesn’t help that one bit.

          It does, greenfields development is set to slow significantly with this capacity freed up closer in in the city, and the developers will follow.

          Theres a reason a heap of greenfields developers are in the news winging about the MDRS which only makes their land more productive.

        2. ‘That’s where density should be, close to rail and bus routes’

          Just not in central suburbs with walking to distance to jobs etc right? Don’t want to encourage that.

        3. Most of the density in West Auckland is taking place away from PT and the largest number of workers in WA work outside the West.

  22. Joe – from an emission reduction point of view we need to rapidly reduce emissions from the sprawly part of Auckland. The best way to reduce emissions is through targeted increases in density in low density, high car dependence areas. This leads to greater localisation of services with an associated change in trips to walking and cycling. Add in quality public transport services between these urban villages and a strong centre and you have global best practice for emissions-reducing densification.

    As I have said before this blog is pre-occupied with the isthmus. This does nothing to address the existing stock of emissions across greater Auckland. Doing that means creating great urban villages across the whole of Auckland. That is a higher priority from a climate perspective than increasing density in the already dense, low emissions inner-city.

      1. I would beg to differ, though I do admit people – including me – use that term loosely. What I mean is that this blog seems pretty preoccuped with the old Auckland City area, and especially what gets, again loosely, called the inner-city. This is especially true with housing.

    1. I think there is merit to the urban villages idea, but it also makes sense to have a large one around the city centre.

      What we are getting is a low density doughnut around the city centre, and higher density further out. So much less people than normal have access to the already good public transport and nearby employment in the central area. Because it is only a small part of Auckland maybe this doesn’t make the housing crisis much worse by itself. But the lack of development in inner areas is balanced by more development on the fringe, I can’t imagine that doing our congestion and emission problems any good.

      Also, if you look at the map you will see that only the inner suburbs are ‘protected’ like that. Both the single house zoning and the heritage overlay. You will have to explain why the heritage close to the city centre is more worthy than the heritage further out.

  23. Maybe we need to redesign our neighbourhoods from the ground up, so that you have rows of quite close east-west streets. This would enable all house units to be built with a northerly facing aspect, with what could be a called a backyard to be designated as angle parking for cars. The next street would start at the back of the car parks
    with its next row of houses. The units can be built several stories high with each unit occupying one complete level, and feature a north facing balcony at the front where the owners/occupiers can have their barbecues and hang their washing. They’ll be looking into the house in front of them, but with good design that shouldn’t be a problem and because of the gap for the street, they would have the sun all year round. This isn’t a new idea. There is a group of units on the corner of Station and Podgora Roads in Huapai which would be a pretty good prototype, and my uncle lived in a pretty similar sort of house that was built in Brooklyn, Wellington, 100-odd years ago.

  24. It’s amazing how many people are defenders of design all of a sudden, now that it might effect the leafy suburbs.

    When density was/is taking place in Papakura? Not so much.

    1. Papakura shops has some sweet heritage buildings that 100% require protection. There are still a lot of under-utilised land that is currently car parks, which can be redeveloped, been working on one. Close to rail too.

  25. Great article +1

    “For too long, our councils and planners have been”…. writing rules that they don’t bear the costs of.

  26. I wonder if Roland Sapsford’s views partly reflect the fact that Te Aro (where I think he lives) has experienced quite fast growth over the last few decades. Indeed, Wikipedia says it is up 60.1% since the 2006 census. In contrast, Devonport in Auckland is down 2.0%, and Remuera is up by about 1%. Kelburn in Wellington is up 11.3% since 2006. So there are differences between suburbs.
    Admittedly under the current VC at VUW there are two former HNZ apartment blocks out of use he wants to demolish, partly on aesthetic grounds and to meet current zoning laws; the apartments built for students on Waiteata road are being used by the school of education for offices; the university has been demolishing and not replacing houses on Fairlie Crescent on the basis they are old and accommodation is not a university responsibility; and the university has a number of houses being used for offices.

  27. I might add that due to accommodation near VUW being so expensive staff are seldom there and usually work at home. The floor I am on was like the Mary Celeste, even before the corona virus shut down. So the university is allocating staff large offices that are rarely used.

  28. What a dreadfully ill-informed article this is.
    I’m pro-density but strongly anti- this housing supply bill.

    Stop conflating valid concerns with this bill with being anti-density, it’s disingenuous and simply plain wrong.

    Density is great if it is done well. It can be godawful if it isn’t. Yes low density housing can be too, blah blah, but at least with low density housing you usually have some protection of amenity via it’s low density nature…

    You refer to ‘density done well’ overseas without stopping to think that it might be quite likely that much of the density enabled by this Bill will be ‘density done poorly’.

    The international jurisdictions you look to for ‘density done well’ have a tradition or culture of good design, and what’s more a contemporary planning (regulatory) setting of demanding that density is done well. NZ, and this Housing Supply Bill, has neither.

    I think it’s ironic that we are going down the path of Japan in the 1960s and 1970s, with a development ‘free for all’ that gave bugger all attention to design or amenity. And you know what? A large scale ‘Sunshine Rights Movement’ arose in Japan as a reaction to that, and the laws were changed.

    And I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – you are totally deluded if you think this will make a meaningful difference to housing affordability.

      1. ???
        I didn’t say that.
        But what I have implied is that, yes, without adequate amenity and design standards, it’s highly likely that much of the development we see realised under the MDRS will be of mediocre or poor quality, and certainly not emulating the good stuff we see overseas.

        A lot of people here have very misplaced trust in the market, and developers (and I’m someone who has worked with developers a lot over my career, so I can speak to experience).

        Although results are very mixed, we have seen progress in the design quality of medium and high density development under the Unitary Plan. While some of that will be down to the good intention and execution of *some* developers and architects, most of it is down to the regulatory regime. We risk going backwards with this bill, and we also risk at some point a whole lot of the pro-density policy agenda going backwards because of lots of crap outcomes and community backlash.

        Win the war, not the battle.

        But perhaps I’m rather wasting my time here in this echo-chamber of a website.

        1. As has been *repeatedly* pointed out, the density is happening in far-flung reaches of the city, not in the central city areas with the transport services to support them.

  29. Unfortunately I see many devalopers bulldozing a house and putting many very ugly standalone houses in its place usually so close together that they might as well be joined, but these devalopers know us Kiwi’s like our standalone homes so money is made.
    But not only are the houses ugly with their tick tack yellow brick n weather board placed at random but no space for trees to hide it.

    1. All those glorious old weatherboard houses with peeling windows and no insulation being replaced by “ugly” new houses. Just awful

  30. I live in Islington – not far from many of the Peter Barber developments. They’re beautiful, are built using local materials where possible (good old Brown London Brick – part of the timeless substance of the city) and are designed to facilitate community interaction whilst also providing appropriate privacy.

    I’m not a housing or design expert, but having attended one of Peter Barber’s seminars; I am of the view that his ideas and designs are worth exploring in a New Zealand context. I urge readers to get on google and have a look at his firm’s work for yourselves.

  31. Some interesting discussions here:
    1. Q. Will this proposed bill achieve the design outcomes for well designed perimeter block housing as described in Hayden’s article, or is this simply planning deregulation with aim increasing Supply?
    1.1 Should Supply be the main driver for housing affordablity? And what constraints on the market are acceptable? I suspect that is politico-ethical question rather than a simple technocratic one (hence the tenor of the discussions) ie do we value society value environmental and/or heritage?
    2. Q. What is causal in causing the housing unaffordablity in NZ, & are there international trends that comparible? if you have any articles post 2008 please let me know (preferably not blogs or op-ed’s).
    2.1 What research has there been in supply & affordablity in the various housing sectors in NZ ie social housing, affordable housing, greenfield v brown field?
    3. Has anyone done a deep dive into the PWC Report? I have had a skim read of it, plus economics/quantitative analysis isn’t my background, are there any strengths or weaknesses?

  32. I think my point wasn’t clear.
    I like the idea of major intensification.
    But why are we building new houses to look old?
    In this case it’s a very poor representation of 1970s with yellow brick etc.
    I like what some devalopers are doing and building To current trends and using innovative cladding systems like long run steel for example.

    1. Unsure, but if you look at the work of Peter Barber and Mikhail Riches (Goldsmith Street in Norwich) – you’ll see designs that are in continuity with the past without aping them.

      These two practises make use of brick because its local, congruent with the neighbourhood and ages well (which contrasts with much modern cladding – although I couldn’t say what long run steel might look like after a time).

      In my opinion using traditional materials isn’t a hindrance to good design. If anything, its should highlight it.

      Probably the next thing we can expect to see (or should push for) is laminated timber. This might allow for a new NZ vernacular to develop and will be hopefully be a pleasing alternative to the (often) ugly panel based cladding dwellings you see in areas dominated by new housing.

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