No Council leadership in new urban planning rules

August 19, 2022

Yesterday some of the government imposed housing rules for Auckland became operative (meaning they’re up and running) – they enable three X 3 storey dwellings as of right across most of the Auckland region (more with a resource consent). My view on this appeared in virtually every suburban paper across Auckland this week. Anyone reading this article might well ask where on earth is the leadership from Auckland Council…well simple answer to that is there is none. By all accounts the current mayor will be off soon to his government appointed gig overseas (so he’s not going to rock the boat with his former colleagues even when the Minister of Housing Megan Woods makes veiled threats, in effect ‘directing’ Auckland Council to eliminate protection for a significant portion of its special character housing.

People a lot more knowledgeable than me (academic housing researchers) have been quite unequivocal in saying there will be no meaningful change to the current chronic unaffordability crisis as a result of these impositions. Tricia Austin, senior researcher in urban planning at Auckland University, says the resulting houses and apartments will only be affordable to those “…with incomes way above the median.”

So in my view a rather cruel and misleading game is being played here by suggesting these planning changes will suddenly open up the housing market to those many Aucklanders long since shut out. By simply adding up the various costs of a new build, plus allocating a moderate land value (presuming it won’t be provided free by developers), add the subdivision cost and a small profit and it’s very quickly over a million dollars…in some locations well over a million.

So… if all this is not going to have any material effect on affordability …why is it being allowed to be rammed through with unprecedented haste, unless of course it’s to aid and abet the political window dressing that masquerades as a response to this very real crisis.

In the past such tinkerings such as the ‘Special Housing Areas’ have merely had the effect of further escalating  the cost of land. This time though we run the very real risk of stuffing up Auckland with ad hoc development that is not good for either new residents largely renting these new dwellings or the existing neighbourhoods compromised by its incredibly permissive nature.