The demand for retirement dwellings is expected to soar in Hawke's Bay in the coming decades.

The need for about 3340 more retirement units is expected over the next 30 years, according to the five-year review of the Heretaunga Plains Urban Development Strategy, currently up for public consultation.

Retirement units would represent 30 to 40 per cent of all future new-build housing in the Heretaunga Plains sub-region between now and 2045.

Forecasts showed the number of people aged over 65 was expected to increase by 94 per cent during the next 30 years. The number aged over 75 was forecast to increase by 172 per cent and the number aged over 90 by 286 per cent.

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Strategy working group chairman, Fenton Wilson, said the region had to balance economic development with housing.

"The big challenge on the Heretaunga Plains is finding space to build that doesn't compromise our fantastic soils and our ability to produce."

There would be tensions in the discussion about the appropriate use of available land.

Mr Wilson said some land was earmarked and potentially available for housing off the plains in Hastings and parts of Napier.

"Whether it's retirement homes or just ordinary dwellings remains to be seen."

Mr Wilson said Hawke's Bay was different from other parts of the country in that it had the capacity for new housing.

In the past, land had become tied up with developers waiting for the right market conditions.

"We've got to be a bit quicker on our feet than we have been in the past to deal with an influx and deal with a retiring demographic in our community."

Leaders managing director Elanor MacDonald said there was plenty of room for the new dwellings and Napier and Hastings district councils were working hard to rezone land close to town for building.

There was currently very limited section supply for new single level retirement-suitable properties. "I think the councils have been caught a bit short and that's why ... they're working to get that land rezoned quickly so that we can start to meet the needs."

Ms MacDonald said there was a shortage of homes across the board throughout the region.

Grey Power Napier and District publicity officer and Napier City Councillor Maxine Boag said changing demographics would create a lot more need for single units, two-bedroom homes and rental properties.

"It seems that at this stage we're not really well equipped for that."

A shortage of social housing had created a shortage of housing for older people. If they didn't have their own home, they were competing for affordable rental properties with an increasing number of people on low incomes.

"I'd say there is a genuine shortage of affordable one- and two-bedroom houses that older people would want and be able to pay for within their benefit."

Grey Power Hastings and Districts association president Marie Dunningham said the Hastings District Council had an excellent reputation among elderly people for cheap, serviceable one-bedroom units and she hadn't heard there was a shortage of housing for elderly in the district currently. However, demand would grow.

She said the vast majority of elderly people wanted centrally located housing. It wasn't just dwellings that needed to be considered but things like bus services, getting to the library and park accessibility.

Mrs Dunningham said the increase in the older population wasn't unexpected but few organisations had done anything about it and she hoped the new dwellings would go ahead.

"I don't hear it on the plans as a set action. I know it's mooted, I know it's proposed but I'm not seeing plans that say we're really going to do it. I sincerely hope that they are."

- A draft of the reviewed Heretaunga Plains Strategy plus all background reports are available online at www.hpuds.co.nz.
- The public consultation will run until August 22. Comments on the draft revised strategy can be submitted at the website, emailed to hpuds@hbrc.govt.nz or posted to Hawke's Bay Regional Council.