In Tuesday's Herald Penny Pirrit, director of regulatory services at Auckland Council, refuted the statements I made in the Herald last week regarding council's inefficiencies and costs relating to its building and resource consents processes.
I have been inundated with responses following my article, all of them confirming the situation as I described it – excessive costs, inefficiencies and major delays. In fact, one developer told me I had summed up the situation 1000 per cent accurately.
Any major developer will report huge problems with the costs and delays in council building consents. Developers are telling me that building consents for multi-developments under the Unitary Plan are taking on average 18 months to two years.
Recladding leaky buildings likewise can take the same amount of time before consent is granted. Most developers I know are terrified to challenge council in case their projects take even longer to gain building consent.
I recommend that Ms Pirrit come down from her ivory tower and start asking some hard questions of her own staff and find out what's really going on in the consent department.
And I suggest that she and her colleagues actually talk to some of their customers/developers who have successfully secured their consents and ask them what they think about the constant delays and excessive costs and the emotional and financial toll of dealing with the council.
It's my experience that Auckland property developers and home owners are feeling extremely angry and frustrated with the council's consent process. The council needs to listen, not to continually deny what is most people's reality.
One of my developer contacts told me that Auckland Council subdivision fees in the past 10-12 years per section lot have increased from $39,500 to $179,000 in the same location. Building consent fees are on top of this.
The council states on its website that it can take "up to 20 working days to assess your building consent application".
I don't know anyone for whom this was the case. And this is despite experienced engineers, surveyors, architects and drafts people providing expert information for the home owner or the developer's application.
Instead, what typically happens, is that just before the 20-day deadline approaches, the applicant will receive a standard template letter incurring a cost of around $179, requesting more information. The applicant then incurs further costs from their experts before reapplying . . . and then receiving more stock letters. Professional delaying tactics.
Renovating a house has become unaffordable for many people – and it now carries the risk of a major cost blow-out too terrifying to contemplate.
The cost of complying with council regulations when embarking on even a minor renovation job on an existing home is astronomical. Although you can sell your house without a Code Compliance Certificate, it may substantially lower the price. Banks can refuse a loan to potential buyers for a home without a code compliance – so the council has you over a barrel.
The stressful and costly experience of an associate of mine perfectly illustrates my point.
She hired a building consultant and an architect to help in her negotiations with the council over some alterations to her home to ensure compliance with the updated Building Code.
Dealing with the council for consent just to start the renovation turned out to be a lengthy and bureaucratic nightmare. Excessive requests for detailed and revised architectural plans by an inexperienced council staff member added to the expense and to the frustration felt by my associate, her architect and building consultant.
Two years and $30,000 later, my associate finally received council permission to start the renovation. What should have been a simple, straightforward process had become needlessly complicated.
Different council inspectors had different opinions. Extra work required by the council extended to other areas of her home – even to her roof, which had caused no problems or leaks since the property had been constructed. Two council staff stated that the waterproofing product on the roof met code requirements, but a third staff member didn't agree – so she had to pay for new roofing waterproofing and replace gutters as well as pay for the repairs resulting from damage caused inside the house during this work.
According to figures included in Property Council's 2015 Residential Information report, regulatory costs even back then were adding $32,500-$60,000 per dwelling and an additional $65,000-$110,000 to the cost of each apartment. I call these costs excessive.
Dare I say it, the obvious way to speed up the Auckland building and resource consent process is to privatise it – to remove the responsibility from the Auckland Council.
Paul Lochore is the managing director of Lochore's Real Estate in Auckland.