A new study has questioned whether Special Housing Areas are providing enough affordable homes in Tauranga.

Tauranga City Council, however, says houses built in its Special Housing Areas (SHAs) tended to be smaller and cheaper than most others in the city.

National Science Challenges researcher Dr Bev James has studied the 15 SHAs in the Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty districts.

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She said she found they were not meeting a wide range of housing needs, including those of a rapidly growing retired population and a shortage of affordable rentals.

James said, in her view, the legislation avoided "defining what an affordable house actually is and does not require that affordable housing is produced".

Special Housing Areas may provide some opportunities for increased housing supply but she said they needed to be combined with other initiatives.

"The new builds for transitional housing in Opal Drive, Papamoa East, for instance, is destined to supply 19, right-sized houses and has involved government and community partnering with the Ministry of Social Development, Housing New Zealand and the Tauranga Community Housing Trust."

Tauranga City Council urban growth project leader Janine Speedy said 14 SHAs had been established in Tauranga to support the city's rapid growth.

Together they would provide nearly 3400 new dwellings. Some areas were still at planning and consenting stage, while families were living in new homes built in others.

To date, 426 dwellings have been built in SHAs, with building consents issued for an additional 262 dwellings.

"On average, SHAs have delivered smaller dwellings than those consented across the remainder of Tauranga.

"For example in the period September 1, 2016 to August 31, 2017 dwellings in SHAs averaged 174sq m, against 186sq m in the rest of the city.

"Over the same period, dwellings in SHAs have on average been selling for approximately $150,000 less than the average house elsewhere in Tauranga: $547,387 versus $698,190.

Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout said SHAs had largely done what the council intended - increased housing supply.

"We significantly exceeded the supply targets in our accord and almost all of the SHAs established in Tauranga have been or are being developed, unlike some in other cities."

This was especially significant in the Wairakei area of Papamoa where the accord had enabled the council to get around some city plan constraints more quickly.

Clout said the council had focused on supporting smaller houses on smaller sections rather than trying to set affordability targets.

"The council was supportive of developments that had an affordability focus, the Waihi Rd SHA being a good example of this where most or all of the units were sold at less than $400,000."

Clout was expecting the new Government to require new SHAs to contain a portion of affordable housing - "we understand 40 per cent".

The council was considering a few new SHAs that might have to meet any new affordability provisions, he said, however the SHA legislation was scheduled to be repealed in 2019 so there was only a small window.

"That said, the council is now taking a far broader view of housing issues in the city, including looking at the mandatory delivery of affordable housing in new development through a mechanism called inclusionary zoning.

"We are keen to partner with the Government to deliver social housing outcomes and affordable housing policies such as KiwiBuild."

Housing Minister Phil Twyford said the Government was still considering the future of Special Housing Accord legislation, which he was critical of in opposition.

The Government was giving "serious thought" to the issue of whether to introduce affordability measures, but had yet to reach a decision.

Tauranga's Special Housing Accords

As of August 2017:

Papamoa East
- Palm Springs
- Palm Springs extension
- Papamoa Junction
- Zariba
- Nga Potiki
- Golden Sands
- Golden Sands southern extension
- Te Okuroa Drive, Parton Rd
- Domain Rd

Elsewhere
- Smith's Farm, Bethlehem
- Girven Rd, Mount Maunganui
- Adler Drive, Ohauiti
- Chadwick Rd, Greerton
- Waihi Rd, Judea

- Source: National Science Challenges, Building better homes, towns and cities report