Mayor softens stance on Auckland housing intensification

By Andrew Laxon

Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker
Auckland Mayor Len Brown. Photo / Greg Bowker

Auckland Mayor Len Brown has again softened his stance on building almost 300,000 more homes inside city boundaries in the next three decades - a target which property developers say is unachievable.

Mr Brown said the council's publicly stated aim to build a compact city with up to 280,000 extra high-density homes by 2041 was "by nature aspirational" rather than a firm number.

It was far more about leadership and showing Aucklanders that multi-unit homes such as terraced housing and apartments could be attractive to live in, he said.

He understood that many Aucklanders were still wary of intensification. "When you look at some of the stuff that we've delivered on Nelson St and Hobson St, it's not good".

But there were also some well-designed, popular examples around the inner city at Victoria Park and Freemans Bay that gave home buyers alternatives to living further and further out.

"We just don't want that urban sprawl that we've had for much of Auckland's history and we certainly don't want to end up looking like LA," Mayor Brown said.

The Auckland Council has already lowered its intensification target after being warned it was unrealistic.

Its draft plan predicted last year that Auckland could need an extra 400,000 homes - close to double the present level of 507,000 - for up to 1 million more people by 2041.

It proposed building 75 per cent (300,000 homes) within the current city by adding more attached and multi-unit homes and putting the remaining 25 per cent in the countryside.

Property developers warned that the target was unattainable because most of the urban land that officers had assumed was available was not suitable for new housing.

A detailed analysis for the council showed the plan would require drastic rezoning across many suburbs, paving the way for widespread low- and medium-rise apartments and huge community resistance.

An independent review confirmed the problem but said any public outcry was unlikely as there was no chance that the building industry could deliver the amount of high-density living the city council wanted.

The revised Auckland Plan, due to be finalised this month, has lowered the target to 70 per cent (280,000 homes), with provision to drop to 60 per cent (240,000 homes).

Developers still believe the targets are unreachable but say they are happy with the compromise, as the key changes are not due to start for another decade - by which time progress reviews will have shown how much intensification is really attainable.

"To us the targets are spectacularly irrelevant," said the Property Council's chief executive officer, Connal Townsend, who led the group that helped senior council staff to revise the plan.

"What the planners want is not all that interesting or important. It's all about a seller and a buyer."

Mr Brown said the Property Council and the Government had expressed concerns that the council was overly bullish in its targets but he believed both were reasonably happy with the final result.

"You're never going to get perfect, you're never going to get everyone in total agreement but we made a decision, we've agreed a plan and now we just really want to start to deliver."

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 19 Dec 2014 13:44:51 Processing Time: 464ms