There is light at the end of the tunnel for Hamilton's restricted supply of sections with one of the city's largest property developers set to cultivate a live-work-play housing concept in the city's east.
Chedworth Properties director Jon Webb said his company was looking to develop 135 ha north of Ruakura.
Depending on section size, the development would see the creation of at least 2500 sections on farmland that was owned by Mr Webb's father between Greenhill Rd in the north and Powells Rd in the south.
He said the development would be a "high quality" live-work-play concept with a mixture of "more intense, condominium-style housing" on smaller, more affordable sections and larger sections allowing for more palatial homes.
The 'work' part of the equation ties in with Tainui's proposed $3 billion inland port and commercial hub development and Ruakura's Innovation Park while the 'play' aspect refers to the additional green spaces - more than would otherwise be required by council - that will be provided in the development to create a pleasant recreational and living environment.
The condo-style housing would see two-storey apartments build in a semi-circular fashion around a shared green space, with vehicular access from the back of the apartments. Mr Webb, along with his brother and Chedworth Properties general manager Simon Webb, toured the US earlier this year for housing development research on the advice of their planners, Boffa Miskell.
"We are looking at more intensive housing, which brings about more affordable housing," said Mr Webb, of the suggested 250-300 sq m condo sections.
Much behind-the-scenes work has been undertaken by Chedworth Properties to get the development to where it's at today. Jon and Simon first came up with the concept 10 years ago. The farmland was then within Waikato District Council's boundary.
The brothers worked on a comprehensive application process with the district and Hamilton City councils to move the city boundary so the land would come under the latter's jurisdiction.
They also set about establishing and nurturing a working relationship with Tainui Group Holdings, with whom they hold a shared vision for developing the Ruakura area.
"We have a very good relationship with Tainui. It's one of the best executive and commerce groups we deal with," said Jon, referring to TGH's direction, innovation and skill base.
Tainui Group chief executive Mike Pohio said Chedworth Properties' residential development and TGH's inland port and commercial hub had been "master planned as an integrated development".
"Right from when we started working together we have folded into this development certain elements and tied them together in a master plan. We see them as entirely complementary activities. One of the big ingredients of the overall proposal was integration of complementary activities."
Chedworth Properties and TGH are in negotiations with Transpower to have the national grid pylons that run through the area moved underground. Chedworth Properties will be contributing to this, to the tune of several million dollars.
The yet-to-be-named development can't proceed until the new, proposed district plan has been adopted.
"The proposed plan is now for public submission. We welcome any positive ideas and we are looking forward to adoption of the plan," said Jon.
All going to plan, Jon estimates the first stage would be released for sale in 2015.
Mike Pohio said while the two organisations were waiting for the regulatory process to be completed, they would be using their time wisely to consider the next stage of the project.
"The time will come very quickly when we are out there marketing."
Chedworth Properties has developed 4000 sections in Hamilton, most notably in Fairview Downs, St James, Sherwood Park and Horsham Estate. The final stage of Horsham Estate in Rototuna was released last month and sold out in a matter of hours.
"Hamilton North hasn't done its dash but the city needs to be more balanced," said Mr Webb.
"You don't want an elongated city. This development is less than 2km from the CBD."
Mr Webb wasn't overly concerned at how the council's building planning rules would impact on the Ruakura development but said "surely commonsense will prevail in the sense that planners and builders will discuss their respective problems".
The new rules, aimed at reducing crime by improving urban design. The rules stipulate the garage must not be set forward of living areas, require at least one window and the front door face the street and clear visibility be maintained between the house and road.
The new rules have upset builders who say they will struggle to design houses that will comply.
Green shoots for housing market
Hamilton's housing market is showing signs of "gently improving", says Waikato Master Builders president Richard Hull.
The 56 sections in the last stage of Horsham Estate sold in a morning last month - an indication there is renewed confidence in the market, says Mr Hull. Some buyers camped out in their vehicles overnight to ensure they got the section of their choice.
"Because things have been quieter, with developers and with the industry as a whole, this has been building for a while."
He said the market wasn't comparable to the industry's heyday five or six years ago.
Horsham Estate sales manager Sandie George said 35 sections also sold out in an hour when they were released in June.
She said it was mostly private buyers who were lining up for sections in subdivisions as they were released, who'd then go on to employ the builder of their choice.
This time, many of the sections in Horsham Estate were sold to companies looking to build spec homes.
"There is more confidence in the market."
He said residential master builders he'd spoken to were "showing a bit of movement". "The market is looking more promising than it was 12 months ago."
REINZ statistics show Hamilton city's volume of sales in October was up 48 per cent on October last year. There were 253 sales compared to 171.