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Private sector help for cheaper houses (+video)

By Simon Collins

Private developers could be brought into proposed new urban development authorities to drive through new housing projects in Auckland.

Housing Minister Maryan Street said the new authorities, flagged by Prime Minister Helen Clark yesterday, would probably not be purely state-owned entities as in Australia.

Instead, they may be modelled on a new "Tamaki Establishment Board", announced last week to oversee construction of 3000 new homes on Housing NZ land in Panmure, Glen Innes and Point England.

It will be made up of central and local government officials.

The Government hopes the new agencies will help make housing more affordable by increasing the supply of land for homes.

"My inclination at this stage is to look at an urban development authority as being a composite of central and local government and any other interests that wish to be represented in a development," she said.

Helen Clark said officials would report by May on how the new agencies could be set up for both "greenfield" developments on vacant land and sites such as the Tamaki land, where new housing is likely to be put on back sections or built to replace existing houses.

In Australia regional authorities have been used to fast-track regulatory approvals, buy and amalgamate land and specify design standards and affordable housing requirements.

Housing NZ has managed new public developments, using subsidiary companies for large projects such as the 3000-unit redevelopment of the Hobsonville air base, she said.

The Hobsonville project could be transferred to an authority. Other possible candidates for such authorities may include the Tamaki project and Housing NZ-led developments of the former Papakura army base.

Manukau Mayor Len Brown said the Government's planned stocktake of public land that could be made available for housing might also turn up sites such as land surrounding the Manukau Superclinic just south of the Manukau city centre.

"First of all we'll identify the extent of the land that is in Crown ownership, even if it's owned by a Crown entity, and then we'll see what is appropriate and available," she said.

The Government would consult Maori before taking any public land for housing. Ngati Whatua, for example, was already involved in the Tamaki project.

"One of the things I have been promoting is the idea of partnerships with iwi as well as local authorities," she said.

The housing affordability package will involve many government agencies:

* Land Information NZ will do a stocktake of public land holdings, starting in Auckland, to see what land might be available for housing.

* The Department of Building and Housing (DBH) will investigate all land zoned for housing in the main urban areas to find out how much is available for immediate development.

* DBH is also looking at a proposal by Building Minister Shane Jones to design a standard simple "starter house" which could be fast-tracked through the building consent process, to cut the price of getting a consent.

* Housing NZ is working on a shared-equity housing scheme where a developer, such as Housing NZ, would put up a part of the capital of a house and take a share of the gain when the house is sold. This could cut the amount first home buyers have to put up by as much as half.

The Government is also legislating to give local councils power to require a proportion of affordable housing in new developments.

* BANKS: WE DON'T NEED MORE PC

Auckland Mayor John Banks says the region does not need "another layer of political correctness" in the form of urban development authorities to guide new housing projects.

"My immediate reaction is that it's somewhat scary," he said yesterday.

"The Government has a good working relationship with territorial local authorities," he said.

"I'd like to see that continue rather than setting up another little politically correct think-tank that spends most of its time spending money and navel-gazing. There is no need for more structures of consultation, administration and bureaucracy."

Mr Banks, who opposed a shared-equity project initiated under former Mayor Dick Hubbard, said he was not against the Government undertaking such projects for low-income earners, but it was not a job for local bodies.

He urged the Government to keep state housing in new developments down to "international best practice" of 15 to 20 per cent.

Other mayors were more positive about the Government's plans.

* Manukau Mayor Len Brown said the Government owned "huge" land holdings for education, health and roading which could yield potential sites for housing.

"At various times we've had neighbourhood urban development corporations - local trusts to develop low-cost housing," he said.

* Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey "embraced" the idea of urban development authorities and said the Hobsonville development was showing the way, with a mix of high-class, affordable and public housing and marine industry.

"We consider ourselves pioneers in what is a mixed community. It's the way this country must go."

* Papakura Mayor Calum Penrose said development of 240 homes on the former Papakura army base land was a model for the region, with only about 10 per cent of the homes to be owned by Housing NZ.

But he opposed legislation to let councils require affordable housing in new developments because it would "load costs on to local government".

* Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee blamed landowners for locking up land that could be developed and accused the building supplies industry of driving up building costs.

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