Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Legal stuff up could hamper plans to build 15,000 new homes in special housing areas

A Special Housing Area in the build process. File photo / Nick Reed
A Special Housing Area in the build process. File photo / Nick Reed

A legal stuff up could hamper 15,000 new homes being built in special housing areas in Auckland, says Labour MP and Auckland mayoral candidate Phil Goff.

The MP has written to Housing Minister Nick Smith today, saying legal experts have pointed out a flaw in the Special Housing Area legislation and its transition into the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan.

Mr Goff said in his letter to Dr Smith that advice he(the minister) had received from a QC and a major law firm said many thousands of proposed homes will be substantially delayed or not delivered at all when Auckland Council's Unitary Plan becomes operative. This is due to occur later this year.

"We are currently in the midst of a housing crisis in Auckland, acknowledged by Auckland Council, which is caused by the failure of housing supply to keep up with demand.

"You(Dr Smith) have designated together with the council over 154 areas as SHAs...It is hard to believe that you did so in the expectations that developers would expend time and effort in a process that would then be interrupted by the changeover in the legislation," the letter said.

Mr Goff told the Herald: "This is a stuff up and it needs to be repaired."

Dr Smith said the issue only arises as a problem in the event that the developers in those special housing areas do not have their applications for plan changes and qualifying developments in before the 16th of September and the hearings panel(for the Unitary Plan) decides that these areas not be residential.

He said the issue will not become clear until the hearings panel makes its recommendations to the council in July.

"I'm encouraging all of the developers to move forward as quickly as possible with their applications.

"It would be unusual for the hearings panel to not support an area being residential when both the council and the Government have approved it to be just that," he said.

The Government, Dr Smith said, was open-minded about legislation to effectively extend the Special Housing Area legislation but would not make a decision until it had seen the plan recommended by the hearings panel and the council's response.

"We do not want to have any legislative barriers to seeing as much residential housing proceed as quickly as possible," Dr Smith said.

- NZ Herald

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