Horowhenua District Council has found a way to promote affordable housing: just build smaller ones and make the consent process for smaller dwellings faster and cheaper for developers.
More people are now subdividing their sections, with consents for subdivision up 17 per cent on last year. At the moment council rules make it more profitable to build larger homes, and the council wants to change that.
Council believes its recently adopted Streamlined Housing Process (SHP) will make it easier for older people to scale down and for young people to get on the property ladder by building more one and two-bedroom houses.
It said it will run a pilot to test this plan, ironing out any necessary changes, so it can be launched in March. If successful, it will inform future district plan changes to formalise a broader range of residential housing opportunities. This initiative will apply to residential-zoned land in Levin, Foxton, Foxton Beach and Shannon.
"The pilot will provide opportunities for underused residential land to be developed for housing by simplifying the process for building high-quality infill housing. It will benefit the existing home owner, would-be developers and those struggling to find affordable housing in the area," said council CEO David Clapperton.
He said the district plan provides for housing growth, through the supply of residentially zoned land. It is a matter of fact that four-bedroom, two-bathroom houses have been easier to build in part due to the district plan and consenting constraints. It has also been much more lucrative for those building these houses. This new process acknowledges the pain points of the process and looks to remedy that.
"In very rudimentary terms it has been described as 'a paint-by-numbers solution for developing infill housing'. What it means, is that not just existing developers will be encouraged to build higher-density dwellings, but those would-be investors, that have equity, and even those landowners that may have thought the process was too hard in the past or that their property didn't have development potential, might be encouraged to build also," said Clapperton.
"The shortage of houses is making housing increasingly unaffordable. Council's pilot process aims to make it easier to build higher-density housing in the district," said Mayor Bernie Wanden.
"We hope that by removing some of the barriers and making it more cost-effective to build one and two-bedroom housing developments in the district, we will see an increase in affordable housing choices. Our ultimate goal is to help people build, buy and rent affordable housing in the district," the mayor said.
"The new SHP initiative is designed to streamline the resource consent process for the development of new homes in the area and to encourage better utilisation of existing residential land," said David McCorkindale, group manager customer and strategy.
In 2019, the council realised that housing supply in the district was not keeping up with the demand and engaged with the community.
"We brought together local iwi, hapū, Pasifika groups, developers, builders, government and other non-governmental organisations to discuss the housing challenges facing our district. What started as an affordability conversation turned into one around the lack of entry-level one and two-bedroom housing."
From these forums, it developed the Housing Action Plan. "Its goal is to drive grassroot actions and local solutions to meet our community's diverse housing needs now and into the future," said McCorkindale.
The number of subdivision consents approved for the financial year to the end of November show a 17 per cent increase compared with the same period last year.
The upward trend for new dwelling units shows that between July 1 and November 30 this year, the council has consented 173 additional dwelling units, an increase of 5 per cent on the same period last year. The number of building consents lodged are now up 12 per cent for the same period.
"While we do have housing problems, like the rest of the country, we are taking steps in the right direction. This is a game-changer that will create meaningful impact," Mayor Bernie said.