Bring the Density – Greater Auckland

Parliament of yesterday passed the bipartisan bill to allow more housing to be built in our biggest cities, with only the ACT party opposing it.

Legislation to cut red tape for more new housing has been passed in Parliament with multi-party support that offers a lasting solution to solving New Zealand’s housing crisis.

Changes to the Resource Management Act are making it easier to build much-needed homes in our largest cities, Housing Minister Megan Woods and Environment Minister David Parker said.

People can build up to three houses of up to three stories at most sites without the need for resource consent, starting in August of next year.

“The adoption of this legislation with the support of the National Party, the Green Party and the Maori Party allows for a stable and sustainable policy on urban density. This gives New Zealand owners, boards, developers and investors greater certainty, ”said Megan Woods.

“These changes respond to overly restrictive planning regulations that limit the types of houses people can build and where they can build them. These changes to the Resource Management Act will make it easier to build more affordable housing in areas with good access to jobs, transportation, and community facilities like schools and hospitals.

This is an excellent result and combined with other recent changes, such as the elimination of minimum parking lots and the authorization of up to six floors near major metropolitan centers and public transport stations, places the New Zealand in an enviable position compared to many other countries and cities that we love. compare to.

We can be confident that the changes will have an impact looking at the results of the Auckland Unitarian Plan (AUP). It is now just over five years old and went into effect on November 29, 2016. The most recent housing consent data is from October, which means we are just under 5 years old.

When the AUP became operational, the Council was issuing around 10,000 authorizations per year, still below the peak of almost 13,000 in 2004 and after a nadir of just over 3,100 in the midst of the global financial crisis. Since then, record after record has been set and consents have doubled to around 20,000. Since the PUA came into force, a total of around 73,000 authorizations have been issued.

The other notable aspect of the figures is the rise of townhouses, which now represent almost half of all consents issued.

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This change in building typology has also resulted in a reduction in the average floor area of ​​new buildings from approximately 185 m² to 145 m².

Attention and pressure will now be on boards to update their existing planning rules and they must publicly notify these changes by August 20, 2022.

It will be interesting to see the Auckland council respond to it and in particular, how much effort they put into trying to find loopholes to avoid changes in the suburbs closest to the city center. One of the things that has been frustrating for me and many others has been the suggestion, especially from the council, that the unit plan is fine and that it provides enough houses where they need them. and that Auckland has a quality compact city approach to managing growth. This has been reinforced in their response to the bill.

In a submission on the bill, the council reiterated its strong support for enabling more higher density housing near downtown and major urban centers, jobs and public transport, in line with its city approach. quality compact to handle growth.

In 2020, the council welcomed the National Urban Development Policy Statement (NPS UD) and the focus on further intensification in these areas.

However, the council is seeking to change this latest government proposal that would see widespread intensification scattered across the city in places not served by essential public transport, water and community infrastructure and in areas far from city centers. use. This includes small coastal and rural towns on the outskirts of town.

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“As part of the Auckland unit plan, the zoning changes allow over 900,000 additional housing units. We already grant up to 20,000 housing units per year, four times what we were ten years ago, and about two-thirds of new consents relate to intensive housing.

“The constraint on housing in Auckland is not zoning changes but the cost of the infrastructure needed to support new developments, as well as skills and building material shortages.

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“We are also concerned that by allowing a scale-up away from necessary infrastructure such as public transport, the existing problems of carbon emissions, congestion and covering infrastructure costs will worsen.

We’ve also seen comments, including here, suggesting that we don’t need to make any changes to our early suburbs as there is already a lot of housing under construction in these areas.

I wanted to explore this argument a bit more and see how successful we are in creating a “compact city“? Are we really seeing many houses being built in the areas closest to the jobs and amenities that downtown offers?

We have already released some figures by the local council, but to answer them more precisely, I wanted to go beyond that. Stats NZ also provides consent data by statistical area 2 (SA2). Using this as an indicator, I calculated the distance from the center of each SA2 in Auckland to the middle of the city center. This is a direct “as the crow flies” distance rather than the distance by road network or some other measure as it is a little beyond my capabilities. I have also included only the SA2 in the existing agglomeration or in the course of urbanization. The SA2s included are listed below and the consents they contain represent approximately 95% of all consents issued.

The results of the par analysis are below. What strikes me is that immediately outside the city center, there is a real gap in the authorizations issued. This gap is of course perfectly in line with the lack of authorized development on the outskirts of cities. I also did this breakdown by type of accommodation.

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As some would like to point out,

  1. Much of the outskirts of the city is made up of water
  2. There are many more areas within an 11 km radius than there are 2 km.

While both are true, they are also not as big a factor as people think due to the shape of Auckland’s coastline and the fact that much of the rest of the land is rural. To highlight this, I also looked at the consents by acreage for each SA2.

For the city center there are more than 1200 dwellings per km2 but I have limited the axis to make the results at other distances more readable.

As you can see, we have the same problem with few permits issued in areas closest to the city center, but many more occur further away in places with fewer viable alternatives, meaning that the residents are much more likely to drive.

With the changes these new requirements bring, it will be interesting to see how the shape of these graphics changes over the next several years and, as developments closer to the city become possible, this will also likely reduce the demand for new housing. on the outskirts, as long journeys and fewer amenities available will make them less attractive.

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