Auckland housing: 39,000 new homes in three years

The Hobsonville Point housing development. Photo / Dean Purcell
The Hobsonville Point housing development. Photo / Dean Purcell

Auckland Mayor Len Brown and the Government have struck a deal that will enable 39,000 new houses to be built in the next three years.

The Auckland Housing Accord has been agreed to today by Housing Minister Dr Nick Smith and Mr Brown to "urgently increase the supply and affordability of housing in Auckland''.

The legislation, to be introduced to Parliament as part of this year's Budget, sets a target of 9000 additional residential houses being consented for in Year 1, 13,000 in Year 2, and 17,000 in Year 3.

"This accord will help deliver thousands of new homes for Auckland by streamlining the planning and consenting process and getting government and council working more closely together on housing development,'' Dr Smith said.

The accord is subject to agreement by the Auckland Council and legislation being passed by Parliament. The accord and legislation will expire when the new Auckland Unitary Plan becomes fully operative, expected in 2016.

Dr Smith said the legislation would enable "special housing areas'' to be created by Auckland Council with government approval.

"In these areas it will be possible to override restrictions on housing put in place by Auckland's eight predecessor councils, like the metropolitan urban limit.''

New "greenfield'' developments - outside the existing urban boundary - of more than 50 dwellings would be able to be approved in six months as compared to the current average of three years

Developments in "brownfield'' sites - within the urban boundary, such as Hobsonville and Tamaki - would now approved be in three months as compared to one year.

The streamlined process would not be available for high rise developments, which would need to be considered under existing rules until the unitary plan had been finalised in 2016.

"This is a three year agreement to address these housing supply issues in the interim until Auckland Council's unitary plan becomes fully operative and the Government's Resource Management Act reforms for planning processes take effect,'' Dr Smith said.

"The Government respects in this accord that it is for Auckland to decide where and how it wishes to grow. The Government is giving new powers for council to get some pace around new housing development and is agreeing on aspirational targets to ensure Auckland's housing supply and affordability issues are addressed.''

Today's announcement is a result of six weeks of talks between Prime Minister John Key, Mr Brown and Dr Smith aimed at breaking an impasse over Auckland's housing crisis.

The unitary plan sets out to build 280,000 new homes through intensification of urban Auckland and 160,000 new homes in rural areas over the next 30 years.

Mr Brown said the agreed plan would not "solve all of our housing challenges".

"But it will ensure we work in a co-ordinated way with government to enable more pace around home building and create options for affordable homes," he said in a statement.

"My bottom line has always been that an agreement with government on housing must be acceptable to Aucklanders and consistent with the balanced approach in our Unitary Plan.

"We are still engaging with Aucklanders on the draft plan and final shape will reflect what we have heard from them over 10 weeks of public engagement."

Mr Brown said the plan agreed to with the Government would apply "both within and outside" the city's current urban limit.

He said he expected developers "to provide decent options for affordable housing and for first time buyers".

"This accord ensures there will be clear requirements for affordable housing in new developments."

Labour leader David Shearer said the accord was "too little too late" and didn't "go nearly far enough".

"Making more land available for development is a good idea. But by itself, it won't cut it. It won't ensure that affordable homes are actually built," Mr Shearer said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association said the accord "could be just the circuit breaker needed for Auckland to move forward".

"The agreement ... makes infinite commonsense," EMA chief executive Kim Campbell said.

"It deals with concerns we had about the constraints on Auckland's growth and it's so refreshing to see Auckland and central government finding common ground."

Mr Campbell said the accord would unblock log jams that were a concern of the Government's three-year phase-in of the Unitary Plan.

He said it would also lead to addressing "other thorny issues" such as transport.

Under the terms of the accord, Auckland Council will be granted certain powers, including that it can identify "special housing areas'' (SHA) for development.

Anyone can apply to carry out a development in an SHA, provided it will be:

- predominantly residential

- have capacity for 50 or more dwellings or 50 or more vacant sites in new greenfield areas

- have the capacity for five or more dwellings or five or more vacant sites in new brownfield areas

- a maximum of six storeys, or alternatively, the height provisions in accordance with the notified unitary plan, whichever is the lowest.

The application would be considered by a panel of three or more people appointed by the council.

- APNZ

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