The pace of residential development under Tauranga's Special Housing Authority (SHA) scheme is beginning to pick up, say developers involved in the projects.
The SHAs are expected to eventually bring some 2700 new dwellings on to the market, though to date just under 1000 have been consented.
"The SHA has made a significant impact in terms of releasing a heap of land," says Dwayne Roper, director of Zariba Holdings, which is developing the Terrace Views SHA in Papamoa.
Of the 12 Tauranga SHAs gazetted over the past three years, nine now had qualifying developments lodged by developers, with 989 lots consented, according to the latest data from Tauranga City Council.
Of those, 198 have had residential dwelling building consents issued, meaning house building either had begun, or could get started.
The Papamoa Junction SHA lapsed after no developer expressed interest.
Two other SHAs remained active and were still able to lodge qualifying developments, including Smiths Farm in Bethlehem - which initially drew some pushback from neighbouring residents - and the Palm Springs Extension.
Smiths Farm is active until February 2017, and the Palm Springs Extension until May 2017. Consent lodgements for both were expected, according to Janine Speedy, a council policy planner involved in the process.
"The point of the SHAs is to provide for a very quick turnaround for residential dwellings, where the infrastructure is there," said Ms Speedy.
"For all of us it's been a very new process. I think it's been successful."
Despite concerns expressed by the minister of housing when the scheme was launched that the SHAs might be used by developers for land-banking, that had not been evident in Tauranga, said Ms Speedy.
"All those developers who have applied for SHAs have acted on them to provide those houses on the ground," she said.
So far, houses had been completed and sold in the SHA within the Golden Sands development by Bluehaven in Papamoa Beach, and at 162 Waihi Rd SHA.
Mark Day, the sales and marketing manager for Golden Sands Papamoa Beach, which was started in 2012, said inclusion of part of its development under an SHA had been "pivotal" in keeping the development progressing.
Since inception, Golden Sands - developed by Bluehaven - had sold 712 houses, said Mr Day.
According to council data, under its current consents through the SHA, Golden Sands has a total of 560 dwelling lots approved, with further consent applications possible.
Zariba Holdings have just completed the site works for their development in Papamoa, which is ready for house construction to begin on the first phase, said Mr Roper.
The Nga Potiki a Tamapahore Trust, which had an ambitious development plan for the SHA on its land in Papamoa, was expected to announce progress details within the next week, trustee Victoria Kingi told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.
Other developers were at various stages in the consenting and/or site preparation process, said Ms Speedy. She added that although initial applications to develop an SHA had been lodged, the developers still had to go through a full consenting process, before the houses could be built and then moved into.
Mr Roper said Zariba Holdings had a total of about 400 lots at Terrace Views, having also bought some properties around its original SHA area of 233 approved residential lots. The first stage of 91 lots was expected to be signed off this week by council as ready for home-building to begin, with sites prepared, roads built and street lights installed.
"Once the titles are issued by mid-December the sections will be ready to be built on. By the end of Christmas we'll have just over 200 lots under the SHA ready to build on," he said.
The first stage had already been pre-sold to its approved builders, including Classic Builders, Generation Homes, GJ Gardner and others, he said.
Mr Roper said lot sizes were coming down as they moved through the development.
"In stage one the average lot size was around 450sq m," he said.
"We're now looking at between 350sq m and 400sq m at the later stage. The market isn't really wanting sections of that bigger size anymore, just because of the unaffordability of them."
House sizes were also trending down, he added, noting that 180sq m was considered quite a big house nowadays.
Developer Paul Adams, head of Carrus Group, said he did not believe the SHAs would make an "earth-shattering" contribution to housing supply in the greater scheme of things.
"What the council needs to be doing is getting on with their plan changes for areas like Te Tumu to bring in some real growth," said Mr Adams who is not involved in SHA development, but noted Carrus did have a block in Te Tumu, at the southern end of Papamoa.
Te Tumu was originally to have been rezoned in 2011, then after the Global Financial Crisis, nothing happened, despite the urging of some developers for council to push ahead with re-zoning, he said.
"They've only just started the process and it will 2018-19 before it gets through. It's frustrating at a time when we could be growing Tauranga significantly, that right now we don't have the stock to do it."
Special Housing Areas
• The SHAs were created under the auspices of the Housing Accord and Special Housing Act (2013), passed by the Government to help increase land and housing supply.
The Special Housing Area Scheme was originally promoted by the Government as an attempt to improve housing affordability.
And according to the SHA Accord signed by the Government and the Tauranga City Council, its targets for the new developments include that they "deliver smaller homes on modestly sized sections to achieve more affordable prices".
However, no practical restrictions have been imposed on house pricing in Tauranga, said Zariba Holdings director Dwayne Roper.
"It's a speeding up of the process to get resource consents out," he said.
"The crux of it was that by speeding up the process, a lot more land could be released to the market in a quicker time frame. The TCC didn't go putting restrictions on titles as to the value of houses, because it's just too hard to monitor. They tried to do that in Auckland originally when the first SHA came out and it was an absolute shambles."
Waihi Rd, Judea
The Special Housing Area at 162 Waihi Rd, Judea, an initiative by PMP Developments and Classic Builders, has completed 31 small-to-medium sized homes which have been handed over, with homeowners already moving in.
Classic Builders Bay of Plenty/Waikato regional manager Paul Taylor said the town-house type development was aimed at retirees and first-home buyers. The dwellings ranged from 65sq m to 130sq m.
"It's about affordability," he said. "People are obviously looking at how much they want to have tied up in a home."
There was interest across the Bay of Plenty in the SHA developments, said Mr Taylor.
Classic Builders was also one of the builders involved in Zariba's Terrace Views development in Papamoa, where the homes would be larger than in Waihi Rd, but still targeting the medium house range.
Darren Sergeant and his wife Tanya were among first-home owners to move into the 162 Waihi Rd development.
They relocated from Wellington two years ago and rented while looking for a suitable house.
"But the market had gone crazy," said Mr Sergeant. "Waihi Rd was one of the places that seemed reasonable and it was way to get a foot on the housing ladder."
The couple bought a three-bedroomed detached house off the plans a year or so ago, and moved in a week ago.
Mr Sergeant said he didn't think the SHA had made a major impact on the shortage of affordable properties.
"I don't suppose it's even scratched the surface."