Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Budget 2013: Govt to control housing plans if councils drag chain

Photo / File
Photo / File

The Government says it will take control of housing planning and consent processes from councils if they do not act quickly enough to free up land for houses.

Housing Minister Nick Smith said such action was a "last resort" and Auckland had reached a housing accord with the Auckland Council last week.

"Housing affordability has become so important that the Government is reserving the power to intervene," Dr Smith told the Herald.

Finance Minister Bill English said housing could be made more affordable by focusing only on the key areas that made a difference - land supply, consent processes, provision of infrastructure, and productivity in the construction sector.

The Government has dismissed a capital gains tax as a way of addressing runaway house prices.

House prices are booming in Auckland, with the average price of a home in the former Auckland City area rocketing to $735,692 (up 12 per cent in a year) and the average price citywide up 12 per cent to $628,205.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown welcomed the introduction of the legislation to formalise last Friday's housing accord aimed at tackling issues of land supply and housing affordability in the city.

But he said there were a number of clauses in the bill that appeared to be inconsistent with the Auckland Housing Accord, which sets a target of 39,000 new homes through a fast-track planning process.

Mr Brown said he would be seeking clarification on a number of inconsistencies that relate to people having a say on new developments, rules applying to new houses, who runs the process and the extent of appeals.

The council is due to consider the housing accord on June 11 and started work to identify "special housing areas" on sites in the urban areas and "greenfield" sites outside the existing urban boundary.

Dr Smith said the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Bill "will enable the Government to work urgently with councils on streamlining resource consents for new housing developments in areas of poor housing affordability".

He described it as "an immediate and short-term response to housing pressures in areas facing severe housing affordability problems".

It would provide a short-term fix until the Government's changes to the Resource Management Act and subsequent council planning processes result in longer-term solutions.

The legislation - applying for three years - enables the housing deal struck with Auckland Council last week to be extended to other councils throughout the country.

Property Council chief executive Connal Townsend said that fast-tracking legislation for more housing accords between the Government and councils showed the importance of the issue.

"These accords must involve the private sector to ensure that economically feasible locations are selected, supply and demand factors are understood and development ensues."

Tougher stance

Last Friday

"The Government commits not to use any proposed or existing powers ... to override the council's planning and consenting processes."
Auckland Housing Accord between Government and Auckland Council


"If an accord cannot be reached in an area of severe housing unaffordability, the Government can intervene by establishing special housing areas and issuing consents for developers."
Housing Minister Nick Smith

- NZ Herald

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