"Barely completing half the number we need' - Freeman

Only 7200 new residences were built in Auckland last year, barely half the number needed and only slightly up on the last two years, an expert says.

Leonie Freeman, a housing strategist, Goodman Property Trust director and former Housing NZ Corporation development general manager, said the situation is "quite drastic."

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says he has formed a special think tank to examine the situation, with results due out shortly.

Freeman requested Auckland Council data on new residences completed based on code compliance certificates issued solely by the council and she said she discovered building numbers were falling far short of requirements.

Advertisement

"The numbers being completed are far less than those consented. Statistics from Auckland Council show that last year 7200 houses were built and 6520 and 5550 were completed for year end 2015 and 2014 respectively," she said.

Yet Auckland needed about 14,000 new residences annually, made up of houses, apartments, townhouses and terraced dwellings.

"Despite all the focus on housing in the last nine years, we are barely completing half the number we need," she complained.

Freeman said all the public attention went to Statistics NZ's building consents while no one had thought to ascertain the exact residential numbers completed in Auckland.

"No one has published that," she said.

"The key statistics are that we are short of 35,000 Auckland houses now. The number of houses needed each year is 14,000. Yet in 2016, only 7200 were completed," she said.

Leonie Freeman with building and construction minister Nick Smith. Photo/Jason Oxenham
Leonie Freeman with building and construction minister Nick Smith. Photo/Jason Oxenham

"Auckland Council's Unitary Plan published in 2015 assumes that Auckland needs to build an additional 420,000 more homes by 2045.

"That equates to 14,000 each year for the 30-year period. It's more than a little sobering to recognise that this requires a building rate far greater than what we've actually managed over the past quarter century," she said.

Treasury had estimated a shortfall of 35,000 houses now in Auckland, she said.

Statistics NZ said 30,626 residential consents were granted in the year to March, 2017. In Auckland, 10,199 consents were issued in the year to March 2017, up on last year's 9566 consents.

Not all consents result in a new residence. Numbers finally built are below consents issued.

Goff said he was also concerned and that is why he formed the special housing taskforce, which will report in the next few weeks.

"Auckland faces severe housing difficulties as the supply fails to keep pace with demand," Goff said.

"The number of extra houses the city needs each year is estimated at around 13,000 and we have been building only around half that number. The accumulated shortfall in homes grows each year. This has resulted in the cost of buying a house becoming unaffordable for a growing numbers of Aucklanders, rent rises putting low income households under real pressure and growing homelessness.

"The housing taskforce is looking at measures to address this. It has had four meetings. The taskforce will produce a report with recommendations and proposed solutions by late May to early June," Goff said.

Freeman, not a taskforce member, called for a collective approach to resolve the situation and outlined a four-point plan:

• "Defining the vision by identifying where Auckland wants to go and what success looks like.

• "Implementing a collective impact approach to ensure the ideas can be implemented. This is a practice adopted both within this country and globally to solve complex problems, ensuring that everyone is working together towards the same goals, taking responsibility for real outcomes and monitoring progress against measurable timelines.

• "Creating a housing framework, first to make sense of the problem and second to establish where all the pieces of the housing jigsaw fit.

• "A purposeful and practical action plan which ensures we are clear and transparent about where we are going and how we can get there together," Freeman said.